Let’s get Hygge with it

Hilary French profile image
Hilary French, Headmistress at Newcastle High School for Girls

The latest Viking invasion is the antithesis of the marauding pirates of yesteryear; the modern incursion into the UK comes in true peace, in the shape of the Danish lifestyle trend, Hygge.  It is so much easier to write than to say – Hygge –pronounced Hoo ga – isn’t actually meant to be translated; instead you’re meant to ‘feel’ it.

When struggling to find an English definition, Danish people say that the English word ‘cosiness’ is closest to Hygge but this is still not enough to convey its true and fullest meaning.  Hygge is cosiness, warmth, tenderness all wrapped up with wellbeing, family and friends – all rolled into one.

Hygge is the latest buzzword to hit these shores – it was runner up in the Oxford English Dictionary word of the year for 2016 and it has inspired thousands of lifestyle and home interior trends and even more Instagram hashtags and photos.

Unlike other interior and lifestyle movements, like Feng Shui or Shaker, Hygge is a trend that I am hoping to embrace wholeheartedly – I really am struck on Hygge and how it can help us all in today’s frenetic, modern world.  It is not all about the decorative art of beautifying your home with rugs, plump cushions and candle light – it is more about searching for a feeling, reclaiming time and striving and working at happiness, improving well being and switching off.

Denmark regularly comes top of world rankings for countries that feel the happiest – despite having the fewest hours of daylight and some of the shortest days.  In winter, the Danes only have four hours of daylight and average temperatures in January of only 0oc – but they still manage to remain happy, some say because they put such a high value on Hygge.

So what exactly is Hygge?  It is the idea of taking time out – finding somewhere cosy, safe and warm with friends and family and hunkering down, switching off and tuning in to a feel good activity – reading, listening to music, chatting or watching a film – the key is being in the moment.

In interior design terms – Hygge has spawned a plethora of cosy accessories: sheepskin rugs are a top Hygge accessory, plump cushions, cosy corners, subtle lighting, candles, fairy lights and warmth, but the key to finding Hygge is consciously taking time to enjoy the moment and be with the people around you.

We are all good at finding the time to trawl social media for updates, liking photos and posts but we need to get just as good at finding hygge.   For our health and wellbeing we know it is in real time and real relationships that we will find happiness and contentment and we need to work at this.

So to find Hygge, you don’t need to throw money at it – you can forgo the luxury cashmere throws and sheepskin slippers, you don’t even need the candles, you can find hygge simply and cheaply by putting the kettle on and making a cup of tea and sitting down with friends and family for a chat.  Phones and internet off and mind and body focused on the here and now.

I love the idea of creating zones in your house, or in your room, which you associate with Hygge – so your mind and body gets into the hygge mood, with an almost Pavlovian response.

It really is important to find the time to relax, unwind and refocus, finding your little piece of hygge however and wherever you can.


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