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What’s With the Hype Over Hygge? How to Incorporate This Danish Philosophy into Your Daily Life

Dreading the cold, dark months? This Danish tradition just might change how you feel about winter.

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What exactly is hygge?

Hygge, pronounced “hue-gah,” is a philosophy of living that’s long been embraced by Danes. The word hygge, which doesn’t have a direct translation to English, is used in many different forms to describe a feeling and certain ambiance. “In essence, hygge means creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people,” according to the Visit Denmark website. “The warm glow of candlelight is hygge. Friends and family—that’s hygge too. There’s nothing more hygge than sitting round a table, discussing the big and small things in life.”

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Here’s why you should embrace hygge

Hygge is being enthusiastically embraced here in America and in the United Kingdom. For people who have a complicated relationship with winter, hygge is shining a new light on the coldest months of the year. If you get cabin fever stuck inside for months, or if you struggle with the winter blues or symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), adding some hygge to your life might be just what you need to make winter more enjoyable. Read on for ways to adopt this mood-boosting Danish trend. (Also check out these natural treatments for seasonal affective disorder.)

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Stay in

Hygge begins at home—yours or the home of someone you care for. In fact, in Denmark it’s not uncommon for friends to drop in on each other unexpectedly for some spontaneous hygge, which is a great excuse to stock up on delicious cheeses and other snacks. This winter, give yourself permission to slow down and stay in when the rush of the holidays start to feel like too much. Hygge encourages intimacy, so invite some close friends to join you for a hyggeligt night together. (Here’s what house guests actually notice about the state of your house … and what they definitely don’t.)

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Get cozy

Making hygge a part of your life doesn’t mean waiting for a free Friday night or slow Saturday afternoon. Think about small ways to make your life more cozy as you’re getting up in the morning or settling in the for the evening. Maybe it’s a lambskin area rug by your bed, so your feet touch down on softness instead of a cold, hard floor. Maybe it’s an extra soft throw that you keep on the sofa for when you curl up with a good book (check out these classic books you should have read by now). Consider enriching your morning routine with a warm mug of spiced tea.

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Prioritize family meals

Hygge isn’t just about physical coziness—it’s an emotional experience characterized by connection and intimacy. If you have children or a significant other, make regular meals together part of your weekly routine, and be sure to turn off the devices so you can actually interact. If you’re single, invite a few friends to join you at home or at an intimate restaurant. It doesn’t have to be fancy or even homemade—what’s important is that you eat together and enjoy each others’ company. Here’s how to get your kids off their cell phones without resorting to bribery.

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Enjoy nature

Embracing hygge doesn’t require you to spend all day indoors. It’s more of a spirit than a set of rules. To hygge outdoors in the colder seasons, bundle up in warm winter gear and go for a walk in nature (try these cold weather hacks for staying toasty). Instead of rushing from place to place, take the time to observe the landscape—branches bowing from the weight of the snow, squirrel tracks along your path, the peaceful silence of a winter forest.

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Share the spirit of hygge

Once you have created hygge in your life, share it with someone you love. Invite them to join you on your nature walks, for a slow Saturday morning at a nearby pastry shop, or to sit in comfy chairs by a crackling fire with some hot cider and great conversation. Trust us, they’ll be glad you did.

Originally Published in Reader's Digest