Cozy. Homey. Comforting. These are some of the English words used to describe the Danish term, hygge (pronounced hoo-ga). Hygge, according to Meik Wiking (CEO of the Happiness Research Institute of Copenhagen – yes, there is such a place! – and author of The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living), “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.”
This all may sound a little bit complicated, but I promise, it’s not. As Ingrid Opstad, founder of That Scandinavian Feeling, told me, “For us Scandinavians, hygge is an essential part of our everyday and deeply rooted in our lifestyle. Hygge is not about having it all, it is about enjoying what you have. It is all about enjoying the simple things in life, something I believe is one of the keys to happiness.”
If you want to give Hygge a try, here are a few ways to get started:
- Expressing gratitude: I keep a daily gratitude journal and we talk about things we are grateful for at dinner. Some days, this might seem challenging, but a journal or conversation can really help you keep perspective on the things that matter.
- Baking: Comfort foods such as cookies, cake and chocolate are actually considered hygge (yay!). At our house, we’ve been making treats from different countries to help us through the disappointment of our canceled dream trip such as the French madeleine recipe from my daughter’s American Girl Baking book or the cinnamon buns from Raddish Kids’ Swedish-themed cooking box.
- Reading without any background noise: Since we are in homeschooling mode, everyone has afternoon quiet time. And now that the weather is improving, I’ll take a book or a stack of magazines outside while I watch the girls play.
- Movie nights: My hubby is a huge movie buff and has subscriptions to Netflix and Disney+. If Disney+ releases a new movie, we make that the feature for our once-a-week movie night; if not, we’ve been enjoying classics such as, Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music, and Swiss Family Robinson.
- Board games, cards and puzzles: We’ve always loved games and puzzles, and our favorites include Pass the Pigs, War (with cards) and the Hatchimal Hatchtopia Game.
- Fires: We have wood-burning fireplace but are also lucky because we’re allowed to have bonfires at our house. There’s something so relaxing about listening to a crackling fire. If you don’t have a fireplace or can’t have bonfires at your place, here are some fireplace videos you can play directly from YouTube.
- Soft blankets: All around the main living areas of our house, I keep soft, snuggly blankets in various weights and use them often. I am very comforted by being covered in a cozy blanket and can find a use for one, even in the summer.
- Warm drinks: Other than morning coffee for my hubby, this one usually just applies to me because I’m always cold. I’m a huge and hot chocolate-lover and I absolutely love the rituals that come with having tea. I love going for high tea and when my mom and I visited Ireland, I had tea four or five times a day.
- Candles: We light unscented candles once the sun goes down, when the kids are in bed (I’m paranoid one of them will knock a candle over, so we wait). In Wiking’s “Hygge Manifesto,” the first thing he notes is that atmosphere is important to creating a hygge environment. Think: candles and soft lighting.
- Cozy chair to curl up in: I moved an oversized, cozy chair out of my office to face out a back window so I could read and curl up in it, reaping the benefits of natural light. And, if you have the capability of making a window seat: do it!
- Self-care: I’ve held a few spa days for my girls where we dimmed the lights, lit some candles and put a spa playlist on Spotify. I soaked their hands and feet in warm water before painting their nails. We’ve also made homemade bath bombs and soap so we can enjoy nice, long baths on our own, and my girls love leading us in their “yoga” classes, which mostly consist of us stretching.
- Getting outside: We are fortunate to live in the country on a couple of acres, so backyard walks and driveway chalk art don’t run us the risk of violating social distancing recommendations. The fresh air helps clear the mind and obviously, moving gets your blood circulating. Even just short, five-minute walk can decrease stress and increase creativity and productivity; just be sure to practice appropriate physical distancing!
- Keeping the bad news to a minimum: This one can be difficult and again, we are so lucky that neither one of us are essential workers who are at the frontlines of the coronavirus battle (THANK YOU to those who are!). The kids somewhat understand what’s going on, but I found myself getting only a few hours of sleep each night when this whole thing started because I’d digest every news article about it.
- Watching funny shows during date night: Laughter is wonderful for the soul and my husband and I find that, at the end of every long day, we need a good laugh. Our favorites are Schitt’s Creek and Parks and Recreation. Side note: the cast of Schitt’s Creek is currently holding an online fundraiser for both Feeding America and Food Banks Canada.
- Trying to be more present: This is a very hygge principle and, to be honest, one that we feel we fail at. It has also become increasingly difficult with everyone in the same house 24/7; but we’re beginning to trade off time with the kids so that when we are with them, they get our attention. I’ve also turned off my company’s Slack notifications in the evenings and on weekends; if it’s urgent, someone will call me.
- De-cluttering and cleaning the house: Keeping the house clean is also getting more difficult, but it helps we did a major declutter weekend in mid-March where we donated over 15 garbage bags of clothes and household items. I try to keep with the “one-thing-in-one-thing-out” rule, so we are frequent donators.
- Video chats: Seriously, what would we do without FaceTime or Zoom during quarantine? We are on some sort of video chat at least once a day so we can keep in touch with family and friends.
- Planning our next travel adventures:Learn about world geography and watch reruns of Rick Steves’ Europe during lunchtime to help come up with a family travel vision board for future reference. I’m also staying sane by connecting with a group of women travelers from around the world through my Wanderful membership. Wanderful team members host frequent activities such as language circles, blogging tips, wellness and fitness classes (I’m taking a Highland dance lesson from a fellow member in Scotland next week!) and it is great learning from and connecting with women who share the same passion for travel that I do. You can learn more info about Wanderful here.
- Order a Hygge Boxes: If you’re at a loss for how to get started (or, you want to level-up your hygge), I highly recommend trying at least one Hygge Box . I mean, what’s better than having everything directly delivered to your door, especially when we can’t go out right now?
- Take up a new hobby: Ingrid told me, “Shifting your focus in these troublesome days is really important, and it is, therefore, the perfect excuse to take up a new hobby or do something you otherwise could not find the time to do. We decided to start building a tiny house – but it can be any activity you can enjoy alone or together with your kids whether it is a puzzle, painting, knitting or any other fun activity which brings you calm and hygge.”
About Amanda Holdsworth
Dr. Amanda Holdsworth, APR is the director of PR and brand strategy for the Best and Brightest Companies to Work For in the Nation winner Reink Media Group and its brands. A former assistant professor, she has worked in PR for 20 years and also writes for The Comms Mom where she shares career resources, family travel tips and hacks for moms working in communications-related roles. Originally from Windsor, Amanda and her husband enjoy visiting the area’s Metroparks, eating out in the city’s fabulous restaurants and traveling with their two girls, ages 8 and 5.