If you live on planet Earth you probably have heard about the trend of Hygge. But have you ever wondered what Hygge means for your well-being? Explore Hygge for Wellness with me.
Summer is slowly coming to a close as we are less than one week away from the middle of August, and the weather is getting colder. There have been more rains and winds, and more grey overcast skies. I can’t sleep with the open windows anymore and knit cardigans and sweatshirts feel surprisingly comfortable now – more comfortable than the short sleeves and flowy dresses. But maybe it’s just me.
I love autumn. I was born in autumn. No wonder it’s my favourite season, though there were times when I thought of autumn as the worst. What was there to love about? Rain? Wind? Mud? Or going back to school? None of those appealed, and the pessimistic view of them obscured the beauty of the warm autumnal days: the bleak sun of the Indian Summer, the dazzling gold and fiery reds of the trees against the clear blue skies. I didn’t see them. I simply waited for the autumn to pass its majestic staff to the festive winter season and then to the romantic spring (no less muddy than autumn in Siberia) and finally to summer.
I can’t tell you when this all had changed – probably after I had my first baby in autumn, or maybe way before that, when I met my husband in late October 2006. Somewhere along the lines my attitude had changed and autumn was no longer the season I fretted. I can get tired of spring or summer, but not of autumn.
With September fast approaching and August being considered the first month of autumn in Ireland, I start longing for more knitwear, pumpkin spice lattes and scented candles all the while listening to the rain or the wind howl outside and watching the dull grey sky get dimmer as it settles into early twilight. I also imagine the time when I can finally throw the logs into the stove and make a fire. This is the ultimate Hygge.
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What is Hygge?
I remember first writing about Hygge last October during the storm Ophelia ravaging throughout the country. It started with this:
“It’s windy outside and my sitting room is getting colder by the minute. The leaves are flying, as well as trash cans and kids’ toys that weren’t brought inside. The gusts of wind sound scary. Rain drops bang on the windows violently. In the latest news they say that 1 person has been killed already by a fallen tree and 210,000 people are left without electricity. We still have it, but how long will it last? Matches and candles are at the ready just in case. And it’s only the beginning… The storm is expected to be the worst Ireland has seen ever since 1961. It’s called ex-hurricane Ophelia and it has a potential to make this day a history. But I hope it won’t.”
Luckily for us, the storm wasn’t as bad as we had expected, but I guess it depended on the location. It was a perfectly hyggelig day for me though, which I spent curled up on the sofa with a blanket and a steaming mug of Masala Chai, writing that piece for my old blog on my old laptop. The logs were crackling in the fireplace radiating a gentle heat, and the presence of my family made the room even warmer and cosier.
I will not go into details about what Hygge is – you can read my old blog post How To Hygge This Fall to find out in-depth what makes hygge. For best and most pleasurable experience, I highly recommend you read Meik Wiking’s The Little Book of Hygge – my ultimate source of cosy inspiration.
Hygge cannot be directly translated, but it has to be felt.
Hygge comes from Denmark, the happiest country in the world, according to many researches. I could go on explaining what Hygge means, but honestly, Meik Wiking, the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, does it best in his Little Book of Hygge. To not repeat my old post on Hygge, which I initially intended to do, I will just add a few meanings given to Hygge in the modern dictionaries because they really do sum it up.
A quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being (regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture).
Collins English Dictionary:
A practice of creating cosy and congenial environments that promote emotional well-being.
A Danish word for a quality of cosiness (= feeling warm, comfortable and safe) that comes from doing simple things such as lighting candles, baking or spending time at home with family.
So as you can see, hygge has a lot to do not only with cosiness but also with the state of well-being. Hygge is a state of mind, I like to think. And all the rest is just there to add to it.
Candles, warm lights, fire, knitwear, socks and blankets, hot tea, red wine and hearty foods…
All of there rhyme perfectly with hygge (at least in the heart). Add autumn to it and you’ve brewed yourself a perfect concoction.
