The Danish notion of hygge (pronounced hue-gah) is basically the Canadian equivalent of ‘hominess.’ It’s also been described as ‘the art of creating intimacy’ and ‘cosiness of the soul.’ It is finding about pleasure in the simple things and warm company of those we love the most. The Danes are some of the happiest people in the world, and according to Meik Wiking from the Happiness Research Institute, that is because they make practicing hygge a priority. (Although the free education, healthcare and five weeks of paid vacation doesn’t hurt either.)
Wiking’s new book, The Little Book of Hygge – The Danish Way To Live Well, gives some practical guidance on how to incorporate a little more hygge into our lives. Here’s what we found out.
Lighting is key: 85% of Danes associate hygge with candles; Denmark burns more candles per head than anywhere else in Europe – they even call them “levende lys” (living lights). The warm glow of natural candlelight is preferred over garish fluorescent bulbs. This is essential – especially in a country that is cold, dark and damp for much of the year.
Get together: Hygge is about those relationships that make us feel warm and loved. It’s fine to have 1500 Facebook friends and schmooze in a crowded party. But hygge is all about small groups, conversations over warm drinks, and lazy Sunday afternoons with our best ones. According to the World Happiness Report, our overall happiness is directly correlated to the satisfaction we feel with our relationships.
Build it: You can make your home more hygge with a few simple touches. Wiking suggests creating a hyggekrog (or ‘nook’) – this can be as simple as a quiet corner with a pile of pillows, a cozy chair and a warm blanket, a fireplace (if you can swing it) and vintage pieces (nostalgic items that have meaning for you).
Wear it: The Danes enjoy sleek minimalism in their clothing (as anyone who has envied the wardrobes in Danish films can attest) with warm touches of casual comfort. Experience this simple luxury by wearing lots of beautiful scarves, black (think Karl Lagerfeld’s funeral), knitted bulky tops with slim leggings/skinny jeans, and layers (again, the weather!)
Eat it: Hygge in cooking is our equivalent of the slow movement; comfort foods that take time to prepare. Wiking recommends potlucks (sharing the burden of cooking so you have more time for socializing) or communal dinners where each guest brings an ingredient and you prepare the meal and eat together. Stews, mulled wine and delicious cakes are all very hygge.