Hygge--Is the Buzzy Danish Practice the Secret to Happiness?

December 22, 2016

Hygge is a Danish word that doesn’t have a direct translation to English, but in spite of the language barrier, it is becoming a popular subject. What is hygge?  Is it something that you could use to help improve your daily life? Most importantly, how do you pronounce it?


What is hygge?

Hygge is a concept that’s been observed in Denmark since the 1800s and is pronounced “hoo-guh.” Its pronunciation is often described as the sound you might make while clearing your throat.

It has no literal translation to English, but that hasn’t stopped it from becoming an international craze.  Hygge, at its most basic, is taking the time to take pleasure and content from everyday activities. Things like making a ritual out of brewing your morning coffee, or lighting a candle, is the essence of hygge.  It’s taking pleasure in the ordinary.

This unique way of life is obviously helping someone out – Denmark is often voted the world’s happiest country, and hygge has even been named as one of 2016’s Words of the Year.

In places like Denmark, where you’ve got long, cold winters and up to 17 hours of darkness per day, every little bit of pleasure and contentment that can be found is something to be treasured, but hygge isn’t just for cold winter nights. The concept can be helpful no matter where you live.

Hygge = Mindfulness?

Many people have compared hygge to the idea of mindfulness.  While it does have some similarities, and they can be both beneficial practices, there are definite differences between the two lifestyles. Mindfulness is the practice of living in the moment, focusing on what is happening without lingering on the past or thinking about the future. Hygge, on the other hand, is finding and experiencing joy in the little things.  It’s allowing yourself to be enveloped in the warmth of a cup of hot tea between your hands, or the joy of a candle flame. Hygge focuses on contentment and happiness, where mindfulness focuses more on pausing to reduce stress.

There are similarities, but hygge and mindfulness are two very different practices.

Is Hygge the New Mindfulness?

How to Hygge

So now that you know what hygge is (and how to pronounce it) how can you take this new craze and incorporate it into your life?

  • Make your home cozy. Warm colors, low-wattage light bulbs, and candles are a great way to make your rooms a little more homey. Mirrors are a great way to spread that low-wattage light around as well as make your rooms look even larger than they already are.
  • Spend time with friends or family. A big part of hygge is finding warmth and contentment in the moment, but unlike mindfulness, hygge is often better when shared with others.
  • Make a bonfire (or use a fire pit). There is something very hygge about a crackling fire. That’s why candles are commonly associated with hygge–mostly because many people don’t have the option of a fireplace, bonfire, or fire pit.
  • Make a hot drink. A hot cup of cocoa, tea, coffee, or cider is extremely comforting, especially on a colder winter day.

There’s no one right way to hygge. All that matters is you find something that you take comfort and find contentment in and focus on that moment.

Is this Danish lifestyle technique really worth all the hype that it’s been getting recently?  That all depends on you, but 200 years of success in Denmark most assuredly speaks for itself. It’s an effective way to keep the winter months at bay, but the practices don’t need to be abandoned just because the temperatures are rising. Take joy in the little things.

How I’ve Embraced Hygge

While I love a bit of mindfulness as much as the next, the idea of Hygge instantly resonated with me because it’s much more of a lifestyle. I still try to practice mindfulness in everyday tasks, but hygge has changed my life because of its influence on every area.

In my home, I’ve gone a little overboard with candles (oops?) and have fully embraced my morning routine of sitting in bed and sipping on hot lemon water while I read a book. For me, it really comes down to just making the time in the day to have some “me time” and be grateful.

In other areas of my life, I find myself embracing hygge through relationships and quality time. Whether it’s taking my dog for an extra lap around the block or spending time with my parents on the weekends–that genuine time with the people I love is what hygge is all about.

So, as you reflect on the concept of hygge and what means to you, I’ll leave you with this:

“Hygge was never meant to be translated – it was meant to be felt.” – ToveMaren Stakkestad

Have you tried practicing hygge?

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Photo: Kaboompics

Cori Keating is a health and wellness writer and blogger. When she isn’t writing for her blog, Why So Well, she enjoys hiking, biking, and running.


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