And no, that wasn’t a rude question! But what exactly is hygge and how does one participate?
The word hygge has been showing up on social media and blogs a lot lately. It’s a funny looking word to those of us unfamiliar with it, but it describes a concept that is common in the Nordic countries. A Danish/Norwegian word, hygge (pronounce “hoo-ga”) roughly translates as “a feeling of coziness” and includes connecting with friends and family in meaningful ways, finding pleasure in simple things and embracing the outdoors. Maybe because countries like Finland and Norway and Sweden endure long, cold winters and brief summers, the people living there have learned to find the beautiful in everything.
How to Hygge : the Nordic Secrets to a Happy Life by Signe Johansen is a lovely book that will inspire you to pare down, embrace nature and paint all of your furniture white. OK, maybe not the last one so much (although I’m tempted…), but the calm, harmonious atmosphere presented here is the stuff of dreams. So can Americans, with our loud, boisterous ways, find a way to hygge? It might not be for everyone, but How to Hygge will give you a reasonable chance to succeed.
A big chunk of the book is taken up with recipes and although I’m not much of a cook, most of them seem straightforward and simple with a strong emphasis on seafood and fish (to be expected from a part of the world so closely associated with the sea) Meals are healthy and emphasize fresh ingredients, but there are no calorie counts or grams of fat written out – the idea is to enjoy thoughtfully prepared, delicious food, especially with friends and there is no guilt in enjoying treats. There’s also a nice selection of drinks and cocktails and a section of muffins and cakes for “fika” – break time during the work day similar to English tea time or German “kaffe and kuchen” (a tradition I think we need to get started here in America – who’s with me?) There are also chapters on being physically active, preferably outdoors no matter what the weather (“there is no bad weather, only poor clothing choices”) and home design that is clean and simple and calm.
Surround yourself with beauty, with ease, with simplicity, with nature and with good food shared between family and friends. And candles. Lots and lots of candles. Sounds like a pretty good formula for a life well lived, doesn’t it?
If the idea of paring down and simplifying your life appeals to you (and it’s been a hot topic the past couple of years), you might want to take a look at some of these titles:
The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo and her follow-up title Spark Joy. These books have had their share of controversy caused by the extreme example of tidiness that is presented. Believers swear by how effective the program is; skeptics just want to take a nap on the couch.
The Curated Closet: a Simple System for Discovering your Personal Style and Building your Dream Wardrobe by Anuschka Rees. Inspired by the movement to build a capsule wardrobe (where you have a set number of clothes – usually 30-35 – to wear for the season), this book helps you save money and reduce stress (time for an extra cup of coffee in the morning when you don’t have to try on three outfits each morning. Or is that just me?!)
The Joy of Less: a Minimalist Guide to Declutter, Organize and Simplify by Francine Jay. The title says it all and you’ve probably heard it all before, but this book presents it beautifully with a clean, simple layout and lots of encouragement.
And if you really want to get into minimalism or are simply fascinated by the extremes that other people will go to – similar to watching the Ironman on tv (again, is that just me?!), I suggest watching YouTube videos by Light by Coco (who is Danish btw) and Jenny Mustard (who is Swedish). They both seem like really cool people and it’s always interesting to see what color eye shadow Jenny will wear next.
Go now people, and simplify. Skol!