Updated: Oct 26, 2019
So Hygge roughly translates to cosiness and comes from a Norwegian word for wellbeing, but I think its about so much more than this it’s about connectedness, togetherness, warmness, love kindness and the list goes on. In fact saying it’s just cosiness takes away all the other wonderful things it is in my mind anyway. So, what is it and why is it important? I explored summer hygge and vlogged about it in Copenhagen this summer but its more widely associated with the Winter and in particular the colder harsher winters in Denmark and how you can experience more joy with this season. I think there is something to go at here as winter can be dark and cold and a shock to the system, and I think we can learn from the hygge Danes about our happiness and have some beneficial effects or maybe just enjoy ourselves along the way
So, its thought that Hygge is the secret to Danish Happiness. The Danes are the happiest nation in Europe according to the European social survey and in Copenhagen the Happiness research institute was set up. The Danes pay high tax rates but they generally don’t mind because they have such a great welfare state and feel they are investing in their society, this along with the levels of connection and kindness I experience when I visited Copenhagen in the summer are definitely factors.
So what about the roots of Hygge and in particular this time exploring why its important in the winter. Meik Wikings book ‘The Little Book of Hygge’ talks about these factors being key to creating Hygge: Candles (no surprise!), lighting, atmosphere, presence - enjoying the moment, pleasure, gratitude comfort, togetherness, safety/shelter.
There is something about lighting and candles which link us to our evolutionary past, living in caves and cooking on fires (fireplaces are also very important in Denmark 35% of houses have them opposed to just 3% in the UK). Enjoying the moment and especially those moments to be grateful for links to the benefits of mindfulness which we know helps create happier brains so it’s no surprise to see it in Hygge too.
We also know the connectedness is important, enjoying the moment with friends and family and this links to the importance of kindness in happiness and remember my ‘Be like a Tree’ blog and vlog which talks about why connection is so importance in happiness (think resilience). There is also something about safety, and links to positive psychology with Hygge. Remember a lot of the time our brains are looking for threats they are looking to protect us from harm.
This comes from our evolutionary past too, when there was a chance we would leave our caves and a tiger might attack us so the brain is effectively shutting down when this happens and getting us ready to fight or flight. We know we can hack this process through positive psychology and things that create dopamine and other happy chemicals in the brain.
My theory is that through Hygge the brain feels safe, the reading nook and the lighting reminds our evolutionary brain that we are safe and being connected and supporting each other further builds on this notion as well as the benefits of mindfulness through being grateful for and enjoying the present moment which we know helps increase areas of the brain responsible for logical, creative thought and helps our memory and learning reversing the effects of feeling stressed and anxious as we navigate through the things in our life that make our brains feel the threat state (as if the tiger was there!).
So Hygge not only makes us feel cosy and warm and happy but it can also help us be our best selves and is a great way to get some Positive Psychology and Happiness into your life. So think about what you can do to create a Hygge home, have Hygge moments with family and friends and embrace this winter, its not going to change right? Its always darker and colder in the Winter so lets embrace it together with warmth, light and connectedness. What Hygge moments will you have?
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