Photo by Stella Rose
Last month, I found myself stuck at the Copenhagen airport, stranded after I’d missed a connecting flight stateside from Berlin. (The missed flight wasn’t my fault, but hey, that’s not the point).
Despite my delayed travel plans, it was exciting being in a new city. This was my first time in Denmark altogether, so I was determined to experience all that I could, even though I was confined to the airport. As I wandered through the terminal, I soaked it all in: the sing-songy cadence of the language, the open-faced Smørrebrød sandwiches served in the chic airport restaurants, and the very tall, very blonde locals.
Eventually, I headed to a bookstand. Browsing through the English titles, one in particular got my attention: “The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living.”
I’d first caught wind of hygge (pronounced hoo-ga) in 2016, when it picked up traction among American influencers and bloggers. I brushed it off at first. The K-beauty craze had also just swept the American continent, and I’d been putting all my energy into testing sheet masks and smearing snail serums onto my face. But standing there in the airport, I realized that hygge was a phenomenon I was sorely missing out on. What if I put it into practice this time?
First Thing’s First, What Is Hygge?
Hygge, loosely translated, is the Danish word for a sense of comfort, togetherness, and well-being. The definition isn’t set in stone, however. It’s been described as everything from “the art of creating intimacy,” to “coziness of the soul,” to “cocoa by candlelight,” according to The Little Book of Hygge’s author, Meik Wiking.
Weiking told SELF Magazine in 2018 that “the Danes are exceptionally good at decoupling wealth and well-being. We focus on the small things that really matter, including spending more quality time with friends and family and enjoying the good things in life.” That means slowing down, focusing on analog over digital, staying present, and investing in items and experiences that make you feel your coziest.
Hygge can (and should be) practiced during every season, but it’s especially relevant in fall and winter. As we transition into slower seasons, hygge is a perfect practice to remind ourselves to stay cozy and cherish the little things.
How To Practice Hygge
Ask almost anyone in Denmark, and they’ll tell you that the first step for practicing hygge is creating a cozy environment. Cue heavy blankets, warm socks, and candles — lots and lots of candles. Danish culture is big on candles, and you can typically find them in every room of the house. Lighting candles provides an instantaneous relaxed atmosphere, so the more candles, the better.
Once you’ve hygge-ified your home, the next step is to live by hygge principals. Some of these are:
The Danes aren’t about diets. According to those who practice hygge, indulgence is a good thing. Consumption of meat, chocolate, coffee, and a good glass of wine — things that Americans will often tell you to skip — can be considered soul-nourishing, and therefore should be indulged in. Hygge also calls upon people to slow down and savor the richness of the food in front of them. Take your time to cook, bake, and enjoy eating the foods that bring you joy.
Put Down Your Phone.
Unplugging is a vital aspect to the hygge lifestyle. Go offline and pick up a book, take a walk, or talk on the phone with a friend. There’s plenty of life to be lived outside of your screen, and when you experience it phone-free, you’re experiencing it to the max.
Seriously, don’t over-exert yourself. Take intentional time to lounge around and invite peace into your space. All those candles you lit earlier will help with this, too!
Spend Time With People You Love.
Play board games, sing songs, cozy up in all your blankets and watch a movie — whatever it is, make time for each other. An important hygge principle is to forge deep and authentic connections.
While the concept of slowing down in our hectic day-to-day lives can be intimidating, it shouldn’t stop us from focusing on enjoying the little things that bring us deep comfort and joy. I certainly know I’ll be spending the rest of fall and winter cuddled up in blankets with a good book and hot coffee.
Cecilia is a freelance writer and contributor to Slow North. She writes largely about sustainability, especially as it applies to beauty, wellness, and the future of technology. She is a graduate of the journalism department at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and is based in Oakland, CA.