Hygge, pronounced hoo-ga, is a Danish word roughly translating to "cosiness". But in Denmark, where a winter day can have up to 17 hours of darkness and the average temperature is a snuggly 0 degrees, hygge is a way of life.
Hygge is about being kind to yourself. About warming your inside as much as your outside. The idea is to feel as relaxed and contented as possible. Here in the U.K., we might not get 17 hours of darkness a day, but with 2 million of us affected by the winter blues every year, we could definitely use a little bit of hygge. It incorporates a whole lot of things that have been shown to ease wintertime depression, from staying warm and comfortable, to spending time with your friends and family. And it works! Despite their unfriendly weather, Denmark is consistently cited as one of the happiest countries in the world. Here are four easy steps to getting a little hygge in your life this season:
It's no secret that candles help lots of people to unwind and good lighting is essential to create a totally hyggeligt atmosphere. In fact, it's so important that Danes are the biggest consumers of candles in the European Union! Get yourself some delicious candles, light all of them at the same time, drape every available surface in fairy lights and bask in their soothing glow.
Is there anything more comforting to the soul than spending time in great company? Making time to see your friends and family has a huge effect on mental health and can help those long evenings fly in. Put down your phone, dim the lights and let the conversation flow. The winter nights aren't so cold if you've got someone delicious to snuggle down with.
We're talking serious snuggling here, people, so we need the right supplies. We need cushions. We need blankets. We need huge, mortifying, fluffy dressing gowns. And we need them now.
It's called comfort food for a reason! For a truly hyggeligt evening, you want simple, hearty, warming food. The kind of food that feels like a hug on a plate. A big bowl of steaming stew would work. So would a slice of apple pie. So, for that matter, would a bottle of wine. Forget about the calories and eat something that makes you feel really, really happy.
We spend so much time beating ourselves up for our choices and hygge provides a little oasis from that. Take a break from worrying about what you should be doing and just focus on feeling great. Binge watch an entire boxset of old movies. Throw on a face mask and stick your feet in a basin of hot water. Savour every mouthful of a fabulous dessert. Have sex. Anything that helps you really connect with yourself or with the people you love is definitely hygge.
Maybe the reason that hygge is so difficult to define is that it means something different to each of us. For some, it might be curling up with the cat and a cup of coffee; for others, it might be a raucous group of friends jostling round a dining table. Whatever form it takes, it means making time to really take care of yourself. And taking care of ourselves is something that we just don't do enough. So crank the heating up and make yourself an enormous hot chocolate with all the trimmings. If it's good enough for the happiest country on earth, it's good enough for us!
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