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What is Hygge? The Popular Danish Lifestyle Decoded

What is Hygge? That is the question that gets asked a lot since the term has become so popular.  The general definition means creating a warm and cozy lifestyle that the Danish culture credits for making them the world’s happiest people.

If you’re looking to create a hygge lifestyle, I wrote a post on How to Hygge: 31 of the Best Cozy Ideas that will help you get started.  

What is Hygge? The Popular Danish Lifestyle Decoded.  Pile of white blankets with a white candle and white pumpkin
Hygge is more than cozy blankets and socks

How do you say Hygge?

Let’s start you off right by learning the correct pronunciation of hygge in English.  I mispronounced hygge for months before I finally found out I was saying it wrong. “Hoo-gah” is the proper way to say it. 

Where did the word “hygge” come from?

The word hygge was originally a Norwegian word.  Its translation loosely meant well-being. 

The Danish adopted the word as their own, and they embody the cozy lifestyle.  The United States has now embraced the Danish concept of hygge with open arms.

What is Hygge?

What is Hygge - Orange Kitten on Back Sleeping
What is Hygge?

Hygge cannot be summarized in just a word or even a sentence.  It’s a Danish word that is credited for making Denmark one of the happiest countries on earth.

The best way I can describe it is an outlook on life that focuses on simple pleasures and taking the time to cultivate more of them in your life. The answer to “What is Hygge?” will vary from person to person.

It’s when you give your body, mind, and spirit rest.

You learn to enjoy the good things in life, like a sunrise or sunset, reading a book in front of a crackling fire, taking the time to savor a delicious mug of gourmet tea, and spending time with friends and family in a comfortable setting.

Meik Wiking, the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute and author of The Little Book of Hygge, describes hygge this way:

“Hygge has been called everything from the “art of creating intimacy, ‘coziness of the soul,’ and ‘the absence of annoyance,’ to ‘taking pleasure from the presence of soothing things,’ ‘cozy togetherness,’ and my personal favorite, ‘cocoa by candlelight.'”

Meik Wiking

Creating a Cozy Life Group

Since you wanted to find out What is Hygge? I’m guessing you like all things cozy living. I created a Facebook group called Creating a Cozy Life with over 65,000 like-minded souls.

It’s a group where we share recipes, pictures of things that leave you in awe, and ideas on how to make your life just a little bit more snug.  Join here to be part of the virtual cozy cabin.

The Idea of Hygge

The Idea of Hygge - Cast Iron Bench with wooden Slates in the Snow
The Idea of Hygge

The Scandinavian winters are dark and cold.  

Hygge brings warmth to Denmark all year long by cultivating well-being throughout the country.  It’s a way of life that is so natural to the Danes and woven into the tapestry of their daily routine. 

When Danish people pick a restaurant to meet up with friends or family members, they choose it based on the ambiance and whether it’s cozy enough for the gathering.

I started writing about hygge a couple of years ago because when I stumbled upon it, I knew it was the perfect way to change your life for the better.

When you start adding rich elements to your routines, home, family life, and friendships – there’s a positive shift that starts taking place in everything you do.

Why is hygge important?

Why is Hygge Popular? Photo of mug of coffee, hats, and scarf.
Why is Hygge Popular?

The draft for this post has been lingering in my to-do box for over three years.  I have written 25 different articles about hygge already.

“What is hygge?” is the post that has been giving me pause.  I wanted to “get it right” – to adequately explain a concept that means different things to everyone.  I was at a loss of how to do this.

Last year I lost my 13-year-old fur baby unexpectedly.  She had a cancerous tumor on her spleen that erupted, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

On Sunday, she was a happy girl, acting like she usually does every day.  

That day I made two extra sweet potatoes for my dogs. It’s something that they all love – especially her.  She hugged me in appreciation.  She was a good hugger.

Reagan was the perfect dog.  You know, the one that doesn’t cause any problems.  The only thing she ever did that others might find annoying was that she rattled the water or food bowl whenever either was out.

Sometimes she lacked patience because she wanted more water or food the second it was gone, but I thought this habit was enduring and helpful.  The dogs never went without water or food for a minute.

On the day she passed away, I walked by and saw an empty food bowl and burst out crying.  None of the other dogs let me know.  I knew that every time I saw an empty dog bowl, I would miss her even more.

Reagan was nothing but a blessing in my life.  I loved her, and she loved me.  It was an easy relationship.

Since the day she died, I’ve been thinking about how I could have made her life even better.  There are so many moments that could have happened that are now gone for good.

When I researched her ailment, I came across an article that a veterinarian wrote.  He talked about how a doctor took his dog in for the same condition.

The doctor decided to spend the $5,000 required for surgery to have more time with his dog.

This is a condition that has extremely thin odds for recovery, but he decided to proceed.  There were complications with the surgery, and it cost him another $10,000.  

