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Your Guide to Hygge: The Danish Concept of Comfort

If you own cozy socks, you’re halfway there!

Candle, hot drink, notebook, and knitting on a cozy bedspread
CREDIT: SHUTTERSTOCK/ALENA OZEROVA

The Oxford English Dictionary defines hygge (pronounced “hoo-ga”) as “a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being, regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture.” Though the Danish word doesn’t have a direct translation in English, it speaks to “a general sense of comfort, charm, simplicity, and community,” things we could all use a little more of in today’s world.

For many of us, when the magic of Christmas subsides, there are still two long cold months stretching ahead of us. Rather than slipping into seasonal depression while waiting for Spring, hygge enables us to delight in the little things no matter what’s happening around us.

So, grab a soothing cup of tea and read on to find out how you can conjure this coziness all year round!

Smiling friends sitting at a festive dinner table holding sparklers
FRIENDS ENJOYING A FESTIVE DINNER. IMAGE CREDIT: SHUTTERSTOCK/GROUND PICTURE

What Exactly Is Hygge?

In The Little Book of Hygge, author Meik Wiking sets out the primary principles of hygge in Denmark. These include “atmosphere, presence (the ability to be focused in the now), pleasure, gratitude, comfort, and togetherness.” According to Wiking, gratitude is a big part of hygge, which allows us to appreciate the simplest pleasures, such as reading on a rainy day.

Author Louisa Thomsen Brits, who wrote The Book of Hygge: The Danish Art of Contentment, Comfort, and Connection, offers an even more succinct definition. She contends that hygge, at its core, is just “a practical way of creating sanctuary in the middle of very real life.”

Although creative director Oliver Enné insists that you can’t plan for hygge—“you can only say it in retrospect, like that was hyggelig (the adjective version)”—in today’s world, we might have to.

With the growing normalization of hustle culture, it is easy to prioritize work over rest. When we do take a “break,” it is often in the form of instant gratification (e.g., scrolling on your phone) rather than genuine moments of joy and peace. Therefore, as Brits suggests, it might be necessary to intentionally carve out time and space for hygge rather than just waiting for it to happen.

Can Anyone Practice Hygge?

Danes practice hygge year-round, “whether by enjoying dinner in the backyard in summer or sipping tea by the fireplace during winter.” Still, this concept isn’t just for Danes—it’s applied in neighboring Nordic countries such as Norway and Sweden (however, Swedes have their own word, mys, to describe this feeling).

In recent years, hygge has become a global phenomenon, for better and for worse. In the US, for example, “hygge is now a prepackaged, mass-produced thing you can buy.”

“The internet is teeming with hygge games, hygge books, hygge blankets, candles, subscription boxes, and exploiting hygge is very not hygge.”

CNBC Make It

Though hygge can involve certain cozy objects, some Danes fear that its essence is getting lost in translation. It’s important to remember that for them, hygge is not a lifestyle trend but an inherent part of their culture.

So, can other people still enjoy hygge, you may wonder? As Sarah Buder notes, “hygge can mean something different to everyone, as simple comfort is—by nature—a matter of subjectivity.” Danes may have their own vocabulary and culture built around it, but hygge is something we all can and should experience. After all, “even a watered-down version still has the power to alleviate some stress and spark joy.”

Woman wearing a wide-brimmed hat a mustard yellow jacket and backpack standing in the woods with fallen leaves
WOMAN ENJOYING THE VIEW IN A FOREST. IMAGE CREDIT: SHUTTERSTOCK/ENCIERRO

Ways To Experience Hygge

As you can only really understand hygge by experiencing it yourself, here are a few hyggelig things to inspire you.

Words

Hyggebukser: the pair of pants you practically live in when relaxing at home
Hyggekrog: the nook of a kitchen or living room where one can sit and have a hyggelig time
Hyggesokker: impossibly comfortable socks
Hyggesnak: charming small talk
Aftenhygge: the kind of hygge you have in the evening

Things

Warm clothes
Thick blankets
Candles
A cup of tea/coffee
Pastries

Activities

Take a flask of hot chocolate with you on a long walk
Arrange a board game night
Enjoy seasonal activities like ice skating in winter and fruit picking in summer
Keep one morning of the weekend free for tea or coffee in bed and a slow, lazy breakfast
Select a random set of photo memories on your phone and spend a happy few minutes reminiscing about a trip or event

While these things, among others, bring many people hygge, please don’t feel that you need to go out of your way to obtain them. At its core, hygge is simply about noticing and enjoying what’s right in front of you.

Written By

Just graduated from UCC with a BA in music and English. My other passions include learning languages, astrology, and art.

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