A Quick Guide to Hygge: The Art of Coziness
By Lindsey Toth, MS, RD
Danes know a few things all of us know deep down—that it’s important to be kind to yourself, and enjoying relaxed moments in a cozy atmosphere is good for the soul. They’ve made these notions a central part of their culture. It’s known as hygge, and we think they’re onto something.
According to the United Nations World Happiness Report, Denmark is one of the happiest countries in the world, and they didn’t get that way by accident.1 Danish people continuously cultivate wellbeing, and they’ve started a healthy global trend.
Want some hygge in your life? Here’s a quick guide to getting started.
Hygge Meaning: What is Hygge?
Hygge encompasses the Danish art of living well. Directly translated, the meaning of hygge (pronounced hoo-gah) is “coziness,” but that’s oversimplified. ToveMaren Stakkestad, a Danish and English translator, says the word is meant to be felt, not translated, and that it’s nearly impossible to translate hygge into any other language.2 Sometimes people refer the state of being hygge as hyggeligt, which means hygge-like.
Hygge can be tricky to define because it’s personal, and more than anything it’s a feeling and state of mind. People have defined hygge as the “art of being cozy,” “the art of creating intimacy,” “coziness of the soul,” and “taking pleasure from the presence of soothing things.”3 Those are just a few of the many definitions associated with hygge, but you’re probably sensing a common theme.
Hygge evokes a special feeling that you can’t really put your finger on. It’s the feeling you might get while sitting by a fireplace on a snowy night with lights dimmed and hot cocoa in hand, or getting together with close friends for a comforting meal. Lounging around and reading on a rainy day is also hygge. Candles are definitely hygge, and even a tea set can be hygge. If it evokes a feeling of comfort and wellbeing, it can be a part of your personal recipe for hygge.
The Art of Hygge
Cultivating hygge is both an art and a way of life. It’s a combination of atmosphere and attitude. Yes, you’ll want to dim the lights, light some candles, relax, and bring out the tea and cookies, but it’s about more than that. It’s also about being present, having gratitude, encouraging harmony and togetherness and creating a safe, comfortable space both physically and emotionally.
How to Hygge
You can hygge alone, but it’s usually better together. Why? Because of comradery and a feel-good hormone called oxytocin that reduces feelings of stress and fear and plays a role in social bonding.4 Just like the comfort you get from a hug, the hygge feeling of comfort and warmth may help your body release oxytocin and strengthen bonds between friends and loved ones.
Being around people you feel connected with is relaxing and uplifting too, so it’s a win for you all. Healthy social relationships are essential to happiness and wellbeing.
But don’t let going solo cramp your hygge style. You can find your hygge anywhere. It can be as simple as sitting in a cozy coffee shop with good lighting and soothing music or taking a relaxing bubble bath by candlelight. You can also turn your home into a hygge-haven.
How to Have a Hygge Home
There are a few things you might want in your life to help get your hygge on at home, and we’ve summarized them below. But first, know that a hygge house isn’t something you should try to achieve in a weekend, and don’t feel like you need to buy a lot of new things to have a hygge home. In fact, that wouldn’t be very hygge at all.
Enjoying simple pleasures, slowing down, and choosing experiences over possessions is hygge. Creating a cozy environment is part of it, but the décor in your home only serves as encouragement and inspiration for the hygge mindset, and you can create comforting spaces just by doing a little rearranging.
So, bring the hygge mindset to the process and take your time. Make small changes to areas of your home and work with what you already have. Slowly remove what you don’t need and only add things that are truly meaningful and contribute to your cozy vibe.
Find a Cozy Nook
Designate a nook in your home as your very own comfort zone. In Denmark, this is known as a hyggekrog, and it usually consists of a small space that’s primed for relaxation and wellbeing. Whether it’s just decking out your favorite lounge chair with more comforts, like a cozy blanket and throw pillows, and adding a small shelf or side table with a few books and candles, or transforming an entire corner of a room, you can create a hygge-inspired nook on any budget.
Plan Your Lighting
One of the most important steps to a hygge home is good lighting. Create ambiance with strategically placed lamps and subtle lighting around the room instead of using bright ceiling lights. Add plenty of candles, but opt for soy or beeswax candles instead of paraffin, which is a byproduct of petroleum.5
Natural lighting is great too, and you’ll get a major hygge boost if your nook is near a window. Harness the natural light available in your home by choosing minimal window dressings that let light inside when you want it, but provide just enough shade when it’s too bright out.
Use Essential Oils
Aromatherapy essential oils can help create ambiance, and they offer many potential benefits. The concept of aromatherapy fits so well with hygge. Use natural scents to relax, inspire, uplift and comfort by adding essential oils to a diffuser. Or make a room spray by adding 10-15 drops to a spray bottle with distilled water.
Which essential oils are hygge? Try ylang-ylang, lavender, or chamomile, or experiment with blends like sweet orange and cinnamon. Read Essential Oils and Aromatherapy: Beginner's Guide to Using Essential Oils for more ideas.
Explore Natural Textures
Increase your home’s cozy-factor by mixing natural textures and colors. Bring some nature indoors with reclaimed wood, woven textiles and other contrasting textures that are soothing to look at and to touch. There really is no wrong way to bring hygge into your home. The goal is to create inviting, cozy spaces with attention to details, but how you accomplish that will depend on your style. Just remember that less is often more. You can keep it simple and still create hygge spaces.
