Do you hygge? I do hygge too!
For some people, happiness seems to come effortlessly either by one’s naturally optimistic disposition or by a set of seemingly serendipitous circumstances. For the rest of us, happiness takes work.
The concept of having to put effort into one’s happiness may seem like a foreign concept. Shouldn’t happiness just happen? I wish! And, no.
There are times in our lives (I hope) that we all find ourselves in a place of joy that came so smoothly and quietly that we never noticed its arrival. Perhaps we even basked in its splendor without much thought. We just accept it as is, taking it for granted, but that makes it no less extraordinary. For the rest of us, however, happiness is born from a series of conscious decisions and daily practices to find one’s bliss.
Whether you realize it or not, you’ve been working toward happiness your whole life. Sometimes the journey, the effort, and the thoughts that led you there aren’t immediately attributable to the life of joy you’re living now. Consider for a moment, the education, career, and people in your life. Your past decisions and hard work directly impact your happiness (or lack thereof) now.
All our past decisions led us here – happy or unhappy. Our future choices and actions can lead us out.
When I said we’re always working toward our happiness let me revisit Sigmund Freud’s Pleasure Principle theory. In his explanation of why we behave the way we do; he states the pleasure principle is always at work. We are intrinsically, unconsciously or subconscious, making decisions based on whether the outcome is thought to lead to something pleasurable or to avoid something painful. So yes, we’re always working for happiness. Some of us must work harder than others, depending on their circumstances. Some of us, frankly, just make really bad decisions. But there is hope!
Let’s move beyond autopilot and happenstance in our search for the happy. I’m talking about putting our higher reasoning and very conscious thoughts and efforts into creating a happy mindset and environment. Let’s talk about hygge and how it is changing the way we think about living happily on purpose.
Before we jump right into it, let me define and give you a few facts about this strange word. If you’re Hooked on Phonics, you’ll never pronounce the word correctly so let me help you out. Hygge [hoo-ga] or [hue-gah] is a concept for living from the Danish people, also known as the happiest people in the world.
Despite the extraordinarily dark and lingering cold months in Denmark, these very resilient folks have discovered the recipe for happiness in the most unlikely of places. As a matter of fact, hygge is a primary thread in the fabric of their culture. There is no direct English translation of the word, but the concept centers around comfort, togetherness, and joy in each moment. You will rarely hear the word hygge without the mention of cozy!
Some have referred to hygge as a decorating style, but that is truly a misnomer.
Defining the whole of hygge is not an easy task, but I’ll describe it this way. It is a purposeful lifestyle based on simple pleasures, harmony, and contentment with the end goal of just being happy and grateful.
In my opinion, the Scandinavian interior design style, born from the same region, and in response to the same climatic challenges and cultural preferences, is the actual décor style often referenced in hygge. I think it evolved from or with the hygge concept of living. That clear? If not, I think it will make more sense as we move through the elements of hygge.
So, what the Danish have learned is this: If you want happy. You make happy! Here’s how.
Comfort & Cozy
Let’s set the hygge scene and cover the elements that have many erroneously calling hygge an interior design style (again it is not).
Our goal with the comfort and cozy factors, as well as the other soon to be mention elements, is to set a harmonious scene that more easily allows happiness to enter. That is why interior design and style play such a prominent role in hygge in the home.
I continue to stress in the home because the practice of hygge can occur anywhere as we’ll see later. The home is an essential consideration because it’s our safe place. It’s our haven and refuge. Optimizing it to allow us to better welcome peace is very important.
Hygge encompasses both mental concepts as well as physical ones. Understanding how each affects the other is necessary.
One of the primary components of hygge is in the creation of a safe, comfortable, and cozy environment in which to live. It isn’t winter exclusive although hygge is often mentioned solely with that particular season.
Indeed, what is comfortable and cozy in winter is suffocating and irritating in the heat of our summer. This close association is the result of the fact that the Danish experience dramatically cold, dark, and long months, so winters have come to dominate the topic. So, be seasonally appropriate in your thinking. Hygge is not defined by the weather or climate.
So back to safe, comfortable, and cozy. We can best achieve this effect with fluffy, soft pillows and blankets of appropriate seasonal materials. Super thick comforters and thickly woven blankets and quilts are perfect in winter. I find that thin and delicate throws work best in warmer temperatures.
Cushy, padded rugs make for great floor coverings to add additional coziness to a room and will up the snuggle-factor! Again, the comfort of your surroundings is crucial. So keep it cozy!
