Hygge has been a buzzword for at least a year now. What is it and does it really contribute to happiness?
Hygge (hoo-ga) is defined as: “enjoying the simple pleasures in life”. This includes family, friends, cozy clothes, surroundings, and activities.
My first contact with the word Hygge came about by a small cafe in Avignon, France. I visited this cafe almost every day because the lighting was superb, there were plenty of books to read, as well as good food, hot drinks, and a very friendly staff that insisted on knowing my name and background. Later when I came across the book Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living, by Meik Wiking (a happiness researcher), I decided to buy it and find out what this “Hygge” was all about.
Here are some of the key points I learned:
1. Social connections drastically increase quality of life. Strong social connections can equal to at least $100,000 extra dollars per year in income. Research shows that money can buy happiness – up to a point. Afterwords, it is social intimacy with friends, family, and community groups that increase happiness in life. This may seem a bit obvious, but it is worth asking yourself if this in an area were a lot of your focus lies. This is one of the main values of the Danish and other Scandinavian cultures.
2. There are a few simple ways to bring Hygge into your everyday life: a Hyggekrog (cozy nook), fireplace, candles, things made out of wood, nature, books, ceramics, tactile items, vintage items, and blankets and cushions. Wiking includes this list in his book on how to create more Hygge at your home. Combining these items in your home, or even a designated Hygge room/area, can give you a space to relax and create happiness alone or with your close friends. I will also mention the book emphasizes the importance of turning off electric devices for a while, and enjoying good conversation aided by warm drinks, food, and board games. The longer it takes to make the meal, the more Hygge it is.
3. Values that drive communal happiness, drive individual happiness. It is no secret that Denmark has high tax prices, but those prices go into funding most social issues such as health care and basic living expenses. Without getting into politics too much, I will mention that changing and examining our values can re-navigate our entire lives. Making a list mentally or physically of your current values (honestly) and ideal values, and reading these every day or so, can help you go towards a life filled more with the things you value. For Denmark on average, this tends to be small intimate gatherings (rather than large parties filled with strangers) and comfort in all areas (restaurants, lighting, socks, sweaters, house decor, films, books, etc).
What if we valued “coziness” a little but more in life? This looks different for everyone depending on their lives, but adding in comfort and intimacy at an allegro pace is often more do-able than we think. Since reading this book I’ve bought several candles (the Danish light candles everywhere for Hygge, even work and classrooms), I’ve had board game night with my friends instead of movie night, and try not to get upset if my dinner takes longer than ten minutes to cook. What makes you feel cozy?