Did you know there is a word that describes the feeling of coziness and contentment we experience when taking part in our favourite feel-good activities or indulging in the small comforts of life? The Danish word, “Hygge” (pronounced hue-ga) describes exactly that. Hygge can come in many shapes and forms, as it is any experience that you find comforting and enjoyable, and of course, it is not just experienced by the Danes and it is not only for cold winter climates!
Hygge has been recently adopted into the English language and is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “A quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.”
By including the word hygge in our vocabulary, we are better able to recognize the feeling of hygge, and the activities that make us feel hygge. This can encourage us to make an effort to incorporate hygge into their lives, and foster Sustainable Wellbeing, which is the wellbeing that comes from doing what is good for the planet and our communities and for our personal wellness.
Where hygge and sustainability meet
Hygge is ultimately about being content right where you are. Enjoying where you are in the world, the people that you are with, even if that is just yourself. It is about being casual, and connected to your friends and family, enjoying nature and feeling secure.
This core concept of hygge then helps us to steer away from consumerism, wanting more material things or big adventures, or needing to fly off to another destination, opting rather to spend time in nature and enjoying the everyday pleasures at hand. Whether that is a beautiful sunset, a moment with family or a cup of cocoa by the fire (in the fireplace or on a screen), that is all very hygge!
The history of hygge
The word hygge, which may have existed in the Danish language for many years, 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!
It is important to keep in mind that (no matter how hard companies advertise their products as “hygge”) hygge cannot be bought. Yes, a cozy blanket or mug full of tea can certainly be considered hygge, but material items are not the only things that can make you feel hygge!
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.
How to incorporate hygge into your life
In order to be authentically hygge, it is important to simply 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.
Hygge is also about being content with the weather, no matter what it is and embracing the season that you are in. That means that those of us in cold climates can really get excited about all that winter has to offer, loving the sledding, ice skating, skiing, rosy cheeks and snow sculptures.
In warm climates this of course means planning to enjoy a picnic in the shade of a tree, a family cookout, time at the lake or whatever the worm weather means to you. Either way, hygge encourages us to find the special joys of where we are.
Setting a time
To many of us, hygge may not occur naturally throughout our day due to our busy schedules. Instead, we may have to plan ahead and set aside some time to hygge!
Try setting aside a block of time during your evening to partake in a relaxing and enjoyable activity. It is recommended that any tasks, jobs, or responsibilities are taken care of before you start your hygge evening so that you remove any pressures or time constraints.
You may also want to schedule a time for your next hygge session in order to ensure that you’re incorporating it into your daily, weekly, or monthly schedule.
The most convenient place to experience hygge is right in your own home. Create a welcoming and relaxing space for the activity to occur in. This may look like lighting some candles, tidying up, getting out a cozy blanket, or preparing some of your favourite snacks.
You may also turn off your phone or any distracting electronics and use this time to enjoy the activity of your choice without any outside distractions.
However, the outdoors, and spending time in nature is also a big part of hygge and, of course, is also great for our mental and physical wellbeing. So your own backyard, a local park, a trail along the river, or perhaps your balcony can be the perfect place to set up some hygge activities.
Incorporate whatever makes you feel relaxed into your schedule in order to experience hygge. Any hygge activities you choose don’t have to be extravagant! It can be something as simple as putting on your coziest sweater and reading a good book.
Some examples of activities you could do include reading a book, sitting by the fire, playing a board game, taking a bubble bath, watching a movie, having a picnic, going for an evening walk, re-reading a childhood book, eating your favourite comfort food, spending time on your hobby, and so much more.
You can do these alone, with your special someone, with friends and family or even on zoom if needed! Either way, find the cozy comfort of the place that you are in this season and give yourself the opportunity to slow down, experience nature, and the small gifts that everyday brings to us. That is hygge, and that is Sustainable Wellbeing!
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