He added another month to his dog’s life.  In that 30 days, he took time off and went on hikes with his dog and took him fishing.  They spent the evenings eating snacks on the couch.  

As the vet described it, they did everything but ride a bull named Fu-Manchu. And just like the Tim McGraw song, they lived like he was dying.

A month later, cancer came back, and his dog passed away.

The doctor told the veterinarian he would do it all again, even if he knew the outcome.  The money was worth getting to spend an extra month with his best friend.

Personally, I would never put an older dog through the pain of surgery like that when the odds were so dismal.

This story got me thinking about how much our lives would all change if we didn’t have to “make up” moments that we didn’t take because life got in the way.

My definition of hygge is “pockets of happy moments.”  Hygge is about taking the time to notice that they are happening all around us, and pay attention – because those moments are so important in life.

On the day my dog passed away, I took my other dogs for a walk.  We went down this red dirt road that has become a routine now.

That morning it had poured, and now the sun was shining.   As we walked along the road, I noticed something beautiful.  It was a heart-shaped puddle in the middle of the road.

I believe that puddle was Reagan’s way of saying she loved and missed me.  The perfect message from the most wonderful friend anyone could have.

What is Hygge? Heart-shaped puddle in gravel
Heart-Shaped Puddle

When you learn more about hygge, you want to add more of it to your life.  And that’s why it’s so important.

Take those walks, make special treats for your loved ones, and give your babies an extra hug a day.

Why is hygge so popular?

Why is Hygge Important? Blueberry Pancakes
Cozy Foods give you Hygge Vibes

Hygge is about really being present in the moments of your life and taking the time to enjoy them.  This message has spread throughout the world.

In today’s fast-paced world, most of us are opening up to the idea that a slower, more deliberate way of life is a better way to live.

What exactly does that mean?  That’s the beauty of hygge. The word means different things to different people.

It’s about cultivating days that you love.  The hours are peppered with your favorite things to do, eat, drink, and people you share those moments with every day.

For one person, hygge might mean spending quality time with their family and friends, watching a movie marathon, and cooking a lovely roasted chicken for dinner.

Another person defines her hygge moments as stopping  the world for a few moments a day by sitting on her front porch listening to frogs croak under the stars.

How do you create a more hygge way of life?  

How do you create a more hygge way of life? Reading in Bed with a book and tea
Reading a cozy book and drinking coffee are hygge activities

My best advice is to subtract the things that don’t bring you joy and add in more things that bring you happiness.  On the surface, that sounds easy, but it can be not easy when you’re stretched thin with obligations.

The great thing about this concept is that you can start with just a few minutes a day.  What simple things can you do today that will leave you in awe?

Does taking the time to see a sunrise or sunset today fit that description?  How about breaking out the board games to play with your children instead of watching television?

What if you took the longer route home from work tonight and went past those charming cottage homes you love?  

Even snuggling up with a soft blanket and a cup of hot chocolate with whipped cream on top can change the rhythm of the day.

Are there ways you make your meals more special?  How about cooking more things from scratch?  

Will making your grandmother’s favorite dessert recipe on a more regular basis add more joy to your life?  

Dining by candlelight instead of regular lighting can make the evening more enchanting.

Something as simple as using cloth napkins instead of paper ones can even change the atmosphere.

Think of hygge as a flavoring you add to transforming an ordinary day into an extraordinary one.  Try using all your senses to create better days. Sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste should all be considered.

I think you’re getting the point. It’s finding happiness in the little things by yourself or with people you love. Once you get started, it will become a way of life.

“Hygge is about an atmosphere and an experience, rather than about things. It is about being with the people we love. A feeling of home. A feeling that we are safe, that we are shielded from the world and allow ourselves to let our guard down.”

Meik Wiking

What makes a Hygge Lifestyle? 

What makes a hygge lifestyle? A dog with fairy lights and a blanket
Dog with Fairy Lights and Blanket

Instead of living your life on autopilot, hygge is a way of life that makes sure you live your life in a way that brings deep contentment to your soul.

Sometimes the outer things in life (money, power, achievements) aren’t the things that will make us happy.  A hygge life encourages us to look at what truly brings us joy and make sure we include those things in our days.

Finding that balance between getting things done and learning to schedule downtime is all we need to live happy-centered days.

We’ve reached the end of What is Hygge?  I hope you enjoyed it.

Let me know in the comments below how you liked the What is Hygge? The Popular Danish Lifestyle Decoded and ideas how you add hygge to your life.

Make sure you join our Creating a Cozy Life – Hygge Style Facebook group.  You’re not going to believe how amazing it is.  Join here to be part of the virtual cozy cabin.

Pin this What is Hygge? post below on your hygge Pinterest board to refer back to it again.

If you want to learn more about having more hygge in your life, The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living is the perfect way to get started.

Thanks for stopping by!

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What is Hygge? Pin for Pinterest on close-up of a white knitted sweater
What is Hygge? Pin for Pinterest

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