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What hygge means: How to embrace a cozy lifestyle

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What hygge means: How to embrace a cozy lifestyle

If you’ve been on any kind of social media in the last few years, you’ve probably seen the term hygge.  Probably associated with cozy images of winter, blankets, hot drinks, and fireplaces. But if you’re just discovering hygge or haven’t really looked into it beyond the pretty images, we’re going to talk what hygge really means and how you can embrace a hygge lifestyle!

What’s the definition of hygge?

I started writing this article one chilly fall evening while sitting in front of my fireplace.  I had a warm cup of tea next to me, comfy clothes on, one of my kitties sleeping next to me, and my favorite blanket tucked around my feet.   Sounds pretty cozy, doesn’t it? It was. And that’s the idea behind hygge.

The word itself is Danish.  If you don’t know much about Denmark (I didn’t either), here are two key things to know: One, they have very cold, dark winters.  Like really cold. I love cold & dark weather, but a Danish winter might be a little much, even for winter lovers like me.  Two, Denmark is always near the top of the list of the world’s happiest countries. What??? How on earth do those two facts even go together?  One big reason is that they embrace a hygge lifestyle.

I’m not Danish, and I’ve never even been to Denmark, so all the knowledge I have about hygge is based on reading about the concept.  And as it turns out, it’s something I’ve always aimed for; I just didn’t have a word for it!

The word hygge doesn’t have a direct translation in English, but it can be summed up as the art of cozy living – enjoying the simple things in life, contentment, and creating an intimate environment. Hygge, in a nutshell, is whatever makes you physically and mentally cozy. 

If you’re into etymology, hygge comes from a combination of the Norwegian words for “wellbeing” and “hug”. That little fact makes me smile.

Some related words that you might run across as you learn more about hygge are hyggelig, which basically means hygge-like.  And hyggekrog, which is a cozy little nook (I don’t know about you, but that makes me think of a warm little reading chair).  Seriously, all these words make me want to learn Danish!  Even the words themselves are the definition of cozy!

How on earth do you pronounce hygge? 

I’ll give you a hint.  It’s not how it looks. Hygge is pronounced Hoo-gah or Hue-gah (A lot of people mispronounce it as “huggy” – I have to admit, that sounds pretty cozy too).  (If you’re a native Dane, please feel free to comment with a better explanation!)

So how do I do “hygge”?

Absolutely anyone can embrace hygge! It can involve a combination of things, but the general idea is to focus on slowing down, being present in the moment, and enjoying the simple things in life. It’s the purposeful act of being cozy. To be a little more specific, here are some general hygge concepts:

Set the atmosphere

A warm, cozy atmosphere is definitely hygge.  Think low lighting, maybe soft music in the background, or quiet conversation with loved ones.  Comfortable seating and cozy blankets to keep the chill away.

Be present

Instead of getting lost in your social feeds or zoning out to a tv show, be present in the moment.  Notice the simple things around you, like a fire in the fireplace or the smell of food cooking on the stove. If you’re not alone, engage with the people around you.

Be grateful

It may be cold and dark outside, but you are warm.  You are comfortable. You have enough. You ARE enough. Be grateful for the moment.

Get comfortable

Think comfortable clothes, comfortable chairs, soft blankets, comfortable relationships

Be content

Take a break from thinking about what you don’t have or what you wish could happen.  Be content in the moment.

Enjoy safety & shelter

There could be 4 feet of snow on the ground outside, but you have a roof over your head, a warm home, and a place to get away from the stresses of daily life.

Embrace togetherness

Hygge doesn’t always mean alone time!  Time spent with a few friends and loved ones is definitely hygge.  Small gatherings with people whose company you truly enjoy.

Keep it simple

Hygge is not about luxury or the latest trends; it’s about simplicity and enjoying the simple things!

hygge meaning, what is hyyge

hygge meaning, what is hyyge

What does hygge look like?

