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If you’ve come across the word ‘hygge’ before, then I’m pretty sure I know what you’re thinking: mate, a cosy pair of socks won’t fix emotional trauma. But practicing hygge has hugely helped me manage my mental health, and I urge you to give it a go. According to the World Happiness Report, ‘the experience of positive emotions matters more to our overall wellbeing, measured in terms of life satisfaction, than the absence of negative emotions’.
For me, one of the most integral parts of slow living is creating hygge, and this time of year the opportunities to do so are endless. I discovered this Scandinavian phenomenon around this time last year, and since then I’ve been incorporating elements of hygge into my day-to-day life as and when I can. Not only is hygge a wonderfully healthy habit to get into for your mental health, it’s actually pretty easy to try out. In fact, odds are that you already have your own way of doing so every now and again without consciously realising it as hygge!
So let’s dive a little deeper into how it came about, what it entails, and why I believe you should give it a go in the lead up to Christmas!
Let’s face it: the concept of hygge in itself is reflected by the fact that the author of a book based on it is written by the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute of Copenhagen, Meik Wiking - I’d say that’s a pretty positive start!
As with many lovely phrases around the world, translating it is the toughest part! Meik sums it up as ‘cocoa by candlelight’. He explains:
Hygge is about an atmosphere and an experience, rather than about things. It is about being with the people we love. A feeling of home. A feeling that we are safe, that we are shielded from the outside world and allow ourselves to let our guard down.
One of my favourite definitions for hygge that I’d found is ‘cosiness of the soul’.
I’ve got an upcoming blog post discussing my hygge essentials, but to give you an idea, my version of hygge is waking up early on a dark winter morning, enjoying a freshly brewed cup of coffee under a duvet and blanket, and getting lost in a good book.
Whilst I believe everyone has their own way of practicing hygge - whether consciously or subconsciously - the word itself was coined in Denmark way back in the mid-1700s.
So why is it so prominent in Denmark, yet lacking in so many corners of the rest of the world? According to multiple anthropologists, it’s likely a reflection of the fact that the country’s welfare state enforces equality across the lives of its people as much as it possibly can, whether it’s opportunities for education and employment or access to healthcare.
Meik breaks it down into four aspects, which collectively highlight its contributing factors - self-actualisation, self-esteem, love and belonging and food, water, sleep and security.
As you’d imagine, the benefits of this practice are countless, in particular when it comes to mental health - something I’ve learned to seriously prioritise. In many ways, hygge is the epitome, somewhat, of slow living; as Meik puts it:
Hygge gives us the language, the objective and the methods for planning and preserving happiness - and for getting a little bit of it every day.
Hygge is about making the most of what we have in abundance - the everyday.
hygge at Christmas
I wanted to focus on hygge at this time of year in particular because, let’s face it - as magical as this time of year can be, it is often equally pressure-inducing. Whether it’s money-related, emotionally difficult or otherwise, please take solace in the knowledge that hygge is a flexible, accessible and pleasurable way that might just give you the boost (however big or small) that you need.
What would you define as hygge? How do you create it?