How to Boost Your Energy with the Comfort of Hygge
Enter hygge (pronounced "hoo-gah"), the Danish concept of positive self-care, perfect for rest and rejuvenation.
The Danes know a thing or two about coziness. During long northern winters when it can be dark for up to 17 hours a day, Danes lift their spirits with the comforts of hygge. But while hygge has been aggressively marketed of late, it is definitely not about buying something to improve your mood.
Hygge: Not for sale in stores.
Meik Wiking, Danish author of The Little Book of Hygge, says that hygge has been corrupted by marketers who have turned something that has always been free into something they can sell. $100 "hygge blankets" and $40 "hygge-scented" candles are commercial hype. Hygge, Wiking explains, is not about things. It's a feeling of contentment that exists "only in the absence of stress and nuisance," when you experience a sense of relaxation and belonging.
It's not surprising that Brits and Americans have jumped on the hygge bandwagon. Ours is the culture that invented the 24-hour market and next-day delivery. We're famous for constant multi-tasking and voracious ambition.
But many of us also long for a slower pace, quality time with loved ones, a deeper connection to nature, and feelings of peace and tranquility.
Norwegian anthropologist Signe Johanson, who wrote How to Hygge, says that the interest in hygge "isn't just because people are being duped by clever marketers." She receives a lot of emails from readers in the UK and North America who "find the idea of hygge to be a soothing element in times of upheaval, and who are genuinely interested in why and how Scandinavia has achieved such a high quality of life."
Trend, aesthetic, or something more?
Hygge is something we already know how to do. You've probably experienced hygge without even knowing it – the last time there was a snow day, for example, or when your power went out for the evening.
Hygge is a feeling. It costs nothing. In fact, explains Johanson, if you're even thinking too much about it you're kind of missing the point. "Hygge is effortless comfort. It has no element of performance. It is the absence of all pretense and worry."
It's about finding joy in the moment.
14 ways to experience hygge today
1. Make time for a relaxed dinner with loved ones.
Ditch your phone and enjoy laughter and conversation (and light a few candles if you feel like it).
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3. Visit a cozy pub with friends.
This isn't really about going for a drink. It's about relaxing and being together. So a glass of wine, a cold beer, a mug of hot apple cider, or a foamy latte work equally well. Share your day, share your ideas, avoid political debates and celebrity gossip. Just be with your people!
4. Bundle up and go for a long walk.
Breathe deeply. Observe the sky, the trees, the birds. Notice how colors appear brighter against the monochromes of winter. Be refreshed!
5. Make time to savor breakfast.
Most of us are rushing around in the morning, and not only skip breakfast, but lose the chance to connect with our families.
- a fried egg and freshly ground pepper
- some nut butter and sliced banana
- ricotta cheese with sliced apple and a drizzle of honey
Or cook some old-fashioned oats, adding raisins, walnuts, and a dusting of cinnamon.
Have everyone pitch in so you can work and eat together. It's a great start to your day.
6. Bring out old photos.
Remember friends and family, special celebrations and wonderful trips. Reminisce with your partner, or share stories with your kids or grandkids.
Sing along with the tunes you loved in high school, play some of your holiday favorites, or meditate on something deep and emotional such as Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata or violinist Angèle Dubeau playing the music of Ludovico Einaudi.
Bring out your knitting needles or crochet hook and a skein of soft, beautiful yarn. Draw, color, or paint. Build Lego or do a jigsaw puzzle with your child.
This isn't the time for something fussy. Make your favorite banana bread, or some oatmeal or chocolate chip cookies. Enjoy a portion warm from the oven, then wrap up the rest for lunch treats later in the week. Savor the delicious, lingering aroma.
10. Watch a favorite movie.
Choose your favorite comedy or romance, or a beloved holiday film, and watch it alone or with someone else. Put your phone away and get comfortable.
11. Play cards.
Cards are so versatile -- games can be simple or competitive. A regular deck of cards can provide a fun and relaxing evening with friends or family. Enjoy Go Fish, Crazy Eights, Knock Rummy, or Estimation (a favorite of my husband's family).
This is all about the warmth, the aroma, and the resulting easy, tasty meal. Just add some crusty bread and butter and you're set.
13. Pretend the power is out.
Turn off lamps, computers, and appliances (except the fridge). Gather in one room or around the table. Light a fire or some candles and enjoy the festive togetherness.
14. Read aloud.
Get everyone nestled together while you read a stack of picture books, or start a longer book to be read over several nights. Wonderful winter chapter books include Moominland Midwinter (a Scandinavian fantasy adventure), The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis, Odd and the Frost Giants (inspired by Norse mythology), and the Edgar-winning children's mystery, Greenglass House.
To get the most from hygge, slow down and make time for the people and activities that soothe and rejuvenate you. Pay attention and appreciate the good things in your life.
You'll love the feeling so much you'll want winter to last longer!
A Minimalist Holiday, available now as a Kindle eBook and in paperback.
Updated September 2022