One of my favorite examples of a hygge time in my own life would be memories of Thanksgiving afternoon at my grandparents’ house.  After the meal, surrounded by family. Everyone’s bellies are full, some are napping, and some are playing card games. The house is warm and smells of good food.  No one is in a rush, there is laughter, coziness, and contentment.

Another of my favorites is an unexpected snow day.  I get fewer of these since moving to Ohio, since snow is less of an impact on daily life up here, but there is magic in waking up to canceled plans.  Knowing that the whole day is in front of you and you can settle into a lazy, cozy, snuggly day in a warm home.

Those are a few isolated examples of hygge times, but you don’t need to wait for a holiday or special event!  Hygge is an everyday practice.

Here are a few ideas to bring hygge into your everyday life:

Light lots of candles

Dim the bright, overhead lights and enjoy the coziness of low, warm lighting

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Host a good, old-fashioned potluck

Invite some friends to bring a dish to share and simply enjoy each other’s company. No cheating and planning ahead, though. You may end up with amazing gourmet food or 7 bags of potato chips and french onion dip.  That’s half the fun. (Growing up in a Baptist church in the midwest, I’ve experienced LOTS of pot luck dinners.  I can tell you from experience that both versions are equally fun.)

Go outside, no matter the weather

There’s an old saying: There is no bad weather, only bad clothing.  Bundle up if it’s cold, throw on some rain boots and a raincoat if it’s raining, and go outside for a while.  Sunny days aren’t the only days with value; embrace all the weather!

Home-cooked meals

Get some soup simmering on the stove or throw a roast in the oven.  Enjoy the act of preparing it, the scent of food cooking, and the meal itself 

Ditch the tech for a while

Take a break from your phone, turn off the tv.  Have a conversation, play a game, or just enjoy the quiet

Take your time & linger a bit

We spend so much of our lives rushing to get to the next thing.  Take a break from that. Take your time, enjoy someone’s company without a time limit, linger over a good meal.

What hygge ISN’T

Since we’ve talked a little about what hygge IS, we should probably discuss a few things that hygge ISN’T as well.

Hygge isn’t a specific product

Over the last few years, advertisers have definitely caught on to the hygge trend.  All sorts of products are being marketed as “hygge”. There is even a type of yarn called Hygge. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but hygge doesn’t require any sort of specific “items”. It doesn’t mean a newly re-decorated home and brand new cozy clothes. 

In fact, another hygge-related term is hyggebusker. Loosely translated, hyggebusker are those pants that you love to wear around the house, but wouldn’t be caught dead wearing in public.  That one makes me laugh, because I’m pretty sure we all have them. (Mine are an old paint-stained, holey pair of sweatpants I stole from my husband. Terrible to look at, but one of my favorite cozy things in the world!)

I’m bringing that up to point out that you don’t need to get caught up in the marketing to enjoy hygge.  Hygge isn’t about new and shiny, it’s about comfort and simplicity.

Hygge isn’t limited to cold weather

Yes, hygge is often associated with the fall and winter months because they are so favorable for coziness. But you can absolutely embrace hygge year round!  A quick Pinterest search will bring up hygge ideas to enjoy during any season!

Hygge isn’t complicated or fussy

Hygge is all about enjoying the simpler things in life.  You don’t need to spend hours making a gourmet meal or plan every little thing down to the very last detail.  (For example, leave the fancy rosemary parmesan popcorn recipe on Pinterest for another day and just enjoy plain buttered popcorn.)

How can I learn more about hygge? 

We’ve just barely scratched the surface on all the ways to add hygge to your life, but I think you’re starting to get the idea.  

If you’d like to go a little deeper, here are a few more resources to help you cultivate a hygge lifestyle:

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And just for good measure, here are a few more hygge examples:

Getting together with a few friends for large batch baking or cooking

Watching a fire wrapped in a blanket

A casual game night

The feeling when you walk into a warm home on a freezing day

A hug from a loved one when you’re feeling blue

A cake that didn’t turn out pretty, but tastes wonderful!

Waking up with no rush to be anywhere

Snuggling with your pets

What are your favorite hygge moments?  How do you plan to add hygge to your life?

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