Hygge style and ideas became quite prominent in the UK last year, but what is it and how could it actually help you?
No, I haven’t decided to branch out into interior design!
Hygge is a sensation, a feeling, an act. In The Little Book of Hygge, Meik Wiking says, “Hygge has been called everything from ‘the art of creating intimacy’, ‘cosiness of the soul’ and ‘the absence of annoyance’ to ‘taking pleasure from the presence of soothing things’, ‘cosy togetherness’ and, my personal favourite, ‘cocoa by candlelight’. Hygge is about an atmosphere and an experience, rather than about things. It is about being with the people we love. A feeling of home. A feeling that we are safe, that we are shielded from the world and allow ourselves to let our guard down. You may be having an endless conversation about the small or big things in life – or just be comfortable in each other’s silent company – or simply just be by yourself enjoying a cup of tea.”
This really struck me, because it’s something I and many others have experienced but previously didn’t have a name for. For example, do you feel comforted and soothed listening to heavy rain outside while tucked up in bed? That feeling is hygge!
I have written about self care quite a bit. It seems to me that hygge is the essence of self care, in that it encourages slowing things down and nurturing yourself. Many of the items suggested in my post on cuddle baskets and comfort boxes could be seen as very hyggelig (hygge-like).
Learning about hygge can be helpful, because I believe it is easier to understand and define things if we have words associated with them. Knowing something is comforting and soothing is useful for self care purposes, but having a description and framework for that sensation of well-being can help you to find other things to evoke it. That is why I particularly enjoyed the books I read about hygge – they gave me both affirmation that these sensations were real and recognised, and they suggested ways to increase these experiences.
Hygge does not have to cost anything – you don’t need to buy a £95 nordic-style throw cushion (but you can if you want!). Instead, it uses familiar comforts of home and encourages simplicity. A simple meal of bread and soup, some candles… Whatever helps you feel warm, safe and separated from the aggravations of the day. While those problems and responsibilities will still be waiting for us, indulging in a hygge experience sets them to the side for a while and provides an oasis of calm or a breathing space where we can take a break. Taking such breaks, even for a short time, is enormously valuable for wellbeing, creativity and performing well at work.
You may have been doing hyggelig things already as part of your self-soothing and self care, without even realising. Examining my therapy room, I realise it is hyggelig though I did not know the term when I furnished it.
Hygge encourages a mindset of living in the moment, which echo the teachings of mindfulness, and can be found alone or with friends and family.
You might find these books useful if you want to know more about incorporating hygge into your lifestyle:
How to Hygge: The Secrets of Nordic Living by Signe Johansen
The Book of Hygge: The Danish Art of Living Well by Louisa Thomsen Brits
The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking (my favourite).