My Life-Changing Week With Hygge
Can Hygge make you more relaxed and happy? A writer tests this trend in her own home, and this is what she has to say.
If you’re one of those people who wish they could feel more blessed and less stressed, consider the pursuit of “conscious coziness.” The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living, written by Meik Wiking, CEO of The Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, is a primer on how to achieve that homey state of safety, warmth, and comfort called hygge (pronounced “hoo-gah”).
It's no coincidence that Denmark is reportedly the happiest country in the world, so we will definitely take their advice on finding happiness. And after putting Hygge into practice for a week with Wiking’s book as reference, here’s what I learned:
Lighting is so integral to Hygge that it’s the subject of Chapter One in the book. The advice: eschew overhead lighting and embrace softer, ambient light by using candles and smaller lamps around the room. Candles, apparently, equal instant Hygge, but skip those luxury candles with complex fragrance notes—the Danish have a preference for unscented. I bought some inexpensive, white, scent-free pillar candles (the kind that come in no-frills packaging) and lit them where I never use candles: in my home office. It was a small yet calming change, and it somewhat quelled deadline-related anxiety and conference call fatigue.
Throughout the day, I switched on the lamps instead of hitting the main lights, and even dusted off the Himalayan salt lamp I received for my last birthday and fired that up too. Result: the rooms took on the vibe of a cozy cave system. Bonus: dust was no longer noticeable in the dimmer lighting.
According to the book, “one thing that every home needs is a hyggekrog” which roughly translates as "a nook for relaxation." It should be ideally by a window, but any part of a room can be appointed with cushy seating, soft lighting, and items that provide comfort and promote contentment.
I identified a corner of my bedroom (inhabited by a solitary IKEA armchair) as prime hyggekrog real estate. I draped a nubby blanket over the back of the chair and retrieved a squashy ottoman from the basement to serve as a side table for books and magazines. Just the repurposing of a sad and underutilized corner made me feel better.
Hygge-inducing interiors are more about how the things around your home make you feel versus how they look. Position a plush rug beside your bed so your feet land on something warm and soft. Layer on the throws, pile on the cushions, add a soft rug. Even if you don’t need these specifically for physical warmth, add textural elements that are a pleasure to touch. For me, this means a 100% cotton blanket of some sort on my lap and a nice lumbar pillow everywhere I park (back support = Hygge for forty-somethings). Warm, natural materials like wood and leather also contribute to the Hygge vibe.
A hallmark of Hygge is comfort food—taking the time to prepare a satisfying meal, be it a comforting dish from childhood or getting your hands dirty baking something from scratch. If I could budget time to watch Scandal, I could surely set aside one night of the workweek to make a real meal. On a busy weekday when I would normally do a local fast food drive-through, I squeezed in the time to make a simple but homemade dinner, to the delight and shock of my family. There’s also no quicker shot of Hygge than a hot beverage—ending each meal with a good, comforting cup of tea, coffee, or cocoa extends the family time and the contentment.
Leaves, nuts, branches, and blooms are all Hygge must-haves. I bought a supermarket bouquet and deconstructed it, slipped the buds into vases to adorn the side of the sink; and then I added potted herbs on the kitchen windowsill. These were small things—perhaps only noticeable to me—but it was an easy, simple way to inject a bit of greenery-induced cheer.
Surrounding oneself with objects of emotional value is Hygge all the way. Whether it’s precious heirlooms or little homemade trinkets, put them on display as a constant reminder of family, friends, and togetherness. I curated a small selection of some of my child’s misshapen ceramic efforts brought home from school through the years and placed them in the light of day, on the entry table where our mail and keys are deposited. I got a warm, fuzzy feeling whenever I went home and opened my door.
To truly appreciate the atmosphere you’ve created to increase Hygge, there’s the simplest (and hardest) thing to do—try to be fully present to enjoy it. While a complete digital detox or going off the grid is unrealistic for most of us, try a device-free zone for a few hours every night, or scale back social media checks to just a few minutes, a few times a day (I am ashamed to say I had to set a timer for this, but, whatever works). Use that freed-up time to hug your pet, bake a cake, have a conversation that’s not bathed in the glow of a screen, or read a little book about Hygge that may change your week, possibly even your life.
Find the The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living by Meik Wiking on Amazon
PHOTOS Michael Angelo Chua and Pexels.com (main), Miguel Nacianceno (living room), Michael Angelo Chua (Bien Po's bedroom and plants), Dairy Darilag (books and shoe lasts), and Pexels.com (candle, food, and sofa)
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