Curate Your Favorite Books
Is there anything more hygge than tucking yourself away in a cozy corner with a good book, or browsing a bookshelf with neat rows of your favorite reads? Curating a mini library is a good way to cultivate your home’s hygge. When you’ve finished reading the books, you can switch some out with a local book exchange or donate them to make room for a fresh batch.
Add Character with Décor
Don’t overdo it with décor, but adding a few key pieces can make a big difference in the coziness of your space. Try adding a vase of flowers to a corner table, or use a decorative teapot that you can keep out for display. Opt for charming mugs that you can’t wait to use every morning, and choose artwork that subtly pulls the space together. The goal is to add character to your space with simple, decorative, pleasing items that evoke a sense of comfort and wellbeing.
Enjoy Vintage Charm
Speaking of décor with character, vintage and second-hand items are a great way to bring hygge to your home without spending a fortune on new goods. Shop local thrift stores and estate sales to get great deals on one-of-a-kind furniture and decorative items. It can take some time to find second-hand pieces that feel just right, but when you do find them, the hygge-factor is magnified by the history of your find.
Bring on the Blankets and Pillows
Blankets, throws and pillows are the ultimate hygge accessories for your bed, sofa, lounge chairs, patio furniture—you name it! There are so many spaces in your home that can be cozied up just by adding a pillow or a blanket. They bring a look of comfort and invite you to take a nap, settle in with a book, catch your favorite show, or just sit with a cup of herbal tea and relax your mind. Choose blankets and pillows made with natural fabrics, and mix and match textures, sizes and weights to create a cozy look.
Hygge Food and Drinks
Food and drinks also play a big role in hygge, but it’s about more than just eating. Hygge foods are slow foods or comfort foods. Think traditional recipes and cooking from scratch using wholesome, real food ingredients and aromatic herbs or spices that fill your home with fragrance.
Pastries, pancakes, chocolate chip cookies and bread made from scratch are all hygge foods too. Spending an afternoon baking and cooking are excellent hygge activities. And, as you might expect, almost any warm drink is hygge, including herbal teas, coffee, golden milk with turmeric, and traditional Scandinavian glögg, but so are fresh-pressed juices, apple cider and wine.
Hygge activities are easy to spot. They are often the simplest things that make you happy like playing with children or pets, playing board games with friends, watching a movie outdoors, knitting, having friends over for dinner, reading a magazine, riding your bike, listening to music—the list goes on! Look for simple activities that bring you joy every day.
Autumn and winter are prime time for hygge, since the cooler weather invites candles, fireplaces and cozy sweaters. But there are plenty of hygge opportunities in warm weather too. Grab some friends and have a cookout or a healthy picnic, play lawn games, and enjoy the warmth and comforts of nature. You could start a garden or grow fresh herbs indoors, or try making homemade ice cream. You can keep the hygge mindset all year long!
At the core of hygge is a healthy mindset of relaxation and memorable, stress-free experiences. Your health also plays a role in that, and you can help encourage stress-free wellbeing with nutrients that nourish your body and mind, and sleep supplements to help you rest and relax.
One of our favorite, stress-relieving, hygge-health nutrients is magnesium. This soothing mineral helps relieve stress and anxiousness and supports overall well-being. Try it in Mellow Mag, our new magnesium powder drink, and learn more about the stress-busting benefits of magnesium in the post Magnesium for Mood, Anxiousness and Stress.
You Deserve Hygge
In the words of Meik Wiking, Danish author and CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, “Hygge is about giving your responsible, stressed-out achiever adult a break. Relax. Just for a little while. It is about experiencing happiness in simple pleasures and knowing that everything is going to be okay.”
Hygge is something most of us could use more of in our lives. So, cultivate wellness and take the downtime you deserve. For more ideas on healthy rest and relaxation, read Say Om: 6 Tips to Help You Relax and Reduce Stress and Find Your Everyday Calm with Magnesium.
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About Lindsey Toth, MS, RD
Registered Dietitian, Swanson Health
Lindsey is a nationally recognized registered dietitian and nutritionist with a soft spot for pie. She empowers people to take charge of their health by finding the balance between the pleasure and nourishment in food.
Her philosophy is that you should take care of your body because it’s the only permanent home you have. It’s what inspired her to pursue a career in nutrition and, ultimately, led her to Swanson Health.
1 World Happiness Report. United Nations. http://worldhappiness.report/ed/2018/ (Accessed 04/23/2018)
2 Translating Hygge, a Danish Word Never Meant to be Translated. Smartling. https://www.smartling.com/blog/translating-hygge-danish-word-meant-translated/ (Accessed 04/23/2018)
3 The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living. by Meik Wiking. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01GONJFZ2/ (Accessed 04/24/2018)
4 The role of oxytocin in social bonding, stress regulation and mental health: An update on the moderating effects of context and interindividual differences. ScienceDirect. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0306453013002369 (Accessed 04/24/2018)
5 Paraffin wax. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/science/paraffin-wax (Accessed 04/24/2018)
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.