As you can tell by my title I in my ignorance pronounced hygge as “higgy” because that is what you do when you don’t have a firm or loose grasp on the Danish language. The Danes, who originated the concept, actually pronounce it, “hoo-guh.” The term, with no direct English translation, refers to feeling cozy in a manner that creates contentment. Think of words that may bring the Danish spirit of hygge alive in your heart: relaxation, comfort, hug, console and you will be that much closer to the idea of “hoo-ugh!”
Denmark consistently ranks number one as the happiest country on Earth. Only this year was it kicked off its towering pedestal by its northern neighbor, Norway. I guess Denmark will have to settle with being number two in the world. Regardless of Denmark’s demotion, it must be doing something right. We think we have it all tied up in America but we rank a lowly 14 just one spot in front of Austria. With a track record like Denmark, I am not going to second-guess my instincts to look their way for inspiration to live as my happiest self. In doing so I may inspire my children and husband to do the same. If I am lucky enough maybe even one of you.
Hygge is everything America is not but everything we hope to be. It is the quiet. It is the unscheduled. It is the cozy and content. It is the simple pleasures. In our consumption-driven society, we can be hard-pressed to find time for living slowly and purposefully. Hygge is the antidote to the madness of our lives. As a mother to three small children, I know my soul screams for quiet corners throughout my day. I want this not only for myself but for my children. My husband? He is on his own.
Just kidding. I want us all to be able to live without distraction; live intently, live quietly. If you all knew my family, you would know that last little concept-living quietly-is nearly impossible. And I may just be referring to myself more than anyone else.
I am I mean we are a loud bunch but I am trying to find ways to bring it down a notch. Hygge appeals to my so-called inner nun. I don’t really have an inner nun but if I did she would be wearing handmade knitted socks while praying with her rosary and sipping her hot chocolate by the fireplace contemplating her life and space and sins in real time.
As I approach 40 (holy $%#@, I can’t believe I am almost 40), I find myself evaluating every little aspect of my life and when I do, what calls out to me the most is the idea of living simply. I have a strong urge to live the second half of my life, God-willing, with more intention, more focus, more joy in the present. I know all too well that life is fleeting and I want to try to keep that thought close at hand when I find I am rushing my children through their day; rushing myself through my day; rushing my husband through his day. My husband likes to refer to me as his little German and anytime I shout a command he is quick to lighten the mood with his directive, “Schnell!” “Schnell!” “Schnell!” (German for quick, fast!)
While I do not originate from Germany, some of my ancestors did and somehow their stereotypical desire for order, cleanliness and schedules carried on with me. My husband finds humor in my need to orchestrate life while he seems to thrive in taking his time and letting the unknown unfold. He could talk for hours about one topic over dinner and I am internally driven to cross off the next task on my list. I wasn’t always this way but as I began to have children, my inner German began to win out over my inner nun. But like I said there wasn’t much nun in me to begin with. That is until I found the concept of hygge – say it with me – “HOO-GUH!” Fun, isn’t it?
I need to add more hygge to my life. Maybe you should give it a whirl too! Let’s do it together. We can hygge by doing the following:
- Wear those cozy handmade or factory made socks and curl up by the fire. Too hot for a fire? Curl up on the couch. Near a window. Like a cat. And bathe in the sun. Remember what it is like to be alive and just breathe with nothing to do except just that…breathing and bathing in the sun. Sound good to all you cat lovers? Want some more?
Ooohh…this looks very sugary but very hygge.
- Play a board game with your kiddos. Don’t set a timer. Just play until they don’t want to play anymore. Try to find a game that won’t make you feel bored out of your gourd. A personal favorite in our family is Uno. I am one of the least competitive people I know but when it comes to Uno my kids better watch out. I am taking them down.
- Grab your kids and let them cook a meal with you. Now I can be prone to bossiness and I have learned this goes against the hygge rules. If you want to really be hygge allow your kids to actually cook. This will take time, lots of time- just warning you! But the kids really love it. The simple pleasure of cooking together brings happiness as long as no agenda other than creating and eating takes place.
Does making your kids clean up the mess count as hygge?
- Turn off the phones, turn down the lights and read a long story or make up a story to tell your children. They will delight in every minute of it and you will appreciate their quiet attention.
I couldn’t read this particular story since I have no idea what language it is written in but the picture looks inviting. No? I suggest finding a children’s story written in your native tongue.
I think you are well-equipped to now enter the world of hygge. Be careful, you might not want to exit. Don’t thank me. Thank the Danes.