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TABLE OF CONTENTS | What Does Hygge Mean (And 9 Wonderful Ways To Invite It!)

What Does Hygge Mean? It’s all about warmth, comfort, and connection.

It’s enjoying a good meal and great conversation with your closest friends. It’s a warm cup of tea and a good book in a comfortable chair. It’s snuggling up in bed with your kids on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Hygge is all of these and more.

Learn a little bit about the Scandinavian art of coziness and connection.

Defining Hygge – What Does Hygge Mean?

There is no direct translation of the word “Hygge” into English, so let’s understand it in context instead. Hygge (pronounced Hoo-gah) comes from Demark and Norway and is the concept of creating comfort and coziness in your life.

It’s no wonder Scandinavian countries have some of the happiest people on Earth when Hygge is embedded in their traditions and heritage. (Of course, social equity, public education, free health care, and a strong sense of community probably help too!)

Alex from HyggeHouse explains it as “a Danish word used when acknowledging a feeling or moment, whether alone or with friends, at home or out, ordinary or extraordinary as cosy, charming or special”.

The beauty of Hygge is that can be enjoyed anywhere, with anyone, and at any time of the year. It doesn’t require any special tools, and it doesn’t need to cost any money.

There is no official definition of what Hygge is, but it is often described as a variety of feelings tied to comfort, well-being, and social connection.

We will get better acquainted with these as we go on, but essentially hygge is a feeling of emotional warmth and contentment. 

What Does Hygge Mean? A cozy bed, soft lighting, and a cup of tea are shown.
What does hygge mean?
A cozy bed, soft lighting, and a cup of tea are wonderfully hygge.

What Does Hygge Mean in English? 

There is no single English translation for the word and once you have experienced it for yourself you will understand why it is so hard to articulate that cozy, relaxed, connected feeling. 

Hygge is sometimes described as an art form.

As Laura Byager explains, the commercialized, mass-marketed version of hygge used to sell products is definitely not what it’s about.

Hygge is about giving yourself permission to fully relax and enjoy. It’s the feeling of a cozy evening with good food and the company of loved ones. It can be celebrated alone, with a long bubble bath and your favorite music, or in a group of friends around a roaring log fire on a cold winter evening. 

Embracing hygge looks different for different people. There’s no right or wrong way to hygge.

Maybe you like to knit quietly in your favorite chair. Maybe you like doing jigsaw puzzles with your kids. Maybe you like sipping coffee with your significant other.

It’s important to pay attention to what makes you and your family feel that content, connected feeling. Once you are aware of that hygge feeling, you can start cultivating hygge in your own life.

What does hygge mean to you?

Where Does Hygge Come From? 

Hygge is a Danish word but it also has roots in ancient Norway and is derived from the word ‘hugga’ which means to give comfort. Knowing this, it’s easy to see where the English word ‘hug’ comes from. 

Both Demark and Norway have very cold winters and hygge evolved to mean many things during this time of the year, mainly finding warmth and shelter after a cold day’s work in the snow. Lighting candles to warm the house, homemade crafts, wool, and fