A Danish practice, called “hygge” has become a trend all over the world that is proving that staying in is the new going out. No longer are millennial women rushing out to bars on Saturday night, instead hibernating has taken 80’s and 90’s babies in a rush of candlelit kitchens, pinterest worthy bedrooms, and face-mask selfies. Gone are the days of Laguna Beach inspired nights out Real Housewive brunches with cocktails and double-shot mimosas. Instead, staying in is the cool thing to do; staying is a symbol of self-love and wellness.
Hygge (pronounced hue-gah) is a Danish word that is a feeling or mood that comes taking genuine pleasure in making ordinary, everyday moments more meaningful, beautiful or special. But hygge, as is true for most emotions, cannot be defined, so much as it can be felt. That’s why hygge does not have one specific definition; some sources call it the “act of creating intimacy”, while others call it “the absence of annoyance”. While the practice of hygge is not new, it’s trendiness is; as awareness of depression and anxiety has spread, there has been an increase in the amount of research geared towards happiness. What’s the link that between hygge and happiness? That’s exactly the question that the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute of Copenhagen set out to answer when he wrote the book, “The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living”.
As I set out to make my life in New York the happiest that it could be, I decided to become what can only be described as “a student of hygge”. I’d hide out in the sunny corner of Barnes in Noble with the three books they had on hygge and read them while listening to Bon Iver (if I was going to take on this hygge thing, I had to do it right). The goal was to learn enough about hygge to be able to implement it into my life and my new home.. I moved from a four-bedroom apartment (where I lived in the basement) into a two-bedroom apartment with windows (!), two balconies, and hardwood floors, with a close friend of mine. And while I was (and am) excited about our new space, I knew simply moving wouldn’t make New York feel like home. To make a city with opportunities galore feel like MINE, it was going to take more than learning the subway lines, which coffee shops don’t charge for soy milk, and which book shops carry the most queer authors. It was going to take a conscious effort. It was going to take hygge.
After a month of studying hygge, I am by no means a master, but I have incorporated some of my learnings into my everyday practices. Here, I bring you the tips and tricks to your life hygge every day.
1. Move Your Body. Don’t think that hygge translates to being stuck indoors… remember, to be active is to be alive and hygge is all about living an attuned life. Plus, that warm firepit or throw blanket will feel even more dreamy after a day outdoors or an hour of sweating. Pia Edberg, author of The Cozy Life: Rediscover the Joy of Simple Things Through the Danish Concept of Hygge, says that when you’re exercising with a hygge mindset, you are making sure that you are doing a workout that brings you joy. For me this is weightlifting, for others it could be yoga or pilates. A hygge-inspired workout should never be too sweaty or competitive, and calorie-counting will never be part of the equation. For me, a late-night session with the dumbbells gives me the opportunity to get my heartrate up, but at a pace that brings me joy.
2. Take a Group Fitness Class. At least twice a week I take CrossFit, which is a group fitness class. According to Wiking, “Hygge fosters a special way of being together with your loved ones […] Today, when happiness researchers analyze the common denominators among those who consider themselves happy, a pattern emerges without exception that these people have meaningful and positive social relationships”. Getting strong is great. Getting stronger with others is even better. Twice a week I make sure I’m working to achieve both my fitness and hygge goals at the same time.
3. Eat with others. The first six months I was in the city it was unlikely that more than 3 of my 21 weekly meals were eaten with company. While with an unusual work schedule it is still hard to eat many of my meals with others, I have actively been working on eating my meals with my new roommate or eating dinner at the desk while conversing with co-workers and gym-members. Why? Engaging in healthy relationships and being involved in a community of people has been shown to help us live longer, healthy lives. A great way to cultivate relationships is by coming together for gatherings focused on wellness and in-season foods.
4. Create Serene Space At Home. I wanted my home to be a haven that reflects and inspires me (not a storage locker). So in my bedroom, I organized my books by color, cleared my desk of any clutter, and outfitted my desk-top with a nice, glowy lamp and two fancy candles from Anthropologie that encourage me to write in their yellow warmth long after the sun has set. Plus, my room constantly smells like Maine woods or vanilla. Swoon. By creating a haven of creativity within my tiny New York room I am warding chaos out, and inviting creativity and coziness in.
5. Take a Rest Day. “Hygge is about giving yourself a treat,” says Wiking. “So on your rest day, give yourself a break and put on your hyggebukser (hygge pants) and enjoy some tea and a book. Or indulge in a glass of wine or hyggesnak (cozy chat) with a friend.” While I don’t like wine, I do love a toast with Kombucha over a homemade meal. Not only do our muscles need time to rest and recover to keep us performing at our peak, hygge emphasizes the social and mental benefits to taking a rest day: relaxing.
Whether it’s making coffee a verb by creating a ritual of making it then lingering over a cup to a cosy evening in with friends to the simple act of lighting a candle with every meal. Hygge is being aware of a good moment whether it’s simple or special. By tuning into moments of magic, New York has been filled with hygge: cosiness, charm, happiness, contentedness, security, familiarity, comfort, intimacy, reassurance, kinship, and simpleness.