Hygge For Wellness
So Hygge is the way of life that emphasizes cosiness and togetherness. It is that feeling of internal comfort that you get when surrounded by your favourite people, with whom you can be completely yourself, without the fear of being judged. It is the feeling that you get when you come home after a long and tiring day and plunge into your favourite arm-chair thrown with cushions. It is the feeling when you sit down by the fire with a mug of hot cocoa, wrapped in a fluffy blanket, after spending a day out in the cold. You can even feel hyggeligt outside, when the air is cool and crisp but you are wrapped up in layers of knitwear, topped with a chunky scarf, warm hat and mittens and the weather cannot bother you.
Five years ago, one really cold and rainy April my husband and I went to Westport with our 17 months old daughter for our 5th anniversary. On the second day of our stay my dear Husband sent me to relax at the spa, which I will never ever forget. I’ve been to a few spas after but nothing could beat that Spa in Westport for one simple reason: they had a thermal pool outside. Just a pool, somewhat like jacuzzi, with the water heated to 37C. Much to the contrast, the temperature outside was just about 13C, and the cold mist kept drip-dropping all the while. Normally I’d hate to be outside in such conditions, even if I was wearing my jacket and a hat (which I don’t have). But that day, no matter how strange it seemed to step out in a cold roof garden wearing only my swim togs, once I immersed into that warm and bubbly water, all the discomfort was immediately gone. It was so relaxing and satisfying to know that the weather couldn’t bother me, that I was warm, comfortable, safe and sheltered from the cold and the mist. This was the perfect hygge experience, I know now, looking back.
Hygge positively affects your emotional, physical and social well-being.
It is so simple, really, yet so powerful. You can’t deny it.
As intelligent creatures, a lot of our internal comfort (or the lack of it) depends on the input that the brain is receiving through our senses of smell, touch and taste as well as the sounds and vision. Researchers say that when we look at beautiful things we feel happy – this is a kind of aestetic pleasure, just like the music or art give us. We are all different, of course, and require the mix of sound, visual, touch, smell and taste inputs in different proportions, but the practice of Hygge got us covered.
The general advice for creating hygge is to add nice décor, warm lights and candles, soft and fluffy textures and smells of good food and hot drinks, but there are no rules of how much of those you must have. Yes, they say the more the better, but it’s ultimately up to you. You create the atmosphere that works for you.
Health Benefits of Hygge
Since Hygge creates an atmosphere that promotes the feeling of comfort and safety, allows you to relax and wind down, enjoying the warmth and cosiness, it directly affects your stress levels and mood. It also gently nudges you to stay present and be more mindful and open. The benefits for your emotional well-being will include:
- Lower stress levels
- Less anxiety and depression
- Greater sense of mindfulness and being present
- Improved mood
- Improved self-compassion
- Increased feeling of gratitude
Hygge truly is an act of self-love and self-care, something that we all should regularly practice to achieve the best state of well-being.
Because Hygge encourages togetherness at the same time, it opens a way for more activities to be enjoyed together. It is not uncommon in Denmark for friends and families to get together for dinners, without any reason. They make baking or soup-tasting parties, where each participant will make a small dish or soup and everyone will get a taste of each dish.
Spending time with friends and family connects us and creates a sense of belonging. A lot of studies show that the sense of belonging can improve health and even prolong life. People who have close friends or family tend to be healthier. It also positively affects emotional and psychological well-being. Read WebMD’s 10 Surprising Benefits of Love for further information.
Finally, because hyggelig atmosphere has a good potential of lowering your stress levels, this further induces potential physical health benefits related to stress levels. These include:
- Improved heart health
- Improved sleep
- Improved weight management
- Less dependence on alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, etc.
All of these beneficial outcomes will, of course, depend on other factors as well, but when our stress levels are constantly high and there’s a lot of cortisol circulating in the blood, we feel on edge and look for ways to cope. Too often, unhealthy food choices, alcohol or drugs will become the way of coping ultimately disrupting your health.
Bring more Hygge into your life!
It is not that hard to do, I promise.
The key is to go with what feels good to you. You have to prioritise your comfort. Think of those days when you stay in your PJs till noon and feel perfectly comfortable. This is it. Choose your clothes wisely, choose your space and decorate it accordingly. Grab some book, a cup of tea or cofee and a scone, dim the lights and light some candles and enjoy! You deserve some hygge.
And don’t forget to grab your copy of The Little Book of Hygge for more hyggelig ideas!