Hygge has become the latest buzzy word in marketing, but many of us have no idea what it is, or why we need it in our lives.

Simply put, “hygge” is comfort, coziness, a feeling of belonging, but one of the key concepts behind hygge is that you can only truly understand what it is through experiencing it.

Stemming from Danish vocabulary, the word doesn’t have a literal translation to English but it’s basically what it sounds like – a hug.

“That cozy feeling that you get when you engage in the experiences that make you truly happy and connected,” explains Adina Mahalli, a certified mental health expert and family care professional with Maple Holistics.

As we’re in a place in life where one in five people believe the most stressful aspect of their job is their work environment, a lot more hygge is necessary. That feeling of stress is the exact opposite of hygge.

Whether that’s lighting a candle and curling up with a book or singing at the top of your lungs on a road trip with you friends, anything that makes you feel intrinsically happy – however fleeting it may be – is hygge.

There’s nothing luxurious about hygge.

In fact, the more simple the pleasure, the deeper the sense of hygge.

Whether winter or summer, there is always time for friends and tea, long walks, bike riding, and doing things just for the joy of it. “When you are living the Hygge way, you will incorporate mindful indulgence while in comfortable clothing with candles lit, a good book by your side and some quietude to enjoy,” says Linda Lauren, an entrepreneur and author.

“In Denmark we have this concept of hygge,” says Christian Hanson, a Danish cheesemaker based in Greenville, South Carolina who owns Blue Ride Creamery. “Here in the States it’s usually translated as the adjective cozy.”

While coziness is certainly an elemental part of its meaning, hygge is actually a verb. “The act of creating this… shared feeling of something between contentment and bliss,” explains Hanson. Cocktails by a roaring fire on a winter night set the stage for hygge, but it’s as much about the company and a shared experience.

“There is this feeling, something fundamentally ‘hyggelig’ that comes from sharing good food with others,” said Hanson. It’s rooted in the simple spirit of offering nourishment, providing hospitality. And it doesn’t have to be decadent food. It’s as much about the sincerity of the offering, the care with which it’s prepared.

“I’m loathe to use the term artisan because it’s been so bastardized, but to me the definition of a true artisan is one who realizes that perfection is unattainable yet toils, undeterred, in pursuit of it nonetheless,” says Hanson.

“When you’re a cheesemaker it’s months, sometimes years, until you get to taste your creation. So, when you finally cut into this wheel of cheese that you’ve molded and brined, and flipped and brushed and doted on for so long, and when that cheese has matured to the best possible expression of the milk that it started from, and then you get to share that with others…for me, that’s the ultimate expression of hygge,” says Hanson.

Now that we know what hygge isn’t, what is it?

Candles-by-the-window

If we continue the food analogy, it’s Umami for the soul.

What’s interesting is everyone assumes tropical spots like Hawaii or Bahamas are the happiest places on earth, but it is these Nordic countries such as Denmark and Iceland that continue to make the top lists. Many say it’s due to Hygge.

“Hygge includes a variety of simple nostalgic things that keep us comforted. This includes things like coffee shops, board games, warm sweaters, cakes, record players, natural elements in the home, being around your pets, knitting, candles. You want to imagine simple satisfaction using your senses: texture, smells, taste, sound,” says Dr. Tricia Wolanin Psy.D., a clinical psychologist.

Many of us may want to turn to these things when we feel sick, but explore how they can be part of our everyday lives.

“In the Nordic countries, cafes are rated by how hygge they are,” says Wolanin. “We find simple pleasures in these things, it brings a sense of gratitude, grounding, and nostalgia. There’s an increase in contentment for what we have versus longing to be anywhere else.

It instills a lifestyle for well-being so that we have a comforting, well-rounded experience that is free from stress.

“It is a way of life, and a means to create personal inner awareness in spaces we frequent. As a form of self-gratification it helps to reduce stress by creating an environment of intense self-care and self-pampering. Some common items/themes are candles, fireplaces, sweaters, throw blankets, crystals, soft music and low lighting, a comforting drink and a nourishing home cooked meal, are all ways the Danes create their Hygge environment,” says Lauren.

What a beautiful concept. Perhaps we should all experience hygge days at work our in our homes regularly? 


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