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  • Alisa Stamps

Embracing the Hygge

It’s a hygge sort-of day here in the chilly Northeast. Don’t know what hygge is or means? That’s okay, we’ll get to the definition and origin in a moment. Back to the weather. It’s cold, windy, and grey. This morning we had rain and ice that left a beautiful glistening frost all over the trees and bushes. On Wednesday of this week it was 67 and sunny. In February. A spring teaser if you will. But it seems that old groundhog was right, and here we are on Friday, with the six more weeks of winter weather as promised.

I firmly believe that January through April are the hardest months for folx. Barren trees, relentless overcast skies, and early dark, endless nights can make the fog of depression seem even thicker. Add to that two plus years of a pandemic and isolation and staying inside, while we watch the world and long for easier, earlier times.

Enter hygge (pronounced “hoo-gah”), a word that originates from Norway and means “well-being”. According to, The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living, hygge has been called everything from, “the art of creating intimacy, the coziness of the soul, taking pleasure from the presence of soothing things, and cocoa by the candlelight”.

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 world and allow ourselves to let our guard down. You may be having an endless conversation about the small or big things in life—or just be comfortable in each other’s silent company—or simply just be by yourself enjoying a cup of tea. (Pg. vi)

The Danish are definitely on to something, considering that Denmark is consistently ranked as one of the happiest places in the world to live, despite that their weather is often rainy, cold and grey. They have embraced the art of coziness and have internalized the idea that even in the darkest of times, there can be light and love. The word “simplicity” comes to mind as I am reflecting on the polarity between darkness and light. What does this mean, “to simplify”? Will simplicity offer us more balance, more contentment? The obvious answer is yes, but how do we do this? Perhaps the five dimensions of hygge can help…

While hygge can be an intangible and abstract concept, I do believe that we can use all our senses to detect it. Hygge has a taste, a sound, a smell and a texture—and, hopefully, you will start to see hygge all around. (Pg. 196)

1)Taste: items need to be familiar, sweet, and comforting (ex.: adding honey to your tea or icing to your cake).

2)Sound: the absence of sound so that one can hear things like the crackling of burning wood or the clicking of someone’s knitting needles. “Any sound of a safe environment will be the soundtrack of hygge”.

3)Smell: smells that remind us of being cared for, evoke a feeling of safety and take us back to a less-complicated time (ex.: the smell of our grandmother’s cooking or the scent of flowers from our childhood garden).

4)Feel: anything old or hand-crafted that you can run your fingers across (ex: enveloping a warm, ceramic mug or a rustic, imperfect surface).

5)Sight: watching slow movements in a dim light (ex: falling snowflakes from a window or the flames of an open fire). (Pages 197-201)

Hygge is about grounding in the present. It’s about settling into the Here and Now and using it like a blanket or a pair of woolen socks. Perhaps we could light candles, rather than put on overhead lights, or turn off all background noise in order hear the silence. We could grab a book, rather than reaching for our screens. It’s about embracing the simple idea that all that matters is what is in this moment. It is about using the darkness while the earth sleeps to rest and be renewed, so that we can awaken again. In this complicated, complex world, a little hygge could go a long way.

The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living by Meik Wiking.

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