We are in the throes of winter, which often leads to higher rates of sadness, lower rates of energy, and less productivity. Even if the rain, snow, or overcast cold weather has you hibernating inside, that doesn’t mean that you can’t find comfort, peace, and happiness at home. That doesn’t mean that you can’t adapt a more hygge atmosphere and way of living within your own four walls. Wait, a what atmosphere?
Hygge, pronounced “hoo-gah”, isn’t just a design trend – it’s a way of life and a change of attitude. This Danish concept encompasses a feeling of coziness, contentment, and well-being through the humble act of enjoying the simple things in life. Cuddling up under a blanket and reading a book? Hygge. Brewing a hot mug of your favorite tea and catching up with a close friend? Hygge. Slipping into your favorite worn out sweatpants and settling in for a night of television reruns? Hygge.
The word hygge as we know it today dates back to around 1800, however other iterations can be traced back to the Middle Ages, where it was described as “protected from the outside world.” This Nordic concept reached a level of international appeal several years ago, which makes sense given the world events that were happening. As hygge is rooted in comfort, togetherness, and well-being, it is inherently soothing. It’s common to yearn for these feelings during times of personal and public feelings of unrest, perceptions of safety and community, and time away from loved ones.
The Danish are consistently rated among the happiest people in the world, and they attribute their happiness in part to hygge. It’s natural to seek happiness in material things in life: the newest technology, the fanciest car, or those expensive jeans. However oftentimes those items don’t make us truly happy. The Scandinavian lifestyle incorporates and prioritizes feelings of coziness, relaxation, cultivating close relationships with others, in turn nurturing our own mental health and happiness.
In today’s society our value is often defined by our output, and we only allow ourselves rest in order to regain the energy to work more. Tricia Hersey, author of Rest is Resistance: A Manifesto, says “Rest is divine human right” that shouldn’t require explanation or justification. “Resting is generative. It’s not frivolous and it’s not a luxury. It’s something that allows us to tap into our creativity and imagination and heal our bodies.”
While happiness and restfulness are certainly important, there are also other benefits to living a hygge lifestyle.
Creating a cozy living space helps us to feel less anxious and also promotes a sense of emotional well-being and safety. As our brain calms down it better allows us to be more present and open to making connections. This could in turn heighten feelings of self-worth, increase optimism, lower stress, and increase your sense of gratitude and mindfulness.
When we feel safe, calm, and relaxed, our body responds accordingly. A hygge environment promotes feelings of safety and comfort which leads to better sleep, weight regulation, improved practice of self-care, and sometimes even a reduction in reliance on unhealthy coping mechanisms.
When we feel comfortable and stable we are more likely to not only reach out for new relationships, but also nurture existing ones. In a hygge-focused lifestyle there is an emphasis on connecting and spending time with loved ones, friends, and family. These bonds increase our sense of belonging and acceptance, giving us the confidence to approach others.
While the described hygge lifestyle may seem very different from the life you currently lead, there are several small changes that you can gradually make to shift your mindset and your surroundings.
Hygge starts at home, and blossoms throughout your daily life from there. Some ways to incorporate this mindfulness into your home décor are:
Install dimming switches on your lights and don’t blast them as high as they will go. Consider installing a backlight behind your tv to utilize instead of a bright floor lamp or blaring overhead light. You could also swap out fluorescent lights for a warm, amber bulb to enhance the calm atmosphere. A very popular hygge habit is enjoying a fire in your fireplace. Candles are also closely associated with Hygge as they immediately create a warm, soft light and sense of relaxation.
Leaning into the idea of all things soft and cozy, it may be time to update accessories like blankets, throws, pillows, and rugs. Softer textures are calming and allow us to feel soothed during stressful situations. Choosing to wear comfortable clothing over what’s the hippest trend will also help you to feel more relaxed – so pull out the oversized sweaters and your broken in loungewear – it’s all part of the plan.
Spend Time in the Kitchen
Cooking may not be the first thing you think of when you hear the word ‘calm’, but there is peace and comfort to be found in the kitchen. Cut down on your cleaning and prep by gathering all your ingredients ahead of time and lean into the idea of one-pot meals. Embrace the feeling you get by eating nostalgic meals like meatloaf, pot pie, or a cherished family recipe. It’s a great way to involve friends and relatives too. Lastly, nothing says ‘comfort’ more than a tasty treat. Try experimenting with sweet recipes to bake the perfect pie or sheet of cookies, then wipe away the guilt as in you indulge in one (or two).
Create Your Happy Space
Identify an activity that brings you joy and create a nook in your home dedicated to that. Consider establishing a tea station, setting up a book cart, or organizing all your art supplies in one place. There is no need to set aside an entire room of your house to retreat to, cozying up in a corner that is specifically designed around what makes you happy can transport you to a completely different mindset.
Adapting small parts of a hygge lifestyle can make a huge difference. Remember, the key to hygge is simplicity, ease, contentment, and comfort. Don’t fill your home or your mind with clutter and opt to decorate with calming items that evoke positive memories or bring you joy. Use your space for living instead of for stuff.
As always, if you’re looking for a house to start your hygge journey in, we’re standing by to help you on your road home.