What the Heck Is Hygge and Why Do You Need Some This Winter?

Medically reviewed by Janna Young, MPH on February 21, 2017Written by Kristin Buettner on February 21, 2017
hygge

Chilly days, gray skies, dry skin, and being cooped up indoors. Those are just a few of the reasons to complain about the harsh winter months. However, the Danish perspective on the season may just have you celebrating the plunging temps and icy weather instead of wallowing.

Called hygge (pronounced hoo-gah), this Danish concept is sweeping the world right now.

So what is it, exactly? Hygge roughly translates to a feeling of coziness, comfort, relaxation, and general well-being.

Let’s set the ultimate hygge scene:

  • crackling fire
  • warm knit socks
  • a furry blanket
  • tea kettle on the stove
  • freshly baked pastries
  • plenty of friends and family to share time with

Sounds pretty nice, right? Essentially, hygge is a mindset that embraces the winter months and celebrates them through restorative time spent indoors connecting with loved ones.

How is hygge going to help my health?

The Danish may be onto something. Denmark is consistently ranked as one of the happiest countries in the world, despite frigid Nordic winters with short, dark days. Meanwhile, the United States is ranked 13th.

Hygge is all about feeling safe, secure, and present, which is something we can all get behind. In fact, hygge is such a desired concept right now that a slew of bestseller books have been written on the topic in recent months, including The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living and The Cozy Life: Rediscover the Joy of the Simple Things Through the Danish Concept of Hygge.

How to hygge: The ultimate guide

If the winter doldrums have you down, below are a few easy ways to embrace the spirit of hygge to cope with the remaining winter months.

1. Spend quality time with loved ones

Time to cuddle up! Turn off the TV, shut down your cell phone, and cut yourself off from social media for a few hours in favor of focusing your attention on friends and family. One of the downsides of modern technology is that we spend a majority of our days either isolated or nonstop multitasking instead of being truly present.

The next time you are tempted to decompress with a Netflix binge session, instead take time to sit with loved ones and have meaningful conversations, play board games, or cook a new recipe together. Building relationships, savoring quality time, and staying present are surefire ways to boost feelings of contentment.

2. Cultivate a cozy atmosphere

While hygge is about cultivating a state of mind, not about buying products, you can set up your home to feel more cozy and comfortable. The simple act of lighting a candle can instantly alter the mood with its soft illumination and aromatherapy benefits. In fact, studies show that scent can play a powerful role in evoking strong emotional memories, so reap the calming effects with a lavender or vanilla-scented candle.

Scandinavians are also famous for their minimalistic design aesthetic, so cutting down on clutter can imbue a sense of calm. Additionally, turning down the lights, playing relaxing music, and putting on your favorite cashmere sweater are all ways to evoke sublime coziness.

3. Ditch the gym in favor of nature

Don’t let those cold temps get you down! Spending time outdoors can be exhilarating and rejuvenating in the winter. Hygge is all about savoring nature, especially since there are so few hours of daylight. If you enjoy winter sports, now is the time to ski, snowboard, snowshoe, or ice-skate. Even something as simple as a walk outside can boost your spirits and clear your head. Be sure to bundle up!

4. Savor the simple things

A fresh snowfall, a hot foamy latte, a crackling fire on a cold day, the smell of cookies baking … hygge is all about taking the time to indulge in and appreciate simple pleasures. While we may not be able to control the outdoor climate (or the political climate for that matter), we can embrace the elements and appreciate their positive aspects. In fact, practicing gratitude and finding meaning in the small things can enhance your sense of well-being. Now that’s hygge.

Bottom line

The Danish practice of hygge can help transform your winter into a cozier, comforting, and affirming season. Simple things like spending time with family, baking a new recipe, and lighting a fire can boost your sense of contentment until spring shows up.

Ready to hygge out your home? Here’s what you’ll need:

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