Feel the Hygge

cozy candlelight

(This post contains paid links.)

The Danish know a thing or two about coziness and comfort.  During long northern winters when it can be dark for up to 17 hours a day, Danes lift their spirits with hygge (pronounced "hoo-gah").

As days get shorter, wetter, and colder this season, we might all like to snuggle in and enjoy hygge, the Danish concept of positive self-care.  But while hygge has been aggressively marketed of late, it is definitely not about buying something to improve your mood.

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 and chef 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."

So if hygge is not just a trend or an aesthetic, what is it?

It's actually something we already know how to do.  On a snow day, for example, you've probably experienced hygge without even knowing it.

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).

2.  Curl up with a good book.
Add some fluffy socks and a warm blanket, if you like.  Let your pet curl up near you.  Great novels to read in the winter include The Snow Child, Cold Mountain, and Murder on the Orient Express.

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, 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.  With just 20 extra minutes you can make and eat whole grain toast topped with either a fried egg, some nut butter and raisins, or ricotta cheese with a drizzle of balsamic glaze.  Or cook some old-fashioned oats, adding chopped apple and walnuts.  Have everyone pitch in so you can work and eat together.

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.

7.  Listen to music.
Sing along with the tunes you loved in high school, play some of your holiday favorites, or meditate on something deep and relaxing such as Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata.

8.  Make something.
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.

9.  Bake.
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, Hearts, or Knockout Whist.

12.  Simmer a pot of soup.
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 and some candles, or bring out flashlights.  Enjoy the quiet 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 (Scandi madness!), The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien's beautifully illustrated Letters from Father Christmas, and a great children's mystery, Greenglass House. 

Experiencing hygge is really about making time, shunning distraction, and appreciating the good things in your life.  It's a feeling minimalists know well.

P.S. If you enjoyed this post, you might also like my book Minimalism for the Holidays, available now on Kindle and in paperback.

Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash


  1. Love the above, wish every day could be like that!
    What a different world we would live in.
    Thank you

    1. I want to do one or more of these things every day at least until the end of the year! You are so right, Georgi!

  2. I love cuddling up with a good book with pillows and a lap rug and a favorite beverage at hand. I think I'm pretty good at this hygge thing. Plus my husband and I have started doing jigsaw puzzles together during winter in Minnesota this year so we're getting even better at it. Although that word for it is fairly new to us.

  3. Hi Karen, I live in Ballarat Australia which is very cold most of the year round. Its summertime here now and I still have our gas log heater running, although next week we are about to have a week long heat wave and we will be on bush fire alert. I love to snuggle up in bed with a good book. Our two little dogs, my two daughters and husband all like to get in the big bed with me to keep warm in the mornings and I think this is a picture of perfect happiness. Loving your posts Crystal

    1. Hello, Crystal! I Googled your town to see where it is and why it might be so cold most of the time. I see that it's at over 1400 ft. elevation, which might explain it. It looks like a beautiful town and an interesting place to visit.
      Snuggling with family all together IS so happy and cozy, I agree.
      Thanks for reading!

  4. Hi I love reading your posts and your style of writing. I live in Brisbane Australia and we have a very short and mild winter but hygge sounds like a wonderful thing to do all year round. Thanks Penny mrsgeorge@yahoo.com

    1. Hi Penny, and thank you for commenting. Where I live in the Sacramento Valley of northern California we have short and mild winters too. The final leaves are just now falling from the trees, and almond orchards will be blooming by the end of February. We can expect a few nights that get down into the 20sF, but that's usually as cold as it gets. My husband took a job in Denver, Colorado soon after we married, and when we lived there we got a taste of real winter! I hope you and your family have a lovely Christmas in Brisbane.

  5. We moved to New Mexico from Colorado a few months ago. To our surprise and delight, our lifestyle has changed dramatically. Most notably, I've watched only 3 hours of PBS since October (my husband about the same). Last night, we decided to cancel our TV cable service (unheard of for us - we're major sports fans). Our house is open and light-filled - I think the natural light encourages me to live and do, not sit and watch TV! Thank you for your blog. I found you via No Sidebar.

    1. Hi goseigirl, and thanks for sharing! I think it's true that natural light encourages us to live and do, rather than sit and watch TV (or play on the computer, or whatever). In northern climes, I guess that means you need to bundle up and get outside in the winter. In the desert Southwest US, you probably just get more sunny days.
      I find that when I'm writing I almost never watch TV... I'm always thinking about writing, or reading something that might inspire me, or actually writing. I watch far less TV/Netflix than I did a couple of years ago.

  6. Welcome to New Mexico goseigirl! I am a native New Mexican and have lived in my current "village" for nearly 42 years. Karen, I am a newbie to your blog and have really enjoyed your posts. Hygge has long been integral to my life even before I knew it had a name!

    1. Hi Lisa, and welcome. I visited Albuquerque and Santa Fe once many years ago. I was also taken to the amazing Carlsbad Caverns, which made a strong impression on me even at age 9 or so. You live in a beautiful state.
      Thank you for your kind comment!

  7. I just discovered your blog and love this post! I’m
    going to have some hygge time this afternoon! I look forward to reading more. Thank you for encouragement to slow down and appreciate the lives we are given.

    1. Hello Jennifer, and thank you for your kind comment. It's the perfect time (in the northern US, at least) for hygge, though I think it's a great idea any time of the year. Perhaps if some of my readers live where it's warm, you'll want to find a comfortable lounge chair, sit where you can see some trees, a garden, a fountain, the ocean (love!) or whatever is natural and beautiful in your vicinity, sip on a cool drink, and just relax and breathe deeply! Or read, or do a crossword, or whatever you find most enjoyable.

  8. I recently found your blog and have been enjoying delving into past posts. I love the list of things you can do that are hygge and don't involve purchasing "stuff". I am in the process of trying to downsize, before we have to!

    1. Hi slip4, and thank you for reading. There are a lot of things out there marketed as "hygge" (I guess it's actually considered a decorating style too), but true hygge, as my research shows, doesn't involve buying something. Isn't it great that joy is free and within our reach! We just have to look for it.


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