Happiness and Hygge

“Life can pass us by so quickly, and before we know it, it’s gone. All those small moments in between the big moments are just as important and precious. Feelings of connection, presence, simplicity, and joy are what enriches our lives at a deeper level.” – Pia Edberg

Have you heard about hygge? I just discovered this concept recently, but found it intriguing and have been reading up on it. Hygge is a Danish word, pronounced HOO-gah that roughly translates as “cozy”. Hygge can include eating cake, sitting by a fire with a cozy blanket, reading, and drinking hot chocolate. Candles should be lit.

When I first heard about hygge, I felt excited. Ah, what a concept after all I’ve learned about getting out of my comfort zone! I figured if the Danes say hygge is good, it’s worth investigating. Denmark has been listed as the happiest nation in the world according to the World Happiness Report. (The U.S. ranked 13th.) If the happiest people in the world think comfort is good, who am I to argue?

To an extent, hygge is how I strive to lead my life. I enjoy travel and getting out, but I’m also a homebody—I love to wear fleece, drink tea, and read mysteries. I especially enjoy watching mystery shows with my husband and sitting by a fire with a glass of wine. Learning about hygge affirms that my fleece-loving lifestyle is a good one.

But I could do better at hygge. In one of my favorite blogs, Life on the Cutoff, Penny writes, “I read Roots to the Earth this afternoon, in the company of a few tasty gingerbread men and a steamy cup of coffee. Attendees to the Naperville Garden Club’s annual Christmas house walk, tea, and market, A Cup of Cheer, receive a cup and saucer to take home.” A picture shows coffee in her lovely new china cup with cookies on the saucer. I go to that same Christmas house walk every year, but my pretty souvenir cups sit in my china cabinet. Penny’s post reminded me to use those pretty cups. That is more hygge.

You may have noticed I tend to analyze things. Hygge sounds nice, but as a lifestyle, couldn’t it lead to lethargy and weight gain? Carried to an extreme, couldn’t it lead to agoraphobia? Is coziness really the main ingredient for happiness?

So I read more about hygge and the Denmark lifestyle. Hygge is not usually a solitary pastime. It is a state of warmth and companionship. Cell phones are turned off. Drama is not allowed. People are relaxed.

This made me think about my friend Debbie. On short notice last month, she invited my husband, me, and another couple to come over for pizza before we drove to watch her husband perform in a musical show. She didn’t fuss; she served chips with a homemade salsa before the pizza, and she heated homemade peach pie for dessert. There was a deep blanket of snow outside, but we were cozy inside, enjoying our simple meal and laughing with longtime friends. That’s hygge.

Deb inspires me to try to be ready for company on short notice. I tend to put a big effort into every meal served to company – and as a consequence, I don’t entertain much. Deb pulled that homemade pie and some ice cream out of the freezer. I could pull out cookies and ice cream. This year, I baked several kinds of cookies for Christmas and froze some. Why not always have homemade goodies in the freezer, ready for guests—or even just ourselves—to enjoy?

I suspect hygge is especially nice during the dark, cold days of winter, but the Danes enjoy it all year. They light candles year-round to create a cozy atmosphere.

We can set up our own homes for comfort and warmth, especially in winter. If we are inside due to bad weather, we can be cozy with friends and family, a warm drink, and a fire or candlelight. I’m currently inside with a cold, so I’ve been drinking lots of tea, reading mysteries, and watching recordings of Downton Abbey. I’ve also been eating chicken noodle soup and wrapping myself in fleece while I rest. Feels hygge to me!

However, hygge is only part of the Danish lifestyle. Danes are very active and are outdoors a lot. “Even the slightest hint of spring sun will make Danes head outdoors for strolling, jogging and café life.”  (See here.) Danes also swim and ride bikes—many ride their bikes to work year-round. I suspect this balance of activity and comfort contributes to their happiness.

So maybe the lesson taught by hygge is not so much staying cozy as making the best of life and enjoying simple pleasures, much like the French with their joie de vivre. We can enjoy comfort in addition to getting fresh air and exercise.

What hygge also says is to notice and appreciate the good moments. Look forward to good times, enjoy them, and then remember. Elevate the moments by using that Cup of Cheer china cup.

I hope you make the best of the remaining winter months, and have a happy and hygge New Year in 2017.

What can you do to enjoy some hygge this winter? What can you do to increase happiness in your life?


About Susan Ekins

Freelance writer and blogger at Women Making Strides. Interested in personal leadership and empowerment. Wanting inspiration and to inspire. Leader in church ministries. Blog: http://www.WomenMakingStrides.com/ Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/WomenMakingStrides1
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12 Responses to Happiness and Hygge

  1. Gerlinde says:

    In Germany we call it Gemütlichkeit. I treasure those moments of peace and feeling connected. Thank you for this lovely post and the mentioning of Penny ‘s sweet blog. Have a healthy and happy New Year.


  2. This is just what I needed to read this morning. Thank you, Susan, for such a centered interpretation of hygge, as well as your mention of me. Just yesterday, mid-morning, my granddaughter and I made a batch a granola. As it was roasting, she said “Yia Yia, we need to have a cup of tea together) – and so, we did. The sun was streaming in the window, the house was quiet, and, well . . . a hygee moment. Happy New Year, Susan – and more hygge moments.


  3. Diane Overgard says:

    Once again, your writing transported me to beautiful state of mind! Thanks, Sue.


  4. Estela Hammond says:

    I enjoyed your article. This week I used my “Cup of Cheer” cups to have hot chocolate and tea times with my granddaughters. It was realaxing for all of us. It must have been an hygge moments.


  5. >>What hygge also says is to notice and appreciate the good moments. <<
    This post comes at the perfect time, Sue. I'm trying to do more of this in 2017.
    Wishing you many hygge moments in 2017!


  6. It looks like the concept of “hygge” has suddenly become popular all over the world; I’ve recently seen articles about being “hygge” on Polish blogs too! From what I know about Denmark, the Danes value collectivity and cooperation very highly; they aren’t a nation of individualists. I also suspect those high rates of self-reported happiness might be a little skewed by the Scandinavian tendency to avoid complaining, and/or by other factors associated with socialization. (In contrast, people in Poland might come across as constantly discontented, disgruntled and complaining, but that’s because we’re subtly socialized to avoid saying that things are perfect and we’re absolutely happy… because it might bring bad luck!)


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