When we were vending at the Made in Philadelphia Fall Market in downtown Philly, a family friend came by our booth and purchased some candles. Alan asked if we were familiar with the term “hygge”. When we said, “no, what is that?” Alan explained it’s the Danish lifestyle philosophy of creating a comfy environment for yourself and guests: so instead of lighting just one candle, you light many candles. He recommended we check it out because he thought we’d really like it. Immediately intrigued, we began researching and he was right!
It’s honestly not too surprising we hadn’t heard of hygge: if you look at Google search trends you’ll find very few searches for “hygge”until Fall 2016. This also happens to coincide with Meik Wiking publishing his book The Little Book of Hygge.
There’s some conflicting information on how to pronounce “hygge.” According to hyggehouse.com, it’s pronounced hue-guh not hoo-gah; however, other sources say hoo-gah. No matter how you say it, this word is the Danish philosophy of comfort, togetherness and well-being. It can be used interchangeably with coziness, charm, happiness, content-ness, security, familiarity, comfort, reassurance, kinship, and simple-ness. Hygge is not a thing, you cannot buy it: it’s a feeling. Hyggehouse.com explains “Hygge literally only requires a conscious appreciation, a certain slowness, and the ability to not just be present – but recognize and enjoy the present. That’s why so many people distill ‘hygge’ down to being a ‘feeling’ – because if you don’t feel hygge, you probably aren’t using the word right.”
Seeing as how Danes are notoriously the happiest people in the world, it makes sense to take notes on how they live their lives. According the The Little Book of Hygge, there are 10 aspects related to the concept. By no means are all 10 aspects required to experience hygge, but it never hurts to incorporate as many as possible:
Truce (aka. Peace)
The Little Book of Hygge also offers advice and ideas to incorporate hygge into your own life, such as:
Get comfy and take a break.
Be here now. Turn off cell phones and other distractions.
Turn down the lights and light candles.
Build relationships by spending time with your tribe.
Give yourself a break from the demands of healthy living. It’s okay to “cheat” once in a while: cake is most definitely hygge.
Live life today, like there is no coffee tomorrow.
To live Danishly according to Helen Russell, author of The Year of Living Danishly: Uncovering The Secrets of the World’s Happiest Country:
Celebrate the simple things
Reframe rainy days
Eat real food
Create a happy home
Prioritise your people
INSTANT HYGGE: CANDLES Whether scented or unscented, candlelight transforms the clean, fresh style of classic Scandinavian interiors into a flickering escape and a simple lit candle is seen as one of the most fundamental hygge moments to achieve. (Source: http://hyggevita.com/#5steps). And the fastest way to hygge is to light a few candles, or as the Danish say "levende lys", or "living lights". Studies conducted by Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen found that 85% of Danes associate hygge with candles, at least 70% of the Danish population light a candle once/week and 28% light candles every single day. And we’re not talking one single candle here: the study found that 31% of Danes light more than five candles at a time.
(Side Note: The Little Book of Hygge talks about the issues Danes’ are having from all the soot their candles are producing. We need to introduce them to the benefits of soy wax!)
With all I’ve learned, in a nutshell, hygge means holding space for our loved ones, taking care of yourself (self care); celebrating and enjoying the small and simple things in life, creating comfortable spaces with inviting atmosphere for ourselves and others, getting back to the basics, and CANDLES - LOTS OF CANDLES!
While I can certainly do to be more hyggeligt (hygge-like), the more I’ve learned the more I realize there are ways I already incorporate hygge into our home décor and everyday lives. Here are a few tips and tricks I’ve picked up in my home furnishings & decor career, on Pinterest and along the way that you may want to try:
Keep candles on the dining table and enjoy more candlelit dinners.
Place table lamps on the nightstands in your bedroom.
Keep bedroom candles on your nightstands to help you unwind from your day. (Added bonus: you can easily “set the mood” whenever you desire.)
Keep kitchen candles handy. Candles make wonderful cooking companions and create ambiance in the space where everyone gathers.
Turn off overhead lights, especially after sunset. To create softer lighting: turn on floor lamps and table lamps and light candles. I strategically place lamps and candles throughout our great room to create a cozier atmosphere; personally, I love lantern-style floor lamps for the soft glow they emit. And what’s more hygge than warm, soft lighting?
Keep a Himalayan salt lamp lit in your living space: the warm pinkish-orange glow creates a calming and happy ambiance and it releases negative ions into the air, which can help reduce anxiety and create a relaxing environment. Remember: hygge = atmosphere.
Place a battery-operated candle with a timer in the bathroom, have it set to start at sunset and run for 8 hours: that way it’s lit while you’re awake, creates a warm glow in the bathroom and also helps guests find the light switch. In our hall bathroom, I keep a battery-operated candle in a glass hurricane sitting on the floor next to the tub. I also have a couple traditional candles placed around the room; when lit, they to create the perfect ambiance for soaking and provide additional light when guests are over.
Keep throw blankets on the sofa and extras close by (maybe in a large basket) so it’s easy to get cozy. Hygge is all about comfort.
If you have wood floors throughout the house, while beautiful can also feel cold; you can easily use rugs to create a warmer, cozy environment. It’s the simple things.
Use furniture to create multiple conversation areas in your house. Our great room has four sections: a smaller conversation area right when you walk through the door with two arm chairs and loveseat, a large sofa in front of the TV that’s perfect for lounging (we call it the “sofa fort”), barstools at the kitchen island (because we all know that’s where company gathers) and a dining area. Sure you can experience hygge alone but having places where you can gather together is clutch.
Always have board games on hand: they serve as both fun entertainment and a way to connect.
Keep coffee and tea on hand, snacks in the cupboard and a stocked bar.
Make sure your guests know where mugs, glasses and plates are kept and remind them they don’t need to ask. Simple pleasures like this are where it’s at with hygge.
When friends come over, always light candles in the bathroom, kitchen and wherever else you’re hanging out to create atmosphere; and if they’re staying overnight, I like to place lit candles on the nightstands in the guestroom. (Tip: when you’re spending time outside, light citronella candles to keep the bugs away.)
Have a place where guests can keep and charge their devices that’s close by where you are entertaining (in case of emergencies) but stay put there while you’re spending time together. (Bonus points if you have extra charging cords available.) Hygge means being present in the now and unplugging from technological distractions for a bit.
Place a card or framed sign in the guest room displaying your Wifi network and password; this gives your home a fun, hotel feel and makes it so guests don’t have to ask.
Keep a luggage rack in the guest room so guests have a place to put their belongings.
Have clean towels laying on or near the guest bed. (Tip: I keep all my linens in the guest room closest.)
Keep soft, cozy socks in the guest room for guests to wear.
When you go to hotels and don’t use the sample size shampoo, conditioner, body wash, etc., take them home and keep them for guests: you can store them in a basket in the guestroom or guest bathroom.
I hope this inspires you to learn more about hygge, get your hygge on, get consciously cozy and infuse some extra comfort into your life.