Hygge — spoken as a breathy “heu-geh” — is a funny, wonderful little word coming, quite literally, from The Happiest People on Earth. Denmark’s happiness quotient has scientifically been quantified as the highest in the world for years. Hygge has been deeply rooted in the Danish way of life for generations, and when a single concept is integral to an entire culture’s great happiness, the world takes notice! So it’s likely that you’ve heard at least some mention of hygge in the last few years.
And when we come across something so full of goodness, we want to make sure you know all about it too! So we’ve done a fair bit of digging into the subject, and even traveled to the hygge homeland, which inspired our entire Fall+Winter ’19 collection, just so we could share our own guide here with you.
Now, of course, there are entire books dedicated to explaining the depths of hygge, and it can be as complicated as you’d like, but in our experience the essence of hygge itself is just - simple. In fact, it could easily be described with two little words: “simple pleasures”. Or you might prefer something like: contentment, happiness, peace, love (of self, surroundings, present company), intimacy/closeness/shared care, pleasant well-being, a happy safety or peaceful assurance.
While there are plenty of tools and tangible goods to create hygge scenes (we’ll help you out with that here too!), more than anything, hygge really centers on a feeling. If we had to label the feeling of hygge, “heartwarming” might be the word that feels best. Hygge is whatever truly warms your heart!
For the dear reader who likes to delve a little deeper, here is our thoughtful guide to some of the common elements of heartwarming, hygge living:
To start with the simplest element, food is an obvious place to infuse your life with hygge! The simple, necessary act of dining can be hygge-filled in so many ways. Perhaps the most obvious can be the mere act of coming together to dine with company. Shared foods get bonus points for the added sense of community they bring. Have loved ones over to share a pot of warm stew, or simply pass a large bowl of popcorn around at family movie night.
How a meal is made counts too. The time taken to prepare a meal seems to infuse a dish with more love the longer it takes. The slower the cooking, the more hyggelig (“hygge-like”) the meal. It’s easy to see why a thing like homemade bread, usually an all-day affair, is so innately heartwarming. Because the art of hygge is all about the care taken in everyday moments, even the thoughtfully chosen mug or bowl can add an extra bit of hygge to a simple treat.
And the Danes would want you to know that to experience the joy of hygge in eating, there is no room for guilt or bad vibes. Along with their wholesome, nourishing dishes, they famously love a good pastry and slice of cake any time of day! So let yourself savor that special piece of chocolate here and there - and why not go ahead and use your prettiest little plate while you do!
When talking about matters of the heart and ‘spirit’ of hygge, some of the best news is that there’s no room for guilt, pressure, fuss, or frills. Whew! What a relief, right? It’s all about what’s pleasantly real, authentic, and simple. Hygge is decidedly not haughty or pretentious, and is never about impressing anyone; but rather creating feelings of home, because home is where you’re safe, not judged, and free to be you. You’ve really got it right when there’s a calming sense of ease, where everyone is made to feel comfortable, welcome, valued, and cherished.
Remember that even when alone, there is also such value in cherishing yourself. In those solo moments, especially embrace things that make you feel good inside and out (or purely the inside stuff, without concern for the ‘outer’ things at all)!
The best way to take pleasure in the simple joys is to do so in a place of comfort. When the setting is right, you can feel light enough to fully allow yourself the joys of any given moment, and the ability to notice beauty in even the everyday rituals. Simple, lovely, daily rituals are an easy way to create traditions and a sense of reassurance and safety for you, and especially the little ones you share your home with.
When it comes to creating this comfort at home, make more open space for simple beauty, by working to get rid of the excess, meaningless clutter. When we leave all that behind, all that’s left is a lot more space for peace and freedom - to play, think, create, and love!
When you open up lots of new space, remember to have fun creating a new, uplifting ambience too. A powerful way to do that is to brighten up those corners naturally! Being outside in the natural world is a great way to wrap yourself in hygge, because being outside is innately calming and rejuvenating. So, when you can’t be out in nature’s beauty, bring it inside! When you surround yourself with tactile, natural materials (leather, wood, stone, fiber arts), made by an actual person, or nature, instead of a machine, the things around you are then literally made-by-life, in one form or another.
On an interesting related note, the art of hygge historically evolved as a necessary answer to the long, Scandinavian winters full of darkness—something that can all-too-easily bring us down (hello, Seasonal Affective Disorder). But those resourceful Danes found life-giving, heartwarming ways to thrive instead!
So, to get philosophical for a moment, hygge in its essence may itself truly be all about life, and the beautiful ways people overcome the natural ‘death' in dark, lifeless winters (and all the negative feelings that can go along with it) — which brings us to our next, all-important element.
Warmth is another life-giving element that can create hygge in so many different, wonderful ways! From the obvious welcome heat of a fire and delicious warm drinks, to the color temperatures and visual warmth of a sunset, salt lamps, and candlelight. Thankfully there seem to be endless ways to bring the comfort of warmth to our lives and homes. Of course, some of those classic hygge necessities are fluffy blankets and pillows, fuzzy socks, and cozy scarves. But, whenever possible, we think the most important way to enjoy the warmth of hygge is snuggled up with another warm soul that you love! And one simply cannot top baby snuggles as the pinnacle of hygge perfection.
As I was finishing up this post, my own sweet baby woke, calling out for me. I rushed to swoop her up in comfort, to warm her with my arms, letting her know she is not alone, and I nursed her back to sleep. I lingered there awhile, holding her and cuddling her sweet, floppy little body close, then softly kissed her tiny back before going back to my writing. Deeply aware of how purely good this all feels with her right now, I realized there's truly nothing more hygge than quietly enjoying alone time with your sweetly sleepy baby.
My, how we parents are lucky to have the pleasure and honor of sharing the purest kind of love with these precious souls. We caregivers are truly blessed because, just like that, we can find ourselves in the most hygge of moments, on a daily basis, by the mere presence of these little loves in our lives.
In the end, for all the things hygge can be, one can't help but think that parents and caregivers have it made. For us here, this is what it all stems from - creating, and savoring moments of life with those we love and the children we hold dear; enjoying real connection anywhere we find ourselves. Thanks to the joys of babywearing, when it comes to experiencing our own, real hygge moments, we can literally take that feeling with us anywhere and instantly be in a whole world of hygge. Just you and your baby, beautifully wrapped in cozy comfort, wherever life takes the two of you together.