By Jill Kantor & Lisa Kroft, Co-Founders, Hygge in a Box
We may not have a Scandinavian heritage; however, we are Canadians living in Manitoba, one of the coldest provinces. We are all too familiar to know what long dark Winters and short, beautiful summers are like and understand what it means to get the most out of each passing season.
Did you know that Canada and most of North America only see a couple of extra hours of light a day than they do in countries like Sweden, Norway, and Denmark over the Fall and Winter months?
Those cultures have found ways to thrive through the darkness whereas, for the most part, North Americans haven’t, and unfortunately, we pay the price.
Even if you don’t live in colder climates, the change in the seasons can have a detrimental effect. Thankfully, hygge (pronounced hue-guh) is a real psychological factor that helps keep these countries at the top of the list of happiest countries in the world.
We first embarked on our journey towards a hygge-inspired life as young girls while spending time as a family with our parents and brother. We have the fondest memories of our long Winter road trips to various ski hills and relishing in the cozy nights drinking hot chocolate in front of a wood-burning fireplace while reminiscing about the day.
We have the best memories of rolling in the snow while only donning bathing suits and then enjoying the plunge into a steaming hot tub. Eating rich caramel-covered apples was also something we always looked forward to on these trips.
Not only did we look forward to these times, but we are grateful for the Winter traditions created at home as well—cozy family dinners, taffy making, puzzle building, and watching family movies like the Sound of Music. While we didn’t know the word, we were living a hygge-filled life, Winter and always.
So, what is hygge?
Hygge is a Danish word used when acknowledging a special feeling or moment. While there’s no one English word to describe it, the Oxford dictionary states: “Hygge is quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment that promotes emotional well-being.”
Hygge is also very much a mindset that comes with the well-being of those in Nordic countries. The mindful awareness of learning to slow down, enjoying a life of simplicity, and taking in the company of others.
Like many, including ourselves, Winter is the most hygge time of year, also known as ‘vinterhygge.’ During this season, we are big on soft lighting, plenty of candles, sitting by the warm crackling fire with a chunky blanket over your knees, hearty homemade soups, thick woolly socks, and a steaming hot cup of cocoa.
Meik Wiking, author of The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living, says hygge is “cocoa by candlelight.” While it is possible to hygge alone, wrapped in a flannel blanket with a great book, the true expression of hygge is joining with loved ones in a relaxed and intimate atmosphere, perhaps while engaging in a fun game night.
The expression “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing” hails from the Nordic countries and is certainly a rule we like to live by as well.
True hygge enthusiasts don’t let a little rain or snow stop them from enjoying their lives to the fullest; spending time outdoors is an essential element of hygge and the Nordic lifestyle. Snow and ice become playgrounds, as families and friends meet to ski, skate, and snowshoe.
This time of the year also conjures up those cozy feelings of the Winter holidays, and for the Danes, Christmas represents the ultimate time to practice hygge. While most have holiday traditions, adding a sense of hygge will only draw out more solace and satisfaction.
It’s easy to be weighed down by the worry of it all, but implementing some hygge principles can help you rein in all the rushing around.
To fully enjoy Winter and the holiday season, be mindful that all the items on your to-do list will take time. So embrace the process and the hygge moments so you can fully appreciate the holiday festivities.
Create a Cozy, Hygge-Centred Life this Holiday Season
- Bring in some cozy blankets, rugs, and pillows into your living space to create a hyggekrog, also known as a cozy nook for reading, snuggling, napping and anything relaxing.
- Plan a weekly holiday-themed movie night in your snuggly pj’s, fluffy socks, soft blankets, a bowl of stovetop popcorn, and maybe an eggnog ice-cream float.
- Join the slow food movement and cook something comforting to the soul. Think soups, stews, fresh out-of-the-oven bread, casseroles, and bread puddings.
- Discover a new hobby like knitting, candle making, woodworking, or painting. Any hobby that’s creative and absorbing can be a powerful stress stopper during the holidays. They also create great gifts and are so very hygge.
