Do you hygge?
You probably do — at least once in a while — even if you’re unfamiliar with the term.
To “hygge” is to slow down, be mindful, take time for things that matter and have fun. No matter where you find yourself, “hyggelig” is enjoying the moment and your surroundings.
“Hygge doesn’t require learning or adopting it or buying anything,” notes content creator Alex Beauchamp. “It requires being present and recognizing hygge moments.”
In recent years, U.S. lifestyle experts and interior designers have embraced and promoted this Danish concept. That’s because hygge (pronounced “HOO-guh”) embodies that feeling of hominess, comfort, contentment and joy derived from emphasizing family, friends, good food and cozy gathering places.
While there seems to be a rather sudden proliferation of books and articles on hygge, it isn’t a true fad.
Danes and those of Danish heritage take happiness seriously. You’ve no doubt witnessed this in the Cedar Valley, if you have visited or belong to a house of worship with culturally Danish roots.
There’s a term for those who embody the concept: Happy Danes, known for being cheery, welcoming and perpetually contented. They simultaneously strive for and attain hygge, even if that’s not what they call it.
Danish citizens take the hygge lifestyle seriously, and they credit it the nation’s ability to retaining its happy status.
Denmark has ranked No. 1 on the United Nation’s World Happiness report in 2013, 2014 and 2016 (it took third place in 2015). The report measures health, family relations, job security and social factors. Meanwhile, the European Commission’s “Eurobarometer” takes an annual measurement of national well-being and happiness. Denmark has topped the list since the measure was instituted in 1973.
According to the national tourism office, the average Danish work week tops out at 37 hours, and employees receive five weeks of paid time off each year. As a result, there is great cultural significance placed on leaving work on time, bicycling home, family time and cozy meals.
In the United States, hygge is often contextualized as a way to slow down and appreciate the finer parts of winter. However, Denmark’s national tourism office explains hygge occurs in any season. It is leisurely, comforting, interactive and peaceful, among other things, so it can be achieved in activities ranging from waterskiing with friends to reading.
If you decorate your home or work space with items that make you feel happy and centered, that’s hygge. If you take time to fully engage in your surroundings, that’s hygge. If your family builds a snowman together and then snuggles on the sofa with mugs of hot cocoa, that’s hygge.
Danish actor Marie Tourell Soderberg says hygge is essential to Denmark’s culture — and ubiquitous. That’s why “hygge” is a noun, verb and adjective, she writes in the bestseller, “Hygge: The Danish Art of Happiness.”
“(Hygge) is said to be closely related to the Danish national character,” she adds. “But in its essence, it is not Danish, it’s universal. Hygge is for everyone — whoever you are, wherever you are.”
In addition, hygge is “the art of creating intimacy” notes Meik Wiking.
In her bestseller, “The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well,” she explains hyggelig is about cultivating a welcoming vibe in everything from home decor (plush accents, functional ceramics) to apparel (blanket scarves, wool socks) to hearty foods.