Candles and coffee on a bedside table on top of a cozy bed with an open book.

Last night in our virtual self-care community gathering, we dove deep into the Scandinavian concept of Hygge. I’m sure you’ve heard or seen this term before, but in case you haven’t – the word hygge actually comes from the Norwegian word for wellbeing. In a nutshell, hygge is all about coziness and contentment – those feelings you get when you really give into your cravings, when you create the right ambiance and when you’re just …. present.

Denmark is always at or near the top of the World Happiness Report for a reason, and they attest that hygge is the reason. In fact, hygge has been practiced by Norwegians and Danes for centuries – it’s as ingrained in them as freedom is for us Americans. If you’re in the northern hemisphere right now, it’s winter and it’s the perfect time to partake in some hygge. But… what exactly is hygge and how can we practice it even during COVID times?

On the outside, hygge was described as everything sinful and indulgent – think eating the comfort food and the sweets, drinking the wine and alcohol, but minus all the guilt that usually accompanies such escapades. Hygge is a regular thing for Danes, and they do it without even thinking. Below I’ll list some concepts that are inherently hygge and what you’ll typically find practiced in Denmark, but when it really comes down to it, hygge is more about your intention and your presence rather than what you’re actually doing. It’s the feelings underneath the outside fluff. It’s about togetherness and connection, which you can do even if you’re by yourself because really underneath together and connection is just savoring the moment, no matter what you’re doing.

Some elements of traditional hygge revolve around some key concepts such as lighting, layering clothes, indulgent food and drink, simple pleasures and fully using all of your senses to enjoy the experience. Some fun facts about hygge is that Danes are the largest consumers of candles in the world, probably because a proper hygge atmosphere for them requires burning at least 5 candles! They’re big into warm, soft lighting (think fires, candles, twinkle lights, etc.) rather than the big bright white lights we’ve grown accustomed to. Big, oversized, comfortable clothes you can get lost in and other hygge gear is also high on their list (scarves, blankets, socks, etc.).

Perhaps most importantly though is the food and drink that often accompanies hygge-time. Since hygge is most often associated with cozy winter nights, hot drinks are always hygge-favorites. Bring your mulled wine, favorite latte, spiced tea, hot cocoa or anything else you love along for the hygge adventure. You would think that with how often hygge is practiced, that it would make this population of people a lot less healthy – but the truth is, it actually makes them MORE healthy. It was explained in a video like this… the undertone of hygge is to savor the moment, really taste your food, slow down and enjoy the experience. With emotional eating all the rage (especially right now) it’s nothing to eat 5 brownies and barely remember what they taste like. This is actually the opposite of what happens in traditional hygge time in Denmark. Because they’re eating slowly (mindfully even), with the intention to really taste each bite, they don’t have the need or want for that third, fourth or fifth helping, and because they aren’t depriving themselves of the treats they want, they don’t become obsessed with eating all the things as fast as they can.

One of the biggest things I noticed in my research was the intentional lack of technology, which I loved. Hygge isn’t about movies or TV or connecting via phone, it’s about intentionally putting the tech away and focusing on the connection with the person or people around you, or even just yourself. On of the most beautiful stories I watched was of a Danish family who came to the United States and keep their hygge tradition of family dinners every night. What’s so great about that? No tech. NO phones. Instead, there’s actual conversation where everyone in the family is included. I don’t know about you, but I can’t remember the last family dinner I had where no one was on their phone. It’s a wonderful family tradition to start, especially during these divisive times.

One last piece of hygge I took away from my research was the importance of aromatherapy – be it from plants, flowers, essential oils, etc. Some of the coziest scents I know of are rosemary, cinnamon, lavender, eucalyptus, firs, etc. A fun idea is to put all your hygge gear in the dryer for a little bit with a dryer ball that has a few drops of your favorite hygge essential oil on it! Think: curling up in your little hygge-nest with your hot cocoa and a blanket that has the aroma of lavender! Bliss!!

All in all, hygge to me allows you to come back to the things that you love, the things that feel really amazing to your soul. The more we can bring those elements in on a daily basis, I think the greater our mental health through all the things tends to get. Bringing in hygge to your family can actually change the fabric in how you gather as a family, the traditions you put in place, the memories you make, and…. the way your kids grow up and start these traditions and self-care practices of their own. How cool is that?

Join us for our next virtual self-care community gathering as we travel to Italy to learn dolce far niente – or, the sweetness of doing nothing. You can register here (it’s free!). Can’t wait to see you there, and happy hygge-ing!

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