What is hygge?
Pronounced 'hoo-gah', the word originates from a Norwegian word meaning wellbeing. It first appeared in the Danish language in the early 1800s and is now part of everyday language in Denmark.
Hygge is difficult to describe – it is easier to experience. Hygge is about comfort, intimacy, togetherness, hot chocolate and candlelight. It is being cosy inside while a storm is battering against the window.
“Hygge is about an atmosphere and an experience, rather than about things. It is about being with the people we love. A feeling of home. A feeling that we are safe, that we are shielded from the world and allow ourselves to let our guard down.”
Meik Wiking, The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living
Why hygge helps in autumn and winter
In our culture we use a variety of methods to override the natural rhythms of our planet. We use electric light to extend our days and that can have a huge impact on our body rhythms and sleep patterns. We use alarm clocks and coffee to force our bodies awake when our natural tendency would be to allow the daylight to waken us gently.
As the dark nights and cold weather arrive, perhaps we naturally need to find ways to nurture and comfort ourselves rather than push against our natural rhythm.
The principles of 'hygge' help us to settle our parasympathetic nervous system. This is one of three divisions of the autonomic nervous system, often referred to as the 'rest and digest system'. It's the place most often asssociated with personal growth, of feeling comfortable in your own skin.
Hygge encourages us to embrace the slow flow of the Autmun and Winter. It promotes building an atmosphere of safety and comfort, where we can practise self care so that our minds and bodies can feel more relaxed. When we feel safe and calm our body often reflects this. Positive benefits can include better sleep, lower stress levels and a stronger feeling of connection.
Making your own Hygge Kit
Over the years I have put together my very own 'hygge kit' that I pull out to support myself during the dark months. This box contains what I need to give me a hygge experience – it’s even better when shared with friends and family!
My Hygge Kit includes:
- A large fleece blanket to wrap myself in
- A pair of Merino wool socks to keep my feet lovely and cosy
- An old comfy baggy jumper
- A notebook – I am a compulsive writer
- A pack of Lovely writing Paper – getting letters from a friend is so heart-warming!
- A photo album of my favourite memories – people and places
- A pile of good books – I always return to childhood favourites – The Velveteen Rabbit, A Little Princess, The Secret Garden and Winnie the Pooh. Plus a few newer ones, The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse and When I loved Myself Enough
- A selection of DVDs including: Harry Potter and all of the Planet Earth Series
Each year I also add:
- A selection of my favourite teas which keeps me warm and nurture
- A lovely candle to add atmosphere and reduce my exposure to electric light – it helps me sleep
- A selection of delicious snacks that feel really indulgent
Making your own Hygge Kit doesn't need to take long, it basically builds upon everything that makes you feel great! What would you put in yours?
If you want to know more about hygge I recommend ordering ‘The Little Book of Hygge – The Danish way to live well’ by Meik Wiking from your local bookstore.