In keeping with the Scandinavian style I mentioned earlier, a neutral color palette is what is desired. The emotional and psychological impact of colors is quite purposeful here.
Calming, soothing and peaceful hues found in pale grays, light creams, beiges, and browns work best. I’m personally fond of pale sage as an alternate color choice in moderation. It’s a perfect neutral to incorporate into your hygge atmosphere. To learn more about decorating with sage click here: https://roostandrefuge.com/2019/08/21/the-wise-color-choice-found-in-sage/
White will likely play the dominate role in any hygge inspired room or home. It promotes a feeling of openness and space and allows natural light to work its best magic.
Limit or eliminate any bright, harsh colors. If it doesn’t build on the harmonious look and feel of the room, it should be removed. Nothing busy!
Candles are so important in the hygge way of living that they get their own section here.
Only a wedding, a memorial, or church on Christmas morning are candles going to get more attention than a room brimming in the hygge spirit.
Candles are a vital component in creating any relaxing space, so it is little wonder their importance in this dialog. They are timeless symbols in our traditions due to their ability to evoke feelings of safety, warmth, and home.
In the Danish tradition, the warm glow of candles burning in concert can’t be replaced with artificial light sources. For the most part, I agree. However, there are times I’m in the mood for a dimly lit lamp for reading. There are some great alternative lighting sources for those that are sensitive to candles as well.
As hygge becomes a little more Americanized, twinkly, string lights have become acceptable substitutions. They are certainly safer alternatives if your household includes children and pets that can cause accidental fires. Personally, I like a combination of both.
The addition of natural textures is an important factor in the hygge setting. We touched upon this initially with our discussion of comfort and cozy.
The minimalistic approach of the Scandinavian interior style requires a balance. For me, the tactile experience provided by various textured elements provide that needed equilibrium.
Staying with our neutral color palette, incorporating naturally textured elements can provide much of our comfort factor. Wooden textures in furniture, containers, art, or design accessories are perfectly combined elements.
Wool, or my personal favorite organic cotton, in our textile selections bring home the cozy. Knitted products work exceptionally well in the hygge space.
Another element not often considered in the textured section include live plants. Instead of breaking them out into a separate section on their own, I’ll just say this. I think the natural attributes found in the leaves and stems make them acceptable choices to mention in our textured segment. Hygge benefits from the addition of the earthy, natural elements found in the outside. Thus, plants are perfect.
Let’s face it. The fireplace is a hugely important factor in the Danish home. Gathering around a fire is not only an important part of their lifestyle, but the dramatic cold temperatures make it a necessity for survival.
Here in the America’s the fireplace may or may not be an option. If you don’t have one, I’m certainly not recommending you go out and purchase one. If you live in nearly tropical climates that would not be a wise investment either. Worry not! I’m convinced your happiness factor will thrive just fine without it!
If you are blessed with a fireplace in your home, it is an excellent hygge element, and it will likely become the heart of your wintertime hygge activities.
By its very nature, it is a source of comfort, light, and warmth. It is also a natural gathering location. All important cozy factors. If you simply feel you must have a fireplace to get your hygge on, consider a gas fireplace. There are many varieties in designs, shapes, sizes, and even portability. I find them to be an acceptable substitute, and they won’t bother your allergies.
If you want to learn more about the Scandinavian design style, click here: https://roostandrefuge.com/2019/08/07/how-to-perfect-the-scandinavian-design-style/
From Décor Style to LifeStyle
Putting hygge into action is where the magic happens. It’s in the experiential practice of hygge where the differentiation of style versus lifestyle become clear.
It first begins with the conscious choice to partake in activities that foster happiness, relaxation, and togetherness. No stress allowed!
Before I proceed, I want to make a clear point. While togetherness and relationships are frequently mentioned in any discussion of hygge, the practice is likely more of a solitary exercise for many. As a true homebody by any and all definitions of the word, I spend most of my time alone. Not lonely but alone. One has nothing to do with the other despite what many may think.
So, once we’ve made the decision to bring harmony and joy into our lives, exactly how do we make that happen? Exactly how does one hygge?
It begins by making activities that foster these desired, positive feelings and emotions a priority. It’s about doing things with a purpose that were once rewards or treats.
