What is Hygge, and How Can You Bring it Into Your Life?

If you love curling up with a good book, wrapping yourself in a soft blanket, and sipping on your favorite tea, you’re already a fan of hygge. Hygge has been a tradition in Denmark for many years, though it is just starting to catch on in the US. It’s hard to exactly pin down a definition, as there is no direct correlation in English. It’s frequently described as “coziness,” but it is more defined as a feeling or mood rather than a physical sensation.


Pronounced “heurgha” (like the sound you make clearing your throat), it comes from a sixteenth-century Norwegian term, hugga, meaning “to comfort” or “to console,” which is related to the English word “hug.” It’s associated with all things relaxing, indulgent, and being grateful.


For a country that experiences gloomy grey weather 80% of the year, it’s understandable that the Danes have learned to cope through coziness. Hygge embraces the absence of anything annoying or emotionally overwhelming; taking pleasure from the presence of gentle, soothing things. It’s so popular that doctors in Denmark even prescribe hygge and tea to cure a cold.


Hygge can be anything from filling your home with lit candles, to having friends over for an intimate dinner. It’s enjoying an afternoon coffee with a loved one, or baking a cake and inviting someone over to share it. It’s cashmere socks and chunky knit sweaters and curling up in a blanket to watch the dreary outdoors. Slipping into a hot bubble bath after a long walk. An ultimate hygge moment could involve friends sitting around a fire, wearing warm clothes and sipping mulled wine. Ah, that’s hygge.


hygge fire


Hygge has migrated across the world in the last year or so. The Oxford Dictionaries’ 2016 “word of the year” shortlist included “hygge.” Numerous books and blogs have been written, and Americans can be seen stocking up on candles to get their hygge on. We’ve embraced Hygge so wholeheartedly that we haven’t even come up with our own name for it.


If you really want to get into the hygge lifestyle, make some tweaks to your home. A Danish home radiates "I love to live here" and "I have a history, family, friends", and "I feel at home here and please come and feel at home together with me." Follow some Danish furniture and design techniques for a hygge home you can enjoy every day.


To start, lighting is key. A well-lit home can make you forget the dreary winter happening just outside your window. Of course, you need a plethora of candles. Lamps should be artfully positioned to create soothing pools of light. Investing in a good reading lamp or creating a well-lit dining space can encourage added coziness. Warm-white LED and incandescent lights can also create a soft look when installed with a dimmer.


hygge candles


Your couch or armchairs should be covered in plush, textured fabrics. Your seating should be comfortable and supportive to encourage leisurely conversation and hours of lounging. A mix of pieces (a sofa, fluffy ottoman and mismatched lounge chairs) adds to the intimacy of your space. Everything should be upholstered and soft.


Continue to create various atmospheres with small nesting tables instead of a large coffee table to complete your living room, especially if it is small. Move them around to achieve the perfect space for long conversations by the fire.


Furniture should be accented in light-colored natural wood to help create the feeling that you’re in your own Scandinavian cabin. Wood finishes like warm walnut and natural oak never fail. Wooden décor accents like bowls and trays can help infuse any home with hygge.


hygge cabin


Hygge is also about spending time with family and doing what you love, so fill your home with beloved keepsakes, photographs, and favorite records. It will personalize your space, and create a reminder of treasured memories.


Don’t forget a plush rug in neutral colors or calming patterns. Scoop up coordinating throw blankets and pillows in soft fabrics and you’ll have the ultimate hygge home.


Turn on relaxing music, like current top artists Bon Iver or Sigur Ros, that encourages you to unwind as you welcome friends over for dessert. A true hygge experience is not about just one thing. It’s creating an environment of coziness, with everything from the chair you sit in, to the food you eat, to the music you hear, to the people you’re spending time with.


Even if you don’t live somewhere cold, you can still enjoy hygge in the summer months. Grab your friends and head to the local park for a picnic or a game of Frisbee, or take some time to sit out in the sun with your favorite magazine and a cold drink. Dine alfresco with a candlelit dinner in the garden.


hygge picnic


All this hygge-ing can even make you happier. “Research shows that people who are able to be kind to themselves rather than harshly self-critical tend to have better mental health and higher life satisfaction,” explains Dr Mark Williamson, Director of Action for Happiness, a think-tank and social change movement, “and allowing ourselves some hygge time to boost our own wellbeing leaves us better placed to contribute and help others.”


Hygge encourages “me-time,” treating yourself to what your body needs and with a mental break. Spending more time with loved-ones and allowing down time after a long day can make you and your family happier, which can create a happier society as a whole. It’s no wonder Denmark is consistently ranked as one of the happiest countries in the world! Give hygge a try and see what it does for you.


It’s easy to get started with hygge. Begin by appreciating all the little cozy moments that happen in your day. A warm cup of coffee. Dinner with someone you love. Watching your favorite show on TV. Taking time to allow yourself to sink into these cozy times of day and creating an environment that encourages relaxation will turn you into a hygge expert.