With exams piling up and lockdowns looming, it’s been a nerve-wracking time of year. Last holiday season, we were shopping, attending parties, and enjoying the Christmas cheer all around. But in 2020, all this is largely a chimney-pipe dream. While many people are pessimistic about the holidays this year, spending Christmas away from their loved ones, we can salvage the situation with a little “hygge.”
Hygge—pronounced “hoog-a”—isn’t exactly a product or material object. Instead, it’s more of a warm, fuzzy feeling we get from curling up in our favourite blanket, with a cup of hot apple cider, and our favourite scented candle. Hygge is the Nordic word for well-being, coziness, togetherness, and all the other feel-good metaphors you can think of, that homely comfort brings. In Scandinavia, particularly Denmark, hygge emerged as a defence mechanism against extreme sunlight deprivation during long winters, where locals are bathed in darkness for 16 hours each day.
Embracing hygge and being conscious of our comfort brings many physical and mental benefits necessary to lighten moods this Christmas. Danish researchers have empirically concluded that hygge increases our sense of self-worth, minimizes the strains of depression and anxiety, heightens our mindfulness, and induces feelings of genuine gratitude, self-compassion, and appreciation. It’s no surprise that Denmark consistently ranks in the top two countries for happiest people in the world. As we feel better mentally through hygge, we become motivated to take meticulous care of our body as well.
The psychology behind hygge shows that we respond best to rich experiences of sight, touch, sound, smell, and taste. Creating a comfortable space for ourselves—full of objects, sensations, and activities that make us cozy—is essential to find some lightness in the bleak winter months.
In the Little Book of Hygge, famed Danish author and CEO of the Happiness Research Institute Meik Wiking outlines many accessible ways for everyone to enjoy hygge during the holidays.
Wiking suggests having a hyggekrog, which entails creating a little relaxing corner or nook in our home. This nook can feature our favourite chair, candle, book, or anything else that’s simple and familiar.
Wiking also recommends using søndagshygge in your hyggekrog, which refers to the relaxing atmosphere created by “lively or dimly lit” lights. We can incorporate some candles and fairy lights to enhance our home’s coziness, thereby elevating its beauty and enticing our senses for a happier lockdown. To help paint the picture, my ideal hyggekrog is right beside the family room window, by the cat hammock on a comfortable grey chair draped in my fuzzy blanket, while my mahogany teakwood candle burns right next to me.
Hygge teaches us to appreciate the simpler things in life. It’s found in our home’s charming rustic elements rather than an expensive Christmas gift. So, embrace the simplicity of organizing your closet and try to add more organic plant-based or wooden accents to make your home more welcoming. I find myself anxious yet overjoyed at Christmas time, and this styling might be the highlight of an otherwise long and gloomy year.
Let’s stay in the present moment, look at the brighter side, and cherish all the simple things in our spaces. I recommend putting away our smartphones, pressing pause on all those emails and messages, and feel the hygge spark in our homes. Now more than ever, we need a little hygge in our lives.