Hygge is about breaking up our busy day and actually living in the moment. For me, that includes simple pleasures. It could be enjoying a good book in my hygge inspired surroundings wrapped in a comfortable blanket under a soothing reading lamp. Hand-writing letters to people I haven’t spoken with in a while to keep our connection healthy. Savoring a well-prepared meal in the company of friends or just a cup of tea while soothing music plays in the background. It’s being thankful and mindful on purpose.
It’s essential to be present in the moment and leave distractions outside. It’s being thankful for your life and all the things in it. I like to call it positivity in action. That clearly isn’t a passive activity in most cases.
It might include taking a drive to watch the leaves turn colors in the fall. Consider a walk on the beach in summer. A pleasant conversation with someone special on the bank of a river or creek could create these special moments.
In the home, the design elements we discussed earlier are ways of heightening the hygge experience in your special space. However, hygge is portable people! Take the mindset and goal with you anywhere you go. Just do what you enjoy, and happiness will find a way inside if you give it priority.
Hobbies are also great activities! Cooking, quilting, knitting, stamp collecting! Whatever you enjoy, give yourself permission to engage in those activities without guilt and worry. Guilt and worry are antithetical to happiness.
Sail a boat. Fly a kite. Dance in the rain. Consider the kind of goings-on that would bring you pleasure, but you never or rarely give yourself time or permission to do. One of my personal favorites, which require little energy or effort, is napping. I love to rest my mind, and drift off into relaxing sleep, wrapped my favorite blankets! No worries. No stresses. Oh, sweet mother of hygge!
Perhaps meditation or prayer is more in line with what will bring you peace. You can undoubtedly make hygge a spiritual growth exercise. I dare say, it is intrinsically that already.
How about cuddling on the sofa with your significant other? Perhaps spending some quality bonding time with a pet in quiet contemplation. Your choice. You may argue that you already do these things. True, but where is your mind? Are you doing these things out of boredom or relishing the moment in thankful and purposeful thought?
It’s all up to you. If it promotes peace, harmony, happiness, and a sense of well-being, you’re on the right track. Can you see the mental and health benefits of actively focusing on happiness in your life? You’ve heard it before, but what we focus on, we give our energy. Make sure your focus is on the best things!
Alone, or with friends and family, consider a spa outing. Host or attend social gatherings large or small, depending on your social comfort level. Relax by the pool, have a bonfire, or get back to nature by camping or hiking. Picnics are excellent hygge experiences. Pick your setting based on your personal likes and dislikes. The background will influence what you get from the experience.
While we often talk about dim settings and candlelight don’t forget the sun! For many people, myself included, sun exposure can directly affect the mood. Those that suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder or Depression certainly need to be mindful of this.
The lack of vitamin-D from too little sun exposure or diet has been linked to depression. You now have a great reason to take your breaks in the sun. Enjoy all the sun-filled activities that bring you joy while also practicing sun safety.
When we’ve discussed togetherness in hygge terms, the focus has been on fostering stronger and closer connections with friends and family. Nearly all the activities we’ve mentioned only need you to make the invitation or accept one to start making that happen.
While I’m a true homebody, I’m not entirely antisocial. Okay, I’m not antisocial every day. Just most days! However, the importance of other people in our lives can’t be overstated. To some degree, we generally need meaningful friendships, strong family ties, or a significant other but not always. It’s more crucial for some personality types than others. I say all that to make this point. Make togetherness as much of a priority in your hygge practice is needed or wanted for you.
As a semi-anti-social, homebody person that doesn’t need a lot of social interactions to be happy, I often feel the rest of the world assumes otherwise. If you are like me, you know what I mean. Most articles, books, and other sources are written to the greater population that is or assumed to be beautiful social butterflies. So, it is always important to me personally, to acknowledge my fellow homebodies and social anxiety sufferers.
If you want to adopt an entirely personal hygge practice void of other people that is perfectly okay. I find the whole experience to be a very private practice because I spend so much time in my own head. I don’t need a party in there as well!
I wouldn’t want anyone to pass on the power of hygge because they feel the involvement of other people is a requirement. The social aspect may not be for you, and that is rarely conveyed in most publications on the subject.
You, we and me homebodies are perfectly okay doing our own thing. Hygge isn’t designed to conform to the demands or outside judgments of others. It’s intended to escape those notions.
One of the many great things about hygge is that as you continue to put in the work and make the effort, you are gradually developing new mental programming. Your mind gets in the habit of reaching for the joy, making it easier to grasp. The negative self-talk begins to quiet as peace moves in.
Your happiness is worth the effort.
And you, my friends unknown, absolutely deserve all the joy life can offer.