January 3, 2024

Making Your Home More Hygge

Why hygee? Well, because the Danish are consistently some of the happiest people in the world.

Originating from a Norwegian word for well-being, “hygee” was first written in the Danish language in the early 19th century after Norway separated from Denmark. While the concept of cozy living isn’t unique to Denmark, hygge specifically was adapted as a national identity after Denmark shrunk in land mass and population following conflicts in the mid-1800s.

Hygee is one of the key values of Danish culture, having evolved from a harsh winter climate, shrinking land size, and an egalitarian society. Simply put, it’s a way of living rooted in finding happiness in the simplest things in life. Today, Denmark consistently ranks as one of the happiest countries in the world.

So, how can we learn from the Danish and find joy in the simpler things in life? Here are a few simple ways to adopt a hygge way of living.

Several lit candles and a lantern bathed in warm light, surrounded by fall leaves, pumpkins, and blankets, exude the hygge principal of light.

Light

According to The Little Book of Hygge, 85% of Danes mention candles when asked what they associate with hygge. Warm, soft light illuminating the darkness of winter, especially the harsh winters of Denmark, is a central part of hygge. Most Danes will light candles almost every day in the autumn and winter. Danes also choose their electric lighting carefully, preferring low kelvin lamps over bright fluorescent lights.

To incorporate hygge into your own living space, add a few unscented candles and choose smaller lamps dispersed around the room over a central overhead light source.

Get Social

Hygge isn’t just about mood lighting. A big part of hygge is socializing with loved ones. Danes prioritize spending time with others each week, and most hygge activities are social. This element of hygge is essential to overall happiness as well. Studies on happiness, such as the United Nations’ World Happiness Report, have found a significant connection between the quality of someone’s relationships and their overall happiness.

The good news is that hygge socializing is great for introverts and extroverts. Hygge prioritizes small, close-knit groups over large, raucous events. To bring hygge socializing into your own life, prioritize connecting with loved ones regularly. Create new traditions by committing to a weekly game night or regular dinner get-togethers.

Indulge

Comfort foods and sweets, especially cake and pastries, are integral to hygge. A large part of hygge is treating yourself, and the Danish, as some of the largest consumers of meat, pastries, and sweets, don’t refrain from such. Treat yourself to your favorite comfort meal, or bring a sweet to work to share with your team. Hygge is a social lifestyle, so indulging is best done with others.

Take it Slow

A woman in an apron in a brightly lit kitchen tasted a soup on the stove, practicing the slow cooking tenet of hygge.

According to The Little Book of Hygge, how long it takes to prepare food is even more important than how comforting it is. “The rule of thumb is: the longer it takes to cook, the more hyggelig it is” (Meik Wiking, The Little Book of Hygge). This “slow food” concept also involves the social aspect of cooking and eating. Taking time to prepare a meal from scratch and then sharing it with others or spending an afternoon baking with loved ones are essential parts of hygge.

How can you incorporate this into your own life? Pull out your Crockpot and slow cook your favorite comfort meal all day, or take the time to simmer a stew on your stovetop for hours. Or take the extra time to bake your favorite treat from scratch as a fun afternoon family activity. You’ll be surprised by the results when you slow your food down.

A mug sits atop a stack of books next to a croissant, flowes, and lit candles next to a bright window representing a hygge style afternoon.

Warmth

Hot drinks come first for what Danes associate the most with hygge. Among popular hot beverages such as tea, cocoa, and mulled wine, coffee is by far the most popular, with Danes drinking more coffee than Americans. A comforting warm beverage is an easy way to bring more hygge into your life. If you’re a regular iced coffee drinker, try swapping out your morning cold cup for a hot one. Or, try unwinding at night with a warm cup of your favorite tea.

Hygge at Home

Since much of hygge is about feeling cozy and safe, many of the hygge elements start at home. Creating a hygge home is easy. After all, one of the hallmarks of hygge is simplicity. First, create a “hyggekrog,” which roughly translates to nook. Find a small space where you like to spend time to unwind. Add soft lighting (candles are essential), cushions, blankets, and other cozy items. Bonus points if your hyggekrog is near a fireplace.

Next, decorate your home with natural elements such as wood. Utilize ceramics for items like vases and mugs, and incorporate vintage items into your space. Fill shelves with books and include a variety of textures to add a finishing touch.

I hope this article helps you start your new hygge life, but there’s so much more to hygge than candles and cozy blankets. Want to learn more about hygge? Check out the books below to learn more about this Danish way of living.

Four books about hygge spread out on a cozy blanket. The books in order from left to right are Hygge Simplified, My Hygge Home, Hygge (the Danish Art of Happiness), The Little Book of Hygge, and American Cozy.

Hygge Simplified (Color Mill Press)

My Hygge Home (Meik Wiking)

Hygge – The Danish Art of Happiness (Marie Tourell Soderberg)

The Little Book of Hygge (Meik Wiking)

American Cozy (Stephanie Pedersen)

 

Sources: The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking and Hygge: The Danish Art of Happiness by Marie Tourell Soderberg)