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Hygge: Cosy Up With the Danish Art of Comfort

Two years of the pandemic, eh? Comfy clothes, meetings in pyjamas, soft music, and sweet scents from the oven (because everyone had a baking phase when the pandemic started, right?) all put us at ease during those hard months. But did you know that cosiness is a way of life in Denmark? Today, I’m bringing you a slice of Scandinavian Hygge life to inspire you to pursue ultimate comfort and relaxation.

hygge - studysmarter magazine

All Aboard with Hygge!

Oh, wait – travelling is not always comfortable. None aboard, all back home into comfortable armchairs, blanket forts, and reading nooks for this one!

Hygge (pronounced hoo-geh or hjoo-geh) is a Danish and Norwegian word roughly translated as ‘cosy and comfortable’. In Norway, it’s used as such (with its adverbial form hyggelig). However, in Denmark, Hygge with a capital H has become a cultural mark of a lifestyle.

Ever since Hygge first entered Danish literature in the eighteenth century, it has been warmly embraced, just like the very word evokes the sense of a comfortable hug. There are many ways to understand Hygge: it’s spending time with loved ones, cuddling your pets, and wrapping yourself in sweaters and blankets to watch another rerun of your comfort show. It’s the scent of warm coffee, cinnamon, ginger, and mulled wine on a cold night just as the Christmas market opens. It is the ultimate comfort and well-being practised all over Denmark (no wonder they are such a happy nation!).

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Just Out Here, Living My Best Hygge Life

Hygge and hyggelige atmosphere have become a byword for Danish lifestyle, and they offer many appealing options. After all, who wouldn’t want to sink into endless days of comfort and a promised land of happiness, especially given how real life has become outside? In his book The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living, Meik Wiking describes Hygge as ‘the cosiness of the soul’ and offers a series of … extremely expensive ways to incorporate more of it into your life.

Since you and I both know what kind of a budget students live on, I am bringing you some easy and affordable ways to enrich your life with ultimate comforts.

Introducing Danish Hygge into Your Life

Regardless of whether you’re an absolute fool for comfort, have about 27 pillows in varying degrees of fluffiness, stuffed toys, delightful paintings and illustrations, and an odd bar of chocolate hiding at the bottom of your drawer (where your siblings cannot find it), a bit of extra comfort is never a bad idea. And the best part? It’s the comfort of small things like re-reading your favourite book for the umptieth time or enjoying the feeling of holding a warm cup of hot chocolate on a windy evening (have I mentioned cinnamon yet?).

Bringing Hygge into your life for the first time doesn’t have to be a matter of great consideration. It’s quite the opposite, actually: you could start with things that you already do to give yourself some special treatment. Bubble baths, soothing music, and singing to your plants – whatever gives you contentment is a place to start with Hygge. Try to find at least 20 minutes a day to devote to that activity (or inactivity) and enjoy it completely and thoroughly.

Happiness is not reading tons of self-help books, popular psychology is not a lifestyle, and it isn’t joyful to throw out everything that seems superfluous in your life. My thesis doesn’t always ‘spark joy’, but I still don’t chuck it out the window every time I hit a snag. What I do, however, is take a moment to appreciate the finer things in life, like this wonderful book series Beaufort Mystery Scales – Cozy Mysteries with Dragons. Now that’s a comfort read – a bunch of old ladies, scone-loving dragons, and British murder mysteries. Sign me up! Sign yourself up!

When you’ve found your footing being engrossed in your familiar comf-topics, you can check out some additional Hygge lifestyle ideas.

Hygge Lifestyle Tips

Did you know that scented candles are extremely popular in Denmark and illuminate the hall of fame of Hygge lifestyle? Apart from breaking sales records, scented candles have been shown to offer psychological boons, such as creating a sense of security and evoking pleasant feelings. So, buying a few may be a great starting point for your personal Hygge life. The most beneficial scents include vanilla, lavender, chamomile … and, yes, cinnamon.

