You are sitting on your desk with your laptop screen glaring back at you. Your textbooks lay open, filled with scribbles and doodles. Your sticky notes slowly lose their grip and slide off the pinboard. Your legs are constantly shaking in motion. You are incessantly fidgeting, and you are physically present. However, mentally you are in your world. After trying multiple times to focus on the task at hand, you fail as your mind wanders in all different directions. Have you ever been told, “you are always distracted”? Have you ever felt overworked, desperately wanting to slow down and take a step back?
“Hygge” is a Danish word meaning an internal quality of coziness and comfort. You might find this foreign term intimidating at first. However, the Danes’ Hygge lifestyle is one we all can inculcate in our daily lives. Originated in Denmark to survive the harsh winters, the term essentially means instilling a certain consciousness and slowness to recognize and enjoy the present, here and now. It is the feeling of being ‘at home’ or exceptional quality of ‘coziness’ to embody contentment feelings and lift one’s mood. It is the “art of creating intimacy” through security, familiarity, simple-ness, and reassurance.
According to the World Happiness Record, Denmark and Scandinavian countries have been ranked as the top happiest countries, as they attribute their positive state to Hygge. The Danes believe in focusing on the more minor and good things in life, proving a direct correlation with Hygge and mental health well-being. Hygge is about being kinder to oneself. One of the most significant mental health benefits from this lifestyle is mindfulness which implies clarity of thinking, reduced stress, and negative thoughts. Psychologists study the benefits of Hygge, particularly for trauma survivors. The relaxation strategies are crucial to calm the fight-or-flight response. Research proves its effectiveness in reducing stress and anxiety since social support increases levels of oxytocin in individuals. Another such mental health benefit of Hygge is in combating seasonal depression. This makes an individual mentally experience natural sunlight, fresh air, and comfort in their living space. The increased feelings of optimism also cause a domino effect, allowing the individual to put their guard down, be more present, reduce stress, and increase self-worth.
Hygge is a lifestyle. It does not promote perfection and does not have a ‘how-to’ or ‘right and wrong’ guide. The beauty of Hygge is the focus on simple things - it isn’t hard to achieve. It does not follow strict rules. It does not require an unreasonably large investment of time or money. Here are a couple of ways you can incorporate Hygge into your daily life:
Prioritize quality time with family and friends. In her book ‘Hygge: The Danish Art of Happiness,’ Marie Tourell lists “togetherness” as the critical aspect of Hygge. Set aside a couple of hours per day to spend time with those you love and radiate positive energy.
Create a cozy corner. Also known as a ‘Hyggekrog,’ create a corner in your living space with comfortable rugs, blankets, candles, and indoor plants. This cozy nook serves as your safe space, creating a warm Hygge atmosphere with a stimulating sensory experience – involving comforting smells and tactile textures.
Take a break from social media. Although Hygge can be practised by watching your favourite movie or TV show, reducing your screen time will also allow one to be more present at the moment. Taking a break from social media and screens helps increase activity and presence of mind.
Look up, Hygge on Instagram. You will find over 1.7 million posts trending fuzzy socks and hot chocolate as millennials worldwide adopt the #hygge lifestyle. In today’s interconnected world, social media plays a massive role in promoting positive mental health. “Sidewalks in Denmark are filled with smiling, Hyggeliege people. They lift their hats to look at each other with an expression indicating good wishes.” In our fast-paced lives, when one has no time to look at another while crossing the street, wouldn’t it be an ideal world to stop and acknowledge another by wishing them well? Shortlisted as the Oxford Dictionary’s ‘word of the year,’ here is something we can learn from the Danes – Hygge – the coziness of the soul.
Adopt the Hygge lifestyle and embark on this journey creating a safe space away from daily struggles. The feeling resembling a warm cup of coffee on a winter morning, good conversations with positive people, and a tight hug without physical touch.