Knitted socks, a hot cup of tea, a dear friend, and the dancing flame of a lit candle, all of these things are hygge. Hygge, pronounced HOO-GA, is the word for the feeling you get as your favorite people, places, and things, come together in way that evokes the feeling of safety.
Denmark consistently ranks as one of the happiest countries in the world, despite their extremely high taxes and unbearable weather. The Danish seem to have a complete handle on hygge, which is a likely reason the Happiness Research Institute is headquartered in Copenhagen.
The CEO of the Happiness Research Institute, Meik Wiking, published The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living, in a response to the never ending question: Why are the Danes so damn happy? In his book, Wiking presents a multitude of everyday habits the Danish incorporate in their lives.
Wiking’s Hygge Manifesto includes 10 points that can easily be tied into your day.
A non-negotiable in hygge is lighting. Say yes to candles and lamps, and avoid any overhead or fluorescent fixtures. If you’d like to take it a step further, opt for unscented candles. The Danish like to avoid artificial fragrance. If you want your house to smell like apple pie, then bake an apple pie.
University Wellness Director, Michele Martin, suggests cutting out the noise, racing thoughts, and distractions. You achieve this by being mindful and present in the moment, Martin said. Look at where your feet are. Try to be there mentally, not just physically.
A hot drink is the number one thing Danes associate with hygge. Hot tea, apple cider, hot cocoa, and of course coffee are all safe bets to obtaining the warm and fuzzies. Sweets are also a top contender, so a square of dark chocolate and a slice of cake are encouraged.
“Carrot sticks, not so much. Something sinful is an integral component of the hygge ritual,” according to Wiking.
In hygge, everyone has a seat at the table. Be eager to help your friend in the kitchen, and allow others to enjoy the back and forth of a conversation.
To quote the Broadway Hamilton soundtrack like the obsessed every-lyric-knowing person I am, “Look around, look around, at how lucky we are to be alive right now.” Even on your worst day, a running list of gratitude is key to the movement. Your gratitude might be beautiful weather, a grade you know you didn’t deserve, your favorite spot in the library is wide open, or simply to be alive.
For this, Wiking suggests to check your bragging rights at the door. The people you choose to experience hygge with are in no competition with you or with each other. Honestly, conversation is optional. The people you are comfortable with in total silence are a good fit for this. One of the most beautiful aspects of hygge is experienced in taking in natural sounds, like coffee brewing mixed with a thunderstorm.
Get out those pants: Your favorite pants. You know exactly which pants I’m talking about. There’s actually a word for them in Wiking’s hygge dictionary: Hyggebukser (hooga-bucksr). These are the pants you’d never wear in public, but live in at home. Ten points are added for fuzzy, knitted socks.
While you’re checking bragging rights at the door, also check the debate club, politics, finances, and anything else that has the potential to get you wound up. Think low blood pressure, easy conversation.
This is a good time to reminisce on shared memories. “I thrive on investing in people, and that returning,” Martin said. Experiencing hygge with the people you’ve invested in is a great way to see the fruits of that relationship blossom.
Your sanctuary, the place that’s safe and sound from the aforementioned thunderstorm. Here, you can fill your home with little things that make a big difference.
“Basically, you want to think: How would a Viking squirrel furnish a living room?” Wiking explains.
Bring nature inside, and incorporate wood in your decor. Lastly, a shelter would not be complete without blankets and cushions, you can never have too many.
Article first appeared in Reflector Print Magazine Fall 2017 edition.