Other ways to Hygge up your life include:

  • Enjoying simple pleasures. *Puts on her Captain Obvious cape and flies away.*
  • Putting on some comfy clothes. Treat yourself to your favourite pair of woollen socks, comfortable (oversized, naturally) sweaters, and cartoon pyjamas. If you have long hair, do tie it in a messy bun – nothing screams relaxation louder than that.
  • Indulging mindfully. Snacks, biscuits, pies, warm potage soups, and, of course, unlimited supplies of coffee and tea? I’m all ears. Hygge is about giving yourself a break from strict habits or rules you may have about your nutrition or exercise habits. Try not to binge on ALL the foods, but allow yourself a bit of decadence.
  • Relax with your favourite pastime activities. Catflix and chill? Yes. Listening to music? Yes! Busting a move to your guilty pleasures from the 90s (because you know you want it that way)? YES! Whatever helps you relax, from napping to gardening, go for it.
  • Create a Hygge environment at home. There are minor adjustments you can introduce at home to make your private world more hyggelig.

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Happy Hygge Home

Imagine an egg. For a chick to be born healthy, it needs to be warm and comfortable in its shell. You might as well be comfortable in your own home so that every time you go outside (or hatch), you’re ready to face the world.

Most Hygge home guides would have you running around and redecorating your entire house (with alarmingly much attention paid to lamps), but I am here to tell you to drop that idea. No, you do not have to go to IKEA or the nearest Home Depot and spend exorbitant amounts of money. And no, you don’t need to spend that much time on home décor when you could be studying and actually relaxing.

Check these tips out:

  • Create an ambience. To really be relaxed, your home should be a place you look forward to. Tape some pictures on the walls. Better yet, make a ‘happy wall’ (or a pinboard) where you can put all your happy memories. Photos, scribbles, old concert tickets, and that cute message from your crush – all the small joys in one place! Add some paintings or frame your first big puzzle.
  • Add some music to your home. You don’t have to buy or learn an instrument, but you can have a small music setup that you can connect your phone to whenever you feel like it. You can also play some relaxing music to get you into the mood.
  • Have at least one blanket at hand. Seriously, you cannot Hygge without it.
  • Work on your reading nook. Or a hobby nook. Or a gaming nook. Whatever it is, you should have one cosy corner devoted to your interests.
  • Add some potted plants. I am not a plant person, but even I have one pot in the living room. His name is Benny, and he drops all his leaves when he’s upset by his position or the amount of sunlight or water he’s getting. But we get along. If you have a green thumb, I don’t have to tell you anything. If not, cacti are low-maintenance and make a fun little addition to any room.

Finding Your Own Hygge Meaning

Hygge is, of course, not just about what you can buy, eat, or where you can travel to – although, let’s face it, all these do help. It’s about finding your own inner balance.

Let’s step away from Hygge and its material aspects and focus on you.

What are the five things you love about yourself? If you’re struggling to come up with a list, you may have fallen prey to aggressive advertising, fake social media presentations, and late-capitalist trends of seeking perfection, never acknowledging your accomplishments. I’m gonna give you a moment to come up with that list.

Got it all there? Good. I want you to take pride in these things. Brag about them. Don’t be obnoxious, but don’t be afraid to give yourself a pat on the back for being exactly who you are.

The same goes for the things you love. Growing up is about accepting all aspects of yourself and your interests and flaunting them unashamedly. For example, I’m a sucker for High School Musical – it’s my Winter comfort watch. Do you think I care about how cringe it is? Nah. I’m over being embarrassed about guilty pleasures, and you should be too. There’s no hobby or interest not worth talking about, so go ahead and talk.

If you want some real Hygge in your life, it’s time to learn to be comfortable in your skin, not just your room and bed. Address the limiting beliefs you may have, unfollow social media accounts that make you doubt yourself, and ditch emotional vampires from your life. Is friendship that leaves you drained after every meeting actually worth it? Hardly. Work on yourself, but don’t over-optimise. Accept what you cannot change and improve what you can, and remember, wherever you are on your journey, you’re worthy of everything good that happens to you.

Learn to be yourself with yourself – don’t hide behind negative self-talk or fear. Love what you do, and you’ll find your inner Hygge too.

Source: Wiking, Meik. The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living. Penguin Life, 2016.

What is Hygge?

Hygge is a Danish and Norwegian word for comfort and relaxation, which has become a way of life in Denmark. It means enjoying simple pleasures in life, indulging in delicious foods, and revelling in comfort and cosiness.

How do you pronounce Hygge?

Hygge is pronounced hoo-geh or hjoo-geh.

How do you live a Hygge lifestyle?

You can live your best Hygge life by enjoying small things like watching a movie or having a warm cup of hot chocolate. You can also create a nice ambience at home with a soft blanket, fluffy pillows, a reading nook, and some plants.