Unless you have been living off the grid, I’m almost sure you will be aware of Britain’s current obsession with the Danish word ‘hygge’, pronounced ‘hoo-gah’. One university in London even offers a course on it. The Danes are consistently ranked the happiest nation in the world, and researchers feel that ‘hygge’ has a lot to do with it.
‘Hygge’ is not perfectly translatable into English, but the word best to describe it, seems to be ‘cosiness’. However, ‘hygge’ is so much more than that – it’s togetherness, slow-moving, thoughtful and intimate. An atmosphere that is warm, friendly, down-to-earth, close, comfortable, snug and welcoming. Like a hug without getting physical. The physical environment must be cosy, but it also must be open and accepting.
It’s lighting a candle, switching off devices, playing board games, cooking together, bringing nature indoors, blankets, talking until midnight, choosing old over new, watching a film together, going on a long walk, settling down for a warm drink, putting some relaxing music on, exploring nature, or laying in front of the fire. Nobody dominates conversation, and conversation is thoughtful, not controversial.
It sounds idyllic. Britain’s obsession with ‘hygge’ got me thinking about the ‘why’. Why are people so interested in finding out what it is? Are people in Britain really that miserable? What are people seeking?
I’ve come to the conclusion that in a society (and world) that is incredibly fast-moving – people are seeking connection. They are seeking togetherness, security, bonding, love, safety, intimacy, and true commitment to the moment. They are seeking quality time with their families, not moments wasted together on Smart phones, tablets or doing things that they don’t enjoy. Creating meaningful moments, and time spent working towards a shared goal.
The best thing about ‘hygge’ is that it is free. Simplicity and modesty are central to it, and to Danish culture. The more fancy, expensive or bling – the less hygge. I love this quote from ‘The Little Book of Hygge’: “You cannot buy the right atmosphere or a sense of togetherness. You cannot hygge if you are in a hurry or stressed out, and the art of creating intimacy cannot be bought by anything but time, interest and engagement with the people around you.”
Now more than ever, we have to live deliberately. We have to choose to slow down, choose to simplify, choose togetherness and choose to make interaction with our loved ones more meaningful. We have to make deliberate decisions to let things in, or shut things out, so we don’t get swept along, or let distractions creep in. More and more, people are realising that true happiness comes through the simple pleasures of life, and ‘hygge’ is a way of appreciating those.
How can we make interaction with our loved ones more ‘hygge’? I decided to share ‘The Hygge Manifesto’ from the book I mentioned earlier, as it is the perfect nutshell:
The Hygge Manifesto
- Atmosphere – Turn down the lights
- Presence – Be here now. Turn off the phones.
- Pleasure – Coffee, chocolate, cookies or cake, but know when to stop.
- Equality – ‘We’ over ‘me’. Share the tasks and the airspace.
- Gratitude – Take it in. This might be as good as it gets. Always say thank you.
- Harmony – It’s not a competition. We already like you. There is no need to brag.
- Comfort – Get comfy. Take a break.
- Truce – No drama. Let’s discuss controversial topics another day.
- Togetherness – Build relationships and narratives.
- Shelter – This is your tribe. This is your place of peace and security.
One thing is for sure…I’ve got one part of ‘hygge’ down – my hair. ‘Hygge’ hair is relaxed, borderline lazy. You wake up and go, and the higher the bun, the better. I’m an expert at that one.
This year don’t be surprised if you find yourself saying: “We can’t eat there. It’s not hyggeligt.” Apparently it is a perfectly acceptable excuse to choose not to eat somewhere.