Sunday afternoon. Outside it rains, it’s cold and I just took a warm shower and put on my pajamas. There are candles lights, music playing softly, and I’m making a chocolate cake. It is one of those perfect moments for which I have always lacked the ideal word. Until I found out about hygge.
Hygge, no matter how difficult it is to pronounce it (is said HOO-ga) has been in the mouth of the world and it’s a promise to help us be happier or it wouldn’t come from Denmark, the happiest country in the world, according to the Report on The Happiness of the United Nations. It’s all Meik Wiking fault, the chairman of the Happiness Research Institute (who would not want to work there?) and his “The Little Book of Hygge” that quickly became a worldwide phenomenon. Mine was offered to me by a friend and it left me wondering how good it is to have people in our lives who know us so well.
After all, what is hygge? Some of the many possible translations are “comfort,” “the art of creating intimacy,” or “taking pleasure in simple things,” but they all leave much to be explained, perhaps because hygge speaks essentially of a certain atmosphere or sensation that we have in certain moments and contexts and with some experiences. Drinking hot chocolate wrapped in a blanket is hygge. Christmas is hygge. A small, warm cafe with low lights and a cozy atmosphere is hygge. Preparing dinner with friends is hygge. Wool socks are hygge. A barbecue at dusk is hygge. Fireplace conversations are hygge. Hygge is all that is good, simple, unpretentious, comfortable and safe. It is feeling at home, even if we are ‘outside’ and it is based on ten essential concepts: Environment, Presence, Pleasure, Equality, Gratitude, Harmony, Comfort, Truce, Conviviality and Refuge.
In the words of Meik Wiking, “Hygge is humble and rhythmic. It is to choose the rustic rather than the new, the simple rather than the exquisite, the ambience rather than the excitement. In many ways, hygge may be the Danish cousin of simple and slow life. It is seeing the Lord of the Rings trilogy in your pajamas the day before Christmas; it is sitting on the window sipping your favorite tea; it is contemplating the fire at the summer solstice, surrounded by friends and family while the bread goes is roasting. “
Given the climate in Denmark, it is not difficult to understand why home is the central axis of hygge. Although it can be practiced anywhere, it is at home that we feel more hygge and although there isn’t exactly one recipe to create an environment, a moment or a hygge life, there are some base elements that are almost always present and that can help, such as blankets and cushions, beautiful objects with comfortable textures (nothing in inox!), tasty food, books, fireplaces, candles and elements of nature. And those we love. Of course, being alone can also be very hygge. Spending a rainy Sunday laying on the sofa watching our favorite movie is perfect but for the vast majority of people the most hygge moments are spent in the company of others.
In short, hygge is about savoring life. On celebrating the little things that warm us up inside (and outside, if we are in front of the fireplace!). And live in the moment, the here and the now. It is practicing a happy and meaningful life in which what truly matters is valued and the rest is not taken too seriously. It It is about being simple, grateful and dusty. Hygge is about coming home after a winter walk and putting on some wool socks, and as for me, it may well be the secret of happiness.
This post was originally written in Portuguese. Click here to read the Portuguese version.