• Rebecca Robinson


The Danes say that hygge is a word that we can feel, but not define. Pronounced 'hue-gah', it has no direct translation in English. Yet its meaning is unmistakeable. Wherever you are from, you are sure to know it when you feel it. Cosiness, contentment, comfort. These words describe the joyful sense of wellbeing that hygge celebrates. When we are enjoying life's simple pleasures, we are experiencing hygge.

This Danish concept and way of life received a lot of attention in 2017, and for good reason. In our hectic, 24/7 lives, it is good to slow down and embrace the small things that warm our body, heart and soul. Hygge is about being mindful, and mindfulness boosts our mood and makes us happier.

The Danes are amongst the happiest people on earth. They even have a Happiness Research Institute - a place dedicated to the study of happiness. Its aim is to fill the world with more smiles, improving wellbeing and quality of life for everyone.

We could all take a lesson from the Danes, but hygge is not something that we need to learn. It is not a complicated art that we need tuition for. All we need to do is give ourselves permission to nurture ourselves and to enjoy some TLC. Hygge teaches us to open our hearts to feeling good, and to notice the things in our lives we have to be thankful for.

If we listen to our body and what it needs, we can take better care of ourselves. And when snow is falling outside and the air has a nip in it, our thoughts turn to warmth. We seek to look after ourselves with things that bring our hearts gladness. The seasons complement each other. The frosty iciness of winter contrasts with summer’s heat. Yet the season’s coldness gives us time to retreat and renew, to be grateful for the warmth of the sun. And so hygge encourages us to cocoon ourselves in as many layers of knitwear as possible. We bundle ourselves up in scarves, jumpers, bobble hats, mittens and thick socks. This is key to keeping toasty, making us feel safe from the elements. Hygge is a tactile thing. The comfort we feel on the outside translates to the comfort that we feel within. A walk outdoors, taking in the fresh air and ever-changing scenery is cosy and good for us when we wrap up in woolens.

Coming home to sit in front of a roaring fire with candles flickering and a good book warms the toes and the heart. Fire is central to hygge, being both primal and evocative. It forges a link with our ancestors and our past. Families have gathered around an open fire for millenia - cooking, eating, story-telling. Our family and friends and the sense of community they bring to our lives are bound up with the spirit of hygge. The joy of sharing a hot cooked meal together bonds us in friendship and laughter. Hearty stews, fruit crumbles and steaming pots of tea tempt us, sustaining our bodies in cold winter months. The support and simple joy of kinship provides sustenance of its own kind. Love brings its own warmth.

In lighting a fire or a candle, we remind ourselves that we can create our own light and warmth even if it's dark outside. The sunshine and hazy summer months will return. But it is during moments of cosiness and comfort that we can enjoy feeling cosseted and cared for. And we send ourselves the valuable and precious message that we are worth looking after.

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