Hugs aren’t an option, but Hygge is the next best thing

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Historically, the Danish have always ranked highly on the list of the world’s happiest countries. This is not because they have the most sun; in fact, their climate is characterised by rain and long, cold winters. It’s not even because they make great pastries – though they indisputably do. It’s because of a little concept called Hygge. A little concept that, as it happens, could just be the perfect remedy for these dark days.

According to Meik Wiking, CEO of Copenhagen’s Happiness Research Institute, Hygge is “an integral part of the national DNA.” But this doesn’t mean it’s exclusive, oh no. In fact, Wiking was so keen to share this definitive part of his cultural identity with the world that he gifted us with global bestseller The Little Book Of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living. Though the word is as untranslatable as schadenfreude, the meaning couldn’t be more different: in layman’s terms, it’s attaining a feeling of warmth, safety and love through the simple things in life. And right now, the practice is more relevant than ever. Though summer is fast approaching, a frosty atmosphere has descended while we are all trapped indoors, denied the intimacy we crave. But though we can’t cuddle our loved ones just yet, with the help of a little Danish magic we can still create a cosy home.

So how does one convert to the religion of Hygge? Well, it can start from something as simple as lighting a scented candle. Of course, the classic variety will work too – fire, in general, has a soothing effect – but adding an element of aromatherapy makes for a more immersive sensory experience. If you want the create the same effect without the health and safety hazard, mood lamps and fairy lights can also do the trick – though you will want to use bulbs with a warm hue. Once you’ve created that snug atmosphere, try curling up with a book without any background noise so that you can really lose yourself in the story.

Contentedness can also stem from a cup of tea or coffee: think of hot drinks like a hug in a mug. And there’s a reason why the nation has turned to baking their favourite treats during lockdown – after all, we don’t call it comfort food for nothing. Admittedly, some derive more stress from being in the kitchen than they do pleasure, but feeling good inside is about more than what you eat. You could create your own small screen cinema and watch your favourite gooey rom-com, or if you live with someone else, spend some quality time together appreciating each other’s company.

In these uncertain times, Hygge helps us to be grateful for the small things we might normally take for granted and to indulge in the everyday. So put the kettle on, put your feet up and make yourself at home.

Rosamund Kelby


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