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Hygge - more than cocoa by candlelight

Right now you have everything you need to be in bliss.” – Anthony de Mello

At one point or another, we have all experienced a feeling of contentment and gratitude for the small comforts in our lives. This warm and fuzzy feeling can be described by the Danish word “Hygge.”

After much publicity around the word, hygge has been recently adopted into the English language. It is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “A quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.” Although there is no direct English translation, the concept and feeling of hygge is a useful lesson that we can learn to foster.

Being able to assign a word to this feeling can help us appreciate, take notice of, and make an effort to incorporate more hygge into our lives!

The word hygge has been a part of Danish culture since the 19th century when it first appeared in writing. Hygge can be used as an adjective, a noun, and a verb.

Your favorite pair of cozy socks can be described as hyggelig, while you and your friends can schedule a set time and date to hygge together. As you enjoy playing a board game next to a warm fire, it is perfectly acceptable to say that you are hygg-ing!

Keep in mind that as the term hygge became popular in English-speaking countries, consumer culture has attempted to alter the meaning of the word. However, hygge cannot be bought. Yes, a cozy blanket or mug full of tea might be categorized as hygge, but material items are not entirely what hygge is about. There is no need to purchase Nordic-style knitwear and candles in order to experience hygge.

In reality, hygge is the feeling of comfort which occurs naturally in our lives. It is the feeling you get when you are with your friends and family, enjoying a home-cooked meal, or settling down with a good book. Hygge doesn’t have to cost a cent.

In order to be authentically hygge, it is essential to appreciate the things that bring you joy and comfort. By taking note of these hygge moments, you are more likely to have an improved sense of wellbeing and appreciation for the items, people, and places in your life.

This translates to an increased quality of life and happiness. And that sounds pretty good right?

Hygge involves living well while living a more sustainable, richer life, with less focus on material goods and more on the depth of experiences, living in the moment, being present, and feeling gratitude for the many small pleasures around us each day.

It makes sense then that hygge is highly personalized, and will involve the things that make you feel at ease and bring fond memories. Hygge can be enjoyed with friends or a partner as well as all on your own. It is about being content with where you are, with friends or alone. Savoring the richness that the moment brings, rather than longing for it to be different. With contentment at its core, it is no wonder hygge is linked to happiness.

But how can we focus on creating cozy feelings when there is so much wrong in the world, especially during the over-consumptive holiday season?

Hygge is also a frame of mind, and at its core, it is about finding peace and beauty in the here and now, as we work for a better future. This may seem trivial or superficial, but in reality, we all need some comfort - especially at this time of year. Hygge is a sustainable, grounding way to let yourself rest, enjoy and recharge. That makes it important.

So, how do I get some hygge?

Well, as mentioned it is not something to be purchased, but it certainly can be cultivated. In your home, in the activities you plan, and how you appreciate the beauty of the natural world.

Here are some great hyggelig actions:

  1. Start with your mindset. Being present and appreciating where you are - even if it is not ideal, or where you want to be. You can still find the beauty in the here and now as you work for something different.
  2. Create a welcoming and relaxing space for yourself and others. Dim the lights, light a candle, get your cozy socks on, and prepare a homemade treat.
  3. Engage in activities that connect - with others or with yourself. Invite your friends over for games, chat while sipping cocoa, or spend time with yourself. Make it special with music, a good book or a walk in the park.
  4. Turn off your phone and use this time to truly enjoy the activity of your choice without any outside distractions.
  5. Soak it in and let yourself find the goodness of this moment.

The holidays can be especially difficult when we wish things were different, or when we are mourning the loss of a loved one, or are not content with our lives. Hygge reminds us that it is important to physically and metaphorically wrap ourselves in a warm blanket and sip cocoa once in a while.

Here are some hygge resources:

Masterclass: Sustainable Wellbeing, Hope & the Holidays

Get your Hygge on! Episode 44 of the Live. Well. Green. podcast leads you through how it can help you beat the holiday blues.

The year of hygge

Denmark - People and Culture - Hygge

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