The Danish Art of "Hygge"

Thursday Jan 21st, 2016


I came across an interesting article in the London Telegraph the other day about the Danish art of“hygge”. It definitely made me wonder if we could use an infusion of Danish sensibility in North America.

“Hygge”: pronounced “heurgha” is best described, the author claims as: “the absence of anything annoying or emotionally overwhelming; to take pleasure from the presence of gentle, soothing things.” She gives hygge examples as candlelight, bakeries and dinner with friends. Not exactly far out exotic ideas?! Perhaps tellingly, there is no English equivalent for the word.

Denmark is regularly voted one of the happiest countries in the world. The author wonders if the recognition of the simple moments contributes to that contentment. Something that really resonated with me is that hygge seems to be about sharing small experiences with friends and family NOT about buying things and spending exorbitant amounts of money.

Danes are proven to be less materialistic than other cultures, the writer points out. They appreciate the simple low cost things in life like having a coffee, lighting candles to create a cozy atmosphere. The author claims that Danes do cozy like no other nation. The average home looks like something out of a home magazine: lots of natural materials like wood and leather with lamps artfully positioned to create pools of soothing light. (Danes take lighting and design very seriously.) To make the place we spend our most time inspiring, cozy and aesthetically pleasing certainly makes sense to me

Anyone familiar with Denmark or depictions of it on TV or in the movies will be familiar with the slate-grey skies and notoriously bleak weather enjoyed by Danes for much of the year. It is cold and dark from October to March meaning that Danes had to really pull together and hunker down to get through it. While the author muses that Netflix and central heating have eased some of the burden, a real culture of togetherness persists. In essence, embracing hygge has allowed Danes to make the best of things. It kind of makes me wonder what came first, hygge or Danish winters?

Danes tend not to binge or purge. While the rest of the Western world diets and does penance for an over indulgent Christmas season the Danes continue being kind to themselves without punishment or denying themselves anything. Research shows that people who are kind to themselves rather than harshly self-critical tend to have better mental health and higher life satisfaction and are kinder to others.

Hygge’s main emphasis seems to be on spending time with family and friends enjoying simple pleasures and good company. The strength of our relationships in turn contributes directly to our psychological well being. More hygge time seems to contribute to happier individuals, happier families, and in turn a more caring community.

Some great ways to adopt hygge into your own life? Enjoy that pastry guilt free, turn an afternoon coffee into an event with friends, enjoy a hot bath, or bake a cake and invite someone over to share it with you.

Hygge. Definitely something to ponder on these cold, long January days and nights that we share with the Danes. Maybe instead of dreaming of that trip South I should call a friend and head to IKEA for tea lights, throws and floor lamps and a guilt free cinnamon bun!

P.S. To read more about Hygge, click here:

Post a comment