Hygge in a Nutshell

Lantern and Petals by Natalia Y on Unsplash via www.angelamaywaller.com

Fallen Tree by Simon Matzinger on Unsplash via www.angelamaywaller.com

The period of winter after the holidays can be a struggle for many people, including me. The sparkle and magic and anticipation of the winter celebrations are gone, yet there are still have weeks of dark, dreary weather to get through. It feels crowded inside, but it’s too wet or cold to work in the garden, and it seems like my toes will never be warm again.

Seems like a perfect time to learn more about hygge, the Danish lifestyle movement that appears to be a crucial ingredient to surviving the dark days of winter. The pronunciation of the word remains elusive to Americans, but I’ve heard it pronounced somewhere between hoo-gah and hue-gah. It’s commonly said to translate as “coziness” but could also be based on the same root word as “hug” or “embrace.”

Most of the articles I have found on the internet talk about candles and wooly socks, but I’m thinking that these are just the easy shopping items to share, not really the root of what hygge is about. My thought is that hygge is more about deep contentment, calm and connection and cultivating those things in your home and your life. Here are the five elements I see as being essential to experiencing hygge.

Element #1: Light

Light by Josh Boot on Unsplash via www.angelamaywaller.com

Lighting well can create a cozy, warm atmosphere that engenders feelings of warmth and connectedness. Turn off the bright overheads and turn on the fireplace, the candles and the lamps. Pools of warm, welcoming light create bubbles of warmth to gather in, a balm against the dark night. Candles are lovely but not required, it’s the circles of warmth and glowing light that we’re after, which can be created any number of ways. In my house, we don’t use candles and don’t have a fireplace. Instead we create atmosphere with lamps and our Fireplace DVD.

Element #2: Warmth

Cup of Tea by Kira auf der Heide on Unsplash via www.angelamaywaller.com

Both literal and figurative, being warm is an oft-repeated quality of hygge. Fuzzy blankets, wooly socks, crackling fires, hot tubs, steamy saunas help create physical warmth that seeps into your bones and helps you relax. Those cozy textures also create a warm, welcoming environment in your home that gives you a warm feeling in your heart. How you achieve this isn’t important; the key is the combination of emotional warmth and physical warmth. If fuzzy throws and wooly socks speak to you, then do that. I my house we use flannel-backed quilts, quilted pillows and radiant heaters.

Element #3: Love

Cutest Cat Ever by Nine Köpfer on Unsplash via www.angelamaywaller.com

I’m not talking here about romantic love, though that is certainly welcome. I’m talking about that warm glow that comes from inside, then extends outward to loop in the people and places around you. This can include nature, spirit, furry friends and more. Most importantly, however, connection to other human beings—family, friends, anyone special to you. Taking the time to be with your special people in a slow, peaceful way such as tea and conversation brings a warmth to body and soul.

Element #5: Gratitude

What Are You Grateful For? by Ava Sol on Unsplash via www.angelamaywaller.com

Hygge is often equated with comfort, but it also means contentment. In my experience, the best way to foster a deep sense of contentment is through gratitude. This can be as formal as a gratitude practice or as simple as just noticing things each day that bring you joy. I believe that the recommendations for socks, candles and connection are all about promoting joy and gratitude. But it’s the deeper sense of contentment that is the true core. The socks are just trappings (albeit fuzzy ones).

Element #6: Being Present

Bubbles in Prague by Alex Alvarez on Unsplash via www.angelamaywaller.com

Being fully and completely present, whether it’s with a friend, in nature, or all by yourself. This is the most powerful practice there is and a surefire way to get to the heart of hygge in my opinion. The Danish say that to understand hygge you have to experience it, and I believe that starting with being present is the best way to start. If you can find a way to cultivate a complete focus on the present moment, to take the time to really slow down and experience whatever is happening around you, then the other good feelings will come along for the ride. Maybe it won’t look exactly like knitting wool by the fireside, but it will look like something deeply connected to YOU. That’s the most important thing. The rest is gravy.

Froth by Evelin Horvath on Unsplash via www.angelamaywaller.com

Frozen by Gabriela Gutierrez on Unsplash via www.angelamaywaller.com

That’s it!

I truly believe that hygge is more than just socks and candles, but a collection of practices that instill a deep sense of peace, connection and joy. For me, I’m committed to slowing down and seeing the beauty around us all, to find the spark of love and light in the moments of our day. I’m going to try, will you?

Meanwhile, what are you favorite ways to create coziness in these dark days? What’s your best tip for making time to enjoy the little moments? Leave a comment below or come and share with me on Facebook or Instagram!



Many thanks to the generosity of photographers whose work is shared for free onUnsplash:Natalia Y,Simon Matzinger,Josh Boot,Kira auf der Heide,Nine Köpfer,Ava Sol,Alex Alvarez,Evelin Horvath andGabriela Gutierrez.


2 responses to “Hygge in a Nutshell”

  1. Laura Coyne Avatar
    Laura Coyne

    Hi Angela!
    Last year, I finally got the faux fireplace I’d been asking my husband to get me for Christmas, for 10 years! (He said that "fake fireplaces are tacky".) We went to see Santa so that my husband could ask for the "winning lottery numbers". When Santa asked me what I wanted, I told him that I wanted a faux fireplace. Since Santa said that I could have it, dear hubbie felt obligated to buy it for me. Now, we both enjoy it every winter! It’s part of my personal hygge. (Along with the blanket ladder and plush throws I received this year for Christmas)
    I also like lighting a stick of incense in scents such as sandalwood, which is very calming.
    Also, after Christmas, I left my artificial greenery, (swags, mini trees), pinecones, and fairy lights out. They give a feel of comfort and a sense of being connected to the natural world.

    1. Angela Guzzo Avatar
      Angela Guzzo

      Hi Laura! I’m so glad you got your faux fireplace! They really do make a difference–there’s something so cozy about a fire and it doesn’t matter if it’s fake or not. I love the idea of leaving the greenery and fairy lights out! Good idea!!

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