Are you ready to get more than cosy this winter? Turn colder days into bliss by living your life the hygge way.
Hygge (pronounced hue-guh not hoo-gah) is the Danish lifestyle grounded in the sweetness of being – it’s the art of creating intimacy and describes the idea of charm and being chill AF. There’s no direct translation but it’s an appreciation of the finer – and smaller – things in life. The idea of living life with that bit of zest doesn’t have to be anything fancy. In fact, you could live your life the hygge way without spending a cent.
The Danes created the way of hygge decades ago to combat the notoriously long and freezing Danish winters. ‘Hygge is such an important part of being Danish that it is considered a defining feature of our cultural identity and an integral part of the national DNA,’ according to Meik Wiking, the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen and the author of The Little Book Of Hygge.
Even with long, harsh winters, the country has some of the happiest people on the planet, according to a United Nations World Happiness Report. It may be the privileges and benefits of being Danish, such as fully paid leave for weeks, free higher education and healthcare, but hygge plays a huge part in how Danes keep calm.
Hygge fever has spread across the globe to the point where it was even named by both Collins and Oxford dictionaries as the word of the year in 2016. On Instagram, #hygge has more than three-million posts dedicated to it.
Hygge for your mental health
‘When we feel stress in our bodies and stew on issues for a long time, our bodies produce cortisol,’ says Brontë Aurell, author of ScandiKitchen: The Essence Of Hygge. ‘This gets us all fired up and we feel our engines running on all cylinders. Cortisol is a natural response in our bodies – we need it. It is part of the fight-or-flight mechanism that keeps us alert.
‘When levels spike, the body is ready for action, ready to physically fight. In order to reduce cortisol, you need to have a release. But if you don’t have a release, the levels just sit there in your body, causing all sorts of other issues.
‘I left my phone in another room, turned the ringer off and started breathing again’
‘If our cortisol levels spike for a prolonged period of time, it can interfere with our learning, memory, immune functions, blood pressure and cholesterol, and can even make it harder to control our weight. If you have chronic levels of cortisol, you could also increase the risk of depression.
‘I’m not ashamed to say that I have been in a place of stress, and statistics say I am most certainly not alone. The thing that got me out of it, in the end, was the people I had been neglecting all along: my family and friends.
‘I left my phone in another room, turned the ringer off and started breathing again. Slowly but surely, I found my old self by taking time out and making space for being together with “my people”.’
Here are nine Hygge tips to try today
1 Light it up
Wiking says lighting is important. There should be several light sources at any given time, making your space warm and light.
For the Danes, candles are a huge part of hygge. According to Wiking, Danes individually burn up to six kilograms of candle wax a year – more than any other country in the world. Light candles when you’re making dinner, put them at the foot of your bath or just light a scented one for a warm and delicious atmosphere.
2 Go home
In winter, Denmark is plunged into darkness at about 4pm in the afternoon. According to Elle UK, women in Denmark work an average of 35 hours a week (compared to 41 hours a week for men) and employees are expected to work Monday to Friday, 8am to 4pm. Who wants to be working in darkness? Danes knock off when they’re meant to and go home – and so should you.
3 Learn something new
Knitting is super-hygge since its slow, steady rhythm is calming for many people, says Wiking. ‘Crafts in general are hygge, especially if you do them with a friend,’ he says. ‘It’s a chance to slow down and make something handmade.’ Try painting, making a collage, or quilting during a night in.
4 Embrace your sweet tooth
Food is a huge part of pleasure which fits right into the hygge ethos. ‘Danes love freshly baked goods,’ says Wiking. ‘They don’t have to look professional. In fact, the more rustic the better.’ If you don’t have a sweet tooth, try cooking comfort food in the form of hearty stews and spicy curries full of flavour.
Even more hygge than eating yummy food is making it with friends and family. Start a cooking club instead of throwing traditional dinner parties. ‘When everyone gathers and cooks together instead of one person hosting, it maximizes the hygge,’ says Wiking. ‘It’s a relaxed and informal evening.’
5 Start a new tradition
Surround yourself with the people you love and make new memories with a fun new tradition to break up the routine. ‘Any meaningful activity that unites the group will knit everyone more tightly together over the years,’ says Wiking. ‘Hygge is making the most of the moment, but it’s also a way of planning for and preserving happiness. Danes plan for hygge times and reminisce about them afterwards.’
6 Get some exercise
‘Go for a run or a walk or play football,’ says Aurell. ‘Thirty minutes’ movement a day is optimal. Get your body to release stress the natural way by using it. It’s all wound up inside – moving it will unwind it, naturally.’
‘Meditate for 15 minutes each day when you wake up,’ says Aurell. ‘If you don’t have time to meditate daily for 15 minutes, you should meditate for an hour each week.
If you don’t like meditating at home, do some yoga. It provides part of what you need and it is also a good way to be physical.’
8 Go offline
‘First remove all time restrictions and annoying electronic devices,’ says Aurell. ‘Even if it’s hard in the beginning, it becomes easier over time.
Allow yourself to disconnect from the world, even if it’s just for a few hours a day. Buy an alarm clock that isn’t your phone – leave your phone in a different room to the one you sleep in.’
9 Turn up the volume
Music is key to the ultimate hygge environment. Opt for soft, gentle tunes that conjure up feelings of warmth and calm. According to Stylist UK, some suggestions for hygge songs include Mumford & Sons’ I Will Wait and Radiohead’s Everything In Its Right Place.
A study by Mindlab International found that listening to Weightless by Marconi Union reduces stress levels by 65%!
Listen to Weightless below:
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