With COVID-19 forcing us to socially isolate from others, what better time to apply the Danish concept of Hygge in your home to make it more enjoyable.
The first time I saw the word hygge (pronounced hoo-ga) was years ago as I was browsing through an Ikea catalog. They used the term “hyyge” when referring to that cozy feeling of sitting by the fire and reading a good book – all on your new Ikea couch. The term comes from Denmark and it describes the feeling of comfort, safety, and wellbeing in one’s home, which helps the Danes combat isolation that comes from the dark and cold winters that last for months at a time.
What’s interesting is that even with being cooped up in their homes much of the year, Denmark consistently ranks high in the annual World Happiness Report. In 2019, their country ranked #2, while the United States dropped down another point to #19. Much has been said of the power of Denmark’s hygge concept in boosting happiness levels. Now with Americans being asked to socially isolate in their homes to combat the COVID-19 crisis, this is an even better time to practice hygge.
Whether you are socially isolating by yourself, with family, your partner, or roommates – practicing hygge is one small positive way to help counteract the multiple feelings of loss I am sure you are experiencing in this current crisis. I’ve loved this concept from the moment I read it and will be writing more blogs about hygge in the future. If we are lucky, some of these new habits can stay with us long after the crisis has passed – hopefully helping the United States rank higher on the World Happiness Report!
To get you started, I am sharing eight words below that best describe hygge and how to incorporate this feeling into your home:
- Connection. At its core, hygge is about being present and connecting with oneself and others who are in the home with you. It is about feeling good in the present and not regretting yesterday or worrying about tomorrow- actually enjoying the peace and quiet. Yes, in this COVID-19 crisis, there are many things we need to stay up on – our jobs if we still have one, health, finances, children if applicable, etc. But beyond that, we have an opportunity while isolating to truly get to know our cohabitants better. We can work on our ability to listen more intently, have more empathy, ask more thoughtful questions and relish the time spent together with less distractions. (Of course, safety is always first and you may need to keep your distance if you are with someone who is verbally and physically abusive.) If you are alone, spend time writing in a journal and connecting more with yourself instead of feeling lonely. Try listing small things that make you happy and what to eliminate or change about your life when the crisis has passed.
- Simplicity. For me like many others, having extra clutter around makes me feel stressed. Practicing hygge means removing excess items in your living areas and keeping things simple – let the focus be on comfort and enjoyment in your home. Use this extra time to remove items that don’t spark joy as organizer Marie Kondo often says. For me, the items that stay in my front room include my current books and magazines I am reading, exercise equipment in a large basket, my journal to write in, and fresh flowers in a vase from my garden on my fireplace mantle. This makes it easier for me to focus on what I need to do daily to keep a positive frame of mind.
- Comfort. Being comfortable is super important to practicing the art of hygge. This includes wearing soft and warm clothes and socks, having snuggly blankets nearby that feel comforting, wearing your favorite slippers, and keeping fluffy pillows around that you can sink yourself into. Sipping your favorite coffee, hot tea or cocoa is also very comforting at home.
- Nature. Hygge is about bringing the natural world into your home which has been shown to boost happiness levels. This includes cut flowers from your garden or purchased at the store, tree branches decoratively placed in a vase, rocks, berries and/or small fountain of running water (I found mine at a local craft store). Research has shown that looking and taking in the scent of nature has a natural and calming effect.
- Ambiance. To feel comforted in one’s home means creating the right environment. Whatever size home or space you are social isolating in, be sure to light some candles, listen to your favorite music, light some incense – these practices can create a pleasant ambiance in your home to help calm your nerves.
- Screen-free activities. Other than watching a good movie or favorite program on TV, hygge is more about activities that do not involve looking at a screen or device. Typical hygge activities include reading, writing, playing board games, playing cards or charades, looking through photos, telling jokes. Create a no-phone or device time in your home for yourself and family, if applicable.
- Slow down. Taking advantage of this slower paced time being at home is most certainly a hygge practice. Find a good rhythm that feels more natural to you and do things that you normally wouldn’t have done before. Go on more walks, take a bath, write a letter or card to someone you care about, truly enjoy your meal with yourself or others without feeling the need to rush.
- Warmth. Long dark winters in Denmark calls for extra warmth such as a fire in the fireplace, lots of lit candles and extra soft lighting in the house. Try this practice in your own home and see how you feel with the extra lighting – especially those who live in areas with longer winters.
Intrigued by the concept of hygge? If so, check out this ARTICLE on how hygge is becoming more popular in America. Or you can read about it in the Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living – you can purchase it through your favorite bookseller. Are you practicing hygge now? If so, share what you are doing in your home in the comments below so we can spread the word of this positive practice in America and beyond! Also, if you can, let me know what you think of this article – your feedback is appreciated! Happy (virtual) connecting!