- Frisk Luft (fresh air in Danish)—adopt the motto “there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing” and spend time outdoors sledding, skating, snowman building, snowshoeing, skiing, ice fishing, Nordic walking, and bonfires in the snow. Head back inside to enjoy the warmth, mulled wine and relaxation that will follow.
- Snuggle up in comfortable and knitted clothing, thick woollen socks. Bring out those hyggebukser pants (the ones that you wouldn’t be caught wearing in public).
- If you have one, light the fire in your living room or turn on the fire log station on Netflix.
- Deck the halls with lots of twinkle lights and plenty of candles.
- Take a deep breath and enjoy the season. Remember, hygge is a mindfulness practice that focuses on providing you with a sense of inner comfort. So be sure to take the time to stop what you are doing, pause and ‘just be.’ Breathe in 1,2,3 & breathe out 1,2,3.
The options are endless. The key is to relish the moment and stay mindfully present in whatever hygge activity you are doing.
Hygge to your door!
Subscribe to Hygge in a Box to receive a collection of products once per season to bring warmth, light, nourishment, comfort, connection, joy and ultimately hyggelig moments.
Bonus Points! 5 Day Hygge Challenge
Learn some ways to bring hygge into your home, work, and personal lives with this 5 Day Challenge—you don’t need to be from Denmark to feel hygge! Take the tips from the challenge, implement the ideas throughout the Winter and find out why Denmark is ranked year after year as one of the happiest countries in the world.
1. Read Hygge-Inspired Books During the Winter
Winter is a great time to practice hygge, especially with the dark days, so snuggling up with a hot tea and a hygge book can encourage you to stay cozy throughout this cold season.
- The Hygge Life – Embracing the Nordic Art of Coziness Through Recipes, Entertaining, Decorating, Simple Rituals, and Family Traditions by Gunnar Karl Gíslason and Jody Eddy
- How to Hygge: The Nordic Secrets to a Happy Life by Signe Johansen
- The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living by Meik Wiking
- The Nordic Guide to Living 10 Years Longer: 10 Easy Tips for a Happier, Healthier Life by Bertil Marklund
2. Hygge Your Surroundings
The main idea of hygge decor is to create a calm, comfortable space free of clutter. A clutter-free home will help reduce stress as you will not be worried about a messy space. Start with one space at a time. Think “less is more.”
Think of cozy ultra-plush blankets, high-quality comforters, beautiful soft throw pillows, fluffy doormats, and floor rugs. As for colours, think neutrals: soft blues, greys, browns & cream.
Introducing texture to your living space is a great way to add some hygge. You can do this by incorporating warm, natural materials like wood and wool to your decor.
3. Dress Cozy and Get Outside
Hygge is a mindset of welcoming the cold season by spending time outdoors every day. Go sledding, skating, snowshoeing, skiing, or ice fishing.
Perhaps a Nordic walk followed by a bonfire in the snow, then heading back inside to enjoy the warmth and relaxation that will follow with a hot cup of cocoa. Build a snowman.
4. Give to Those in Need
Sharing, being kind, and caring about others is another way to start bringing more hygge into our lives with the gift of time, sharing and/or money. Giving back is essential for you and the world around you for many reasons:
- It creates a feeling of gratitude as it feels good to give.
- Strengthens communities and nations by alleviating poverty, struggling, and suffering.
- Giving encourages a culture of giving and creates a nation of emotionally aware people.
5. Make DIY Holiday Gifts & Handwrite Holiday Cards
You can make your life more hygge in winter through the wonder of crafting, DIY gift making, and letter writing. The options are endless:
- Homemade candles in mason jars.
- Chunky knit blankets.
- Sugar body scrubs, lip balms, bath teas and scented salts.
- Jars of preserves, pickled vegetables, and salsas.
- Pinecone fire starters.
- Sachets of mulled wine spices.