If you do a quick Pinterest search on the word Hygge (pronounced hue-guh) you will find many images of cozy socks, thick blankets, warm lighting, and roaring fireplaces. Hygge is commonly mistaken as an aesthetic or a specific style of home décor. While comfort items, food, and drink accompany this Danish word, it is not necessarily something that can be achieved by possessions alone.
What is hygge?
In short, hygge is a word that describes a special moment or feeling. I feel like that short definition is seriously watered down though. The majority of adults might sum up a special moment like that first kiss as husband and wife, childbirth, a child’s first steps, graduation, a job promotion … you get the idea. The Danes, however, find special moments in everyday life. The idea is to find comfort and contentment in the simplest ways, even in mundane chores on rainy days. Whether it’s alone or with people you love, hygge is acknowledging the meaning in a moment. It may be the joy of drinking a cup of hot tea alone on a dark winter day. Perhaps it’s standing back during a holiday and taking in the festive atmosphere, peoples’ smiles, their laughter, and the happiness that is community. Maybe it’s as simple as breathing fresh air during a walk or catching the scent of a newly blossomed rose bush. Purposely acknowledging these little things and embracing them is a large part of hygge.
How to achieve hygge in America
“You’re only here for a short visit. Don’t hurry. Don’t worry. And be sure to smell the flowers along the way.” – Walter Hagen 1956
Walter Hagen’s quote from the book The Walter Hagen Story is the inspiration for the phrase, “stop and smell the roses”. When I first started looking into hygge, Walter Hagen’s quote came to mind. In other words, slow down. Get OUT of the fast lane. We live life too fast, especially here in the U.S. We’re all about fast shipping, fast dine-in service, learn faster, drive faster, and so on. We rush through life without stopping to take in the world around us. We are never content either. Very few people are content with what they have, the career they’re in, the relationship they chose, or the life they lead.
So how can we achieve contentment? How can we experience hygge? I believe a large portion of achieving contentment, even in the mundane, is to change our way of thinking. That is probably one of the hardest things to do, I know. The way we think is similar to grooves in a rock that was formed by water. Eventually, we get so used to letting the water (our thoughts) flow in a particular pattern that it creates grooves and makes it harder to change the path of the water. If you can stop yourself in a negative thought, and instead, find something positive about that moment, you could be a step closer to changing the way you think.
Creating a hygge atmosphere
I know I said that hygge isn’t all about possessions, however, it is possible to create hygge in your home. Home is a very important place for me. Not just because it’s where we live, raise our kids, and build memories, but because it’s my safe haven. I am an introvert. My home is a place of peace and restoration. Hygge can be achieved through intentionally changing your state of mind and the atmosphere in your home. Peace will not thrive in a hostile house. In the same way, comfort will be minimal if you don’t give your home some tender love and care. So yes, buy that thick blanket or make one yourself. Be intentional about what items you place in your house.
Hygge is intentionally changing your state of mind so you can fully embrace joy in every moment both big and small, significant and mundane, and easy and difficult. I leave you with my favorite poem and hope you find hygge.
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.