Hygge – How to Add a Little More to Your Life

Hygge – the word can be as confusing for non-Danes to pronounce as the concept is to understand. Let’s get the pronunciation out of way first. Probably the closest an English speaker can get to hygge is ‘who-ge’ – with the ‘ge’ as in ‘teach-er’…but without the ‘r’! Taking it a step further we also have the word hyggeligt meaning ‘hygge-like’ (roughly pronounced ‘who-glid’); for example, “that open fire is very hyggeligt.” Now we’ve nailed the pronunciation, why am I writing about it? David and I recently returned from a trip to Denmark and discovered that Danes are the happiest people in Europe, according to the European Social Survey, and much of it is down to the concept of hygge. So, I carried out some research of my own and now bring you the Nutritious Lolly quick guide to hygge and how you add a little more of it to your life.

What Exactly is Hygge?

Pronouncing hygge is easy – defining the concept is a bit more difficult. The Oxford dictionary describes it as ‘cosiness.’ While that’s true, it is more about a feeling of contentedness from being around family, friends and the simple pleasures in life. Here are some examples of hygge to give you some inspiration.

Candles

When asked what they associate with hygge most, 85% of Danes will say candles. In fact, Danes burn more candles per head of population than any other country. However, they are also taking notice of recent research by the Danish Building Research Institute which states that candles throw more particles into the air than either cigarettes or cooking. To counteract this, you can air your room after burning candles and choose candles which are made from high-quality natural wax with no artificial scents.

Lighting

Lighting by John Cullen Lighting

Like candles, Danes are obsessed with lighting which perhaps comes from the lack of natural light between October and March. This doesn’t mean that indoor lighting should be bright – in fact, the lower the temperature the better. Renowned Danish lighting designers such as Poul Henningsen created pendent lamps which diffused the light into a softer glow. Original PH lights can go for up to £20,000 at auction, but you can buy similar styles from many lighting stores. The trick with lighting is not to focus on one big light in the centre of the room, but instead make little caves of light in alcoves and on side tables. Warm and cosy, not cold and bright.

Watch The World Go By

Just sitting watching the world go by is very hyggeligt. the simple act of switching off for a while to focus on other people going about their business is calming and can recharge your batteries. The same can be said for sitting at a table at a pavement café (in the warmer weather of course) people-watching, with a coffee and a good friend to share the experience with. You don’t need to converse, just be comfortable in the silence between you.

Be in the Moment

Smartphones have become an integral part of our lives, but there are times when you just need to switch them off and be in the moment…with people in the same room, not miles away across a network. A simple, home-cooked meal shared with family and friends around your dining table followed by an old-fashioned board game is very hyggeligt indeed…without the phones.

Food

This brings us nicely on to food. Remember that my 6-Week Whole-Body Plan is designed to introduce small habits to help you change your life rather than by calorie counting or any other food restrictions. You may also be familiar by now with the 80/20 rule. Keep your treats for 20% of the time and this is where hygge can really come into its own. To quote Meik Wiking, author of The Little Book Of Hygge “cake is hyggeligt. Coffee or hot chocolate is hyggeligt. Carrot sticks not so much. Something sinful should be part of the hygge ritual. But it should not be extravagant. Foie Gras is not hyggeligt. But a hearty stew is.” Enjoy your treats in your special hygge moments and for a really heart-warming stew, see my recipe for lamb tagine – the perfect hyggeligt dish.

Sourdough bread is also very Hyggeligt and nothing beats the comforting smell of bread baking in the oven. Also, the result doesn’t have to be perfect – in fact, the more ‘rustic’ looking your home-baked loaf is the better.

De-Clutter = De-Stress

Nothing de-stresses quite like a good spring clear out. Yes, we may still have snow on the ground at the time of writing this, but spring is just around the corner. Getting rid of all the stuff gathering dust in your attic can really clear your mind. If some of your bits and bobs are too good to throw in the bin, donate them to a charity or community recycling scheme. Alternatively, if you feel you would rather get something in exchange for them have a ‘swap party’ which is very hyggeligt. Invite your friends round for snacks and drinks and ask them to bring their unwanted items which you can all swap. One person’s unwanted food processor is another person’s bread-maker.

The Great Outdoors

When it comes to hygge style activities, taking the family camping in Scotland (before the main midge months!) can be a simple, yet magical bonding experience. Relaxing in a warm and cosy sleeping bag, with a hot mug of tea and the sound of the rain tapping on your tent is totally hyggeligt, as is cooking on an open fire. If you do decide to give camping a go, especially in late spring, remember to pack extra warm and cosy socks to wear in your sleeping bag!

More Hugs Please

Photo by Morgan and Rose photography

Finally, hygge sounds very like hug and this may be more than a coincidence. Hugging, or touching, releases the neurohormone oxytocin which makes us feel happy and reduces stress and fear. So, hug your loved ones more, whether it’s family, friends or the family pet and bring more hygge into your life.