As we approach the end of the year, our days are quickly becoming shorter and colder. We’re naturally spending more time indoors. There’s some excitement and anticipation with the holidays just around the corner.
I recently re-read The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking, who is the CEO of The Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, Denmark. Last year, this little book helped me get into a more cozy mindset as a way to get through, and actually appreciate the winter.
So, what exactly is hygge? Hygge is a concept that the Danish people have been living by for centuries. It’s important to note that UN’s World Happiness Report frequently ranks Denmark (among the other Scandinavian countries) at the top of the list. There are many similarities between the climate in Denmark and New England. I figured if the Danes can be the happiest people in the world with a long, dark winter, there might be something we can learn from them.
Hygge is a bit tricky to define and translate to English. It’s more of a feeling and concept more than anything. Hygge is defined by some as a feeling of well-being, safety, sense of ease, coziness, and contentment. It’s about slowing down, living in the moment, being grateful, and taking pleasure in simple everyday things. Hygge is not fancy or over the top and has little to do with consumerism - the more rustic, homemade, comfortable, and down-to-earth, the better. You can have a hygge-like experience alone, and according to a survey in the book, a group of 3-4 people is the sweet spot for social gatherings. Hygge can be enjoyed year-round but is mostly associated with winter as a survival strategy to get through those cold, dark months.
The best part about hygge is that it’s not something you can buy - using what you have helps create the best atmosphere and sets the tone for those slow, meaningful moments. Interested in embracing hygge to enhance your experience this holiday season and through the winter? You might find that you do many of these things and have what you need already!
Declutter your living space
As a professional organizer and someone who sees the value in living a life mostly free of clutter, it’s no surprise that I’m mentioning this first. When we declutter our surroundings, we reduce visual noise and distraction that reminds us of what needs to be done. In turn, this increases focus, ease, and helps us slow down to enjoy the present moment. An added benefit of a decluttered home is more open space to move around in and possibly host guests. If getting your whole house in order is too big of a task, consider starting with decluttering the space where you spend the most time in the winter.
Set the mood at home
Soft, warm lighting is at the top of the list for creating a hygge-like atmosphere. The most cozy lighting emulates the soft glow of sunset or a fireplace. The people in Denmark burn nearly twice as many candles as the rest of Europe, but if candle’s aren’t your thing, try string lights. Many of us have extra string lights hanging around that we aren’t using for holiday decorating. Try coiling them in a hurricane vase or stringing them up in a corner of your living or dining room.
With your space decluttered, consider rearranging furniture in the living room to create a “hyggekrog,” or cozy corner. Most of us have more blankets and pillows than we can use all at once. Take them out out of storage and lay enough out on the couch and arm chairs for each member of your family. Gather your favorite books, movies, and board games and make them easily accessible to encourage that simple, feel-good quality time.
Get a dose of nature
Bundle up and get outside! Embracing the beauty of winter makes it a little more bearable. Your area might have local conservation land or a bike path that’s perfect for a stroll. I love to spend time by the ocean listening to the waves and talking to people who are observing winter sea birds. Whatever it is you enjoy the most, try carving out some time to get out there. You’ll likely have increased feelings of coziness when you come back to your warm home. For a dose of nature inside the home, try gathering your houseplants into little clusters if you have them. Most houseplants don’t enjoy being near heating vents during the winter, so when the heat comes on, I gather mine away from the heat. It changes the landscape of the house, creating a fresh new feel, and gives me something green to look at when the outdoors are looking gray and gloomy.
Take time to enjoy the little things
In my opinion, this is the most important of them all - without creating space to feel hygge, it likely won’t happen. Creating the feeling of well-being is quite simple. When you make the effort to do something you enjoy every day, it helps bring some more happiness into your life. What is it that you enjoy? Cozy activities can be enjoyed in or out of your home. You might like:
Like I mentioned earlier, according to a survey, the Danish consider a group of 3-4 people to be the sweet spot for gatherings. When getting together as a small group, the focus is more on the experience of cooking and eating your meal, and enjoying uplifting conversation. Consider hosting a pot luck or cook an unfussy meal together. It’s all about setting the tone for togetherness. Bake some bread or other treat - the smell in the house is very hygge. You might like to play board games, look at old photos and reminisce, anything goes as long as you create an atmosphere of contentment and togetherness.
Are you inspired to bring a little more hygge into your life this winter? What are your favorite simple, enjoyable activities? Does your family have any traditions this time of year that you look forward to sharing together? I’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment down below.