Updated: May 23, 2021
Why do certain countries rank high in happiness compared to others? Hygge is a Danish idea of coziness that make life more enjoyable.
I've been hearing a lot about "hygge" (pronounced who-ga) lately. My first thought was that this was just the Danish word for "cozy." But after reading a few books mentioning it and one book about the topic, I now realize it's so much more than that. Danish people, who rank among the happiest in the world, incorporate principles of coziness into the fabric of their lives in what they call "hygge."
What are the principles of Hygge?
Hygge is about bringing comfort to yourself and to others around you, to create a balanced and cozy life for everyone. Though it's a part of their culture that isn't necessarily shared throughout the world, each of us can begin, one by one, to add a little hygge to our lives. What does hygge look like? In her book Hygge and Lagom: A DIY Bundle, Maya Thoresen outlines several principles of Hygge. Here are my interpretations of just a few general coziness principles:
Mindfulness: This seems like an eastern concept, but in the west we do understand the concept of "stopping to smell the roses." Taking time to check in with yourself, your feelings, and the little things in life can help you experience hygge.
Positivity: Maya specifically uses gratitude as an example of focusing on the positive in life. The idea is to notice and appreciate the good in the world. In my experience, especially since the human mind seems predisposed to focus on the negative, purposefully focusing on the positive goes a long way to rewiring your brain toward greater happiness. In all honesty, I'm still working on this everyday.
Nature: Speaking of stopping to smell the roses, literally keeping flowers and other plants in your home, going out for walks in nature, or even just looking at beautiful scenery can increase your feelings of hygge. As a city-dwelling human, I think we often feel like we're separate from nature, but we are still creatures of the natural world and need to keep our connection with the beauty of the world around us.
Togetherness: Take time to be with friends and family. This is so important for your mental health and opening up to others might give them an outlet to be open with you, so that they feel less stressed, too.
Minimalism: I recently read a book about Swedish death cleaning. I also read Marie Kondo's books The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up and Spark Joy a while ago. And I've read several books, blogs, and magazines about organizing. One common theme in all of these was minimalism. I'm convinced that half of my stress is just being overwhelmed by too much junk in my life. And junk keeps on accumulating when I'm not mindful of what I'm buying or holding onto in my home. As long as I stay aware of clutter and am strong enough to let go of excess, I find my mind clear and feel less overwhelmed in life.
This is just touching the surface on the concept of hygge. (There are more principles of coziness listed in the many books on hygge.) All of these seem like simple, even obvious, principles that would naturally make life happier. Yet many of us don't take the time out of life to make sure we are doing the things we need for our own happiness and the happiness of those around us. We might think we don't have time for these things, but I've found that when I take time to re-energize myself, I can then get work done faster or even find the shortcuts I need to make work easier for myself.
Books on Hygge:
(Not Affiliate Links)
Hygge by Maya Thoresen
Hygge: Unlock the Danish Art of Coziness and Happiness by Barbara Hayden