I know, I know Hygge is Danish, not Swedish!
The Swedes have a word for Hygge too: mysigt, and the Norwegians refer to koselig.
Anyway, Hygge is, from what I can gather, all about a cozy, contented feeling of happiness through grasping the everyday moments in life and enjoying them. The Danes are particularly good at this and have topped the tables of the happiest country in the world for 40 years now.
At a recent travel trade show I got chatting to a lady from Denmark and she was great at explaining what hygge is. She must know, afterall she works at the most hygge-tastic place- Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen. After our discussion I wrote about our discussion on Hygge- capturing the essence at Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen.
…then I started thinking about how you, me, anyone can add Hygge into our daily lives, wherever we live: based on lessons learnt in the past few months of living in Sweden I came to a 5 step plan to bring Hygge/ Mysigt/ Koselig into your life.
Now is the best time to start, as apparently Christmas is the most hygge of seasons (but if you are reading this after Christmas, now is still the best time to start)
1. Go overboard with candles & fairylights…tastefully
Hey, bet you got caught up my afterthought of tastefully. Well as soon I’d written go overboard I had these images from a house down the road which goes way overboard on fairylights and Christmas lights. It’s a fabulous spectacle for the kids, but gosh I wouldn’t want to live next to them with all the flashing lights!
On the other hand, don’t just light one candle, light a few:
Hygge is all about cosiness at home and there are few things that are more cosy than a roaring fire. Our draw to fire and flames is a primal instinct. However, with a busy lives setting a fire daily, and keeping your fireplace clean might just be too much, not to mention those without working fireplaces.
I do miss our fireplace in Oxford.
Candles arranged around the room and mood lighting used instead of the glare of a central ceiling light can recreate some of that cosiness too.
We have absolutely lovely neighbours and I love looking out of our living room window into their kitchen or dining room first thing in the morning. Not because I’m a peeping Tom or that nosey neighbour twitching the curtains, (which we don’t have…curtains I mean). No! I love seeing the effort they make even in the mornings: They light some candles on these dark and dreary mornings to enjoy their breakfast and coffee by. The candles give a wonderful glow to their home.
On the days that we manage to (remember to) have a candlelit breakfast in our household the days definitely start off better and calmer.
2, Declutter a little and add cosy
Scandinavian homes are renowned for furniture with clean lines and uncluttered spaces. This creates a calm environment too. Moving with just a van we have tried to keep clutter at bay, though, in a small 2 bed apartment with three kids- who are as big hoarders as I am-, it is difficult.
We clear the clutter every couple of weeks and we feel a weight lift from our shoulders each time.
A clear-out is coming in the next few days in preparation for adding in a bit of Christmas “clutter”.
To me a stark, minimalist home doesn’t shout cozy though. Add a couple of tactile pieces, like a sheep skin rug, a down-filled cushion and a super soft blanket and you have ultimate cosy!
When I was home last week, my best friend remarked that it was in fact the first time she heard me refer to the flat-filled-to-the-brink as home. I reflected and realised it’s probably thanks to a couple of favourite pieces we’ve added: a (rather child-unfriendly) white, long pile rug in the living room that is gorgeous to step on, a meditating frog from Sri Lanka (that just makes me smile each time I look at it) and my orchids being so happy on the windowsill that they are all in bloom (despite almost loosing each of them due to frostbite in the move over last winter).
3. Dig out grandma’s recipes
Ellen from Tivoli Gardens spoke to me in length about how hygge is intertwined with certain foods. To capture hygge through cooking all we need to do is look at our traditional foods for this time of year; Pop down to your local market and discover seasonal produce. Wipe off the dust gathering on your slow cooker, if you have one in the corner, and get on with making some hearty stews. Try your hand at a quick and easy Irish soda bread to send some of that gorgeous freshly baked bread scent wafting through your home. Personally, I love that freshly baked bread smell and bake bread or pizza just as often just for the scent as for the enjoyment.
The supermarkets are filled with minced pies, but you can easy make your own too; again you get the bonus of that sweet baking scent.
Alternatively, rope in the kids to make gingerbread figures. These keep extremely well and make the most fun edible Christmas tree decorations and great presents for friends and family too.
Our tree always has edible treats on each year. It comes from an old Hungarian tradition of using special Christmas sweets, ones that look like mini crackers, to decorate the tree. On our first Christmases of living together with Dadonthebrink, being far from family we hadn’t amassed many Christmas decorations, so I made lots of gingerbread, wrapped sweets, threaded peanuts and walnuts.
As the years passed we’ve acquired lots of baubles and other decorations, but gingerbread and Christmas sweets always make it onto the tree. Miraculously by the time it comes to taking down the tree in January they are all gone!
4. Go outdoors to shake the cobwebs
Hygge is as much about getting outside, whatever the weather, as it is making your home a warm sanctuary this time of year. I can’t imagine not going out daily for a brisk walk or cycle, even if it’s just on the school run or to the corner shop to pick up some bread and milk.
Numerous studies have shown the health benefits, especially for mental health, of getting out into the fresh air and natural light daily. I sometimes imagine it’s like running on solar-powered batteries.
It’s always a good time to wrap up warm and take a brisk walk in the park or woods nearby. Ignore the annoyance of the rain, just lift your face to the sky and think how life-giving that rain can be!
5. Spend time with friends and family
Besides my obsession with getting out once a day, as a family we make an effort to go outdoors at least once a week: whether it’s for a walk in the park or the woods near or finding some happening as an excuse. Often we will also invite friends and family to join us. Having made that commitment means we can’t just get lulled by the cosy cushions and the sofa for a marathon TV session (though that has it’s place too!)
It’s lovely to spend some time together, catching up while we walk, kids play and often finishing with some sort of picnic or meal together.
I love it when a walk blends into dinner at one of our houses!
Can you and do you incorporate any of these into your daily routine?
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