Hygge – Or One of Those Days.

“If you don’t like the world the way it is, change it — one step at a time. Be prepared for how long change might take and how hard it will sometimes be. Always remember the quote you wrote in your diary after hearing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speak: ‘If you can’t fly, run; if you can’t run, walk; if you can’t walk, crawl; but by all means keep moving.’ ” — Marian Wright Edelman

“One of those days,” I heard myself say a couple of times today or actually throughout the week. Everything is slightly off since Sunday. This morning I dropped my iPhone and the glass broke. I was stuck in the snow with the stroller and crying Petit Joel just before I dropped my purse in a deep enough puddle of muddy snow/water to soak the entire content of it. I arrived at the university library slightly exhausted and the barista at the coffee shop smiled and asked if I want “the regular”. It is the little things, as I always mention. 

I took my super warm jacket off, looked outside and took a sip of my coffee. I am tired of this freezing cold and the snow by now. Canadian winters are pretty long and it is my first one, so I am still adjusting. I am so ready for spring however. Even though, being curled up inside with a cup of tea, wine, chocolate and cookies is great, it seems this winter never ends. So while I looked outside, the Danish word “hygge” came to my mind. A Danish friend of mine mentioned this word yeas ago and it somehow stuck with me because we have a similar one in German. The Oxford Dictionary tries to translates “hygge” into English as: 

hygge: Pronunciation /ˈhʊɡə//ˈh(j)uːɡə/  [Danes even use the word “hyggelig” rather than hygge. You leave someones house and say: “This was very hyggelig”]

NOUN [mass noun] A quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being (regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture):
‘why not follow the Danish example and bring more hygge into your daily life?’
[as modifier] ‘count on candlelight —almost a requirement for that special hygge experience’

In German, the word which describe “hygge” best is probably “Gemütlichkeit”. Since I love languages and linguistics, I dove a little deeper into all this. [Also: procrastination at its best again]

The German “Gemütlichkeit” means to me mostly togetherness, as cozy as possible and cuddled up with my family or friends by the fire, talking, reading, watching something and enjoying food and drinks together. This is basically what we do all winter. These little rituals get me through this long, cold winter. I admire the photographer Nana Hagel who is based in Copenhagen. She said once that “People all over the world have ‘hygge’ in their lives, they just don’t necessarily have a word for it.”

So chances are pretty high that you are living a “hygge-life” if the first thing you do when you come home is to change into comfy sweatpants and mostly spend your evenings wrapped up in a cozy blanket on the couch and prefer reading or watching a movie instead of going to a bar or club. 

For Danes or Germans alike, hygge or Gemütlichkeit is however much more than just lighting a bunch of candles and sipping that cup of tea. Hagel added that “hygge can happen when there are soft blankets and candles involved, but it has more to do with your mindset, relaxing and feeling comfortable with the people you’re with, or alone”. 

A while ago, I read the book “The Little Book of Hygge” by Meik Wiking, who is actually the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen. (I want to be the CEO of that Institute! What a cool title indeed!) 

I briefly want to highlight the main pillars of Wiking’s work because I like his concept so much. And maybe you do or will, too. 

Light/Atmosphere. According to Wiking, 28% of Danes light candles every single day. I for example love IKEA candles. If I have nothing to buy at this Swedish-Happy-Place and simply browse through, I always end up with candles for some reason. Or tend to forget Petit Joel at Småland; kidding! Waking added that bringing nature to your apartment is salient for creating a hygge lifestyle. Flowers, plants, candles, you get the idea. 

Thoughtfulness. Leave politics alone already, take small breaks from life, take a bath, read a good book, focus and be present by living in the moment. Wiking highlights that it is important to stay off the phone once in a while, especially when we are at home, with friends and family. Initially, I felt bad about my broken phone, but after a couple of hours without it working properly, it feels like such a relief; almost like I broke an addiction. 

Home/Comfort/Togetherness. Home is shelter. Home is harmony, warmth, peace and quiet. For a hygge-lifestyle, one should rather once in a while plan a nice dinner for friends at home than going out to a restaurant for example. Have game-nights in. Start little routines. Pizza/Movie-Friday-nights. Avoid the crowds, avoid the noise, it is cheaper and more comfortable at home. Well, comfort is pretty clear, right? Sweatpants, hoodies, wool socks. 

Inner Harmony, Pleasure, Minimalism. Here Wiking added that the whole idea of hygge is “we over me”. Rather listen than speak. Let people finish what they have to say. Don’t interrupt. Really listen. Hygge is not only reserved for home but, as I mentioned, starts more within ourselves. It is all about good food and drinks and the idea of “let’s sin together”. Indulge in this chocolate cake if you feel like it. And as always, the best things in life are free. 

Signing off and curling up on the couch with my book now. Stay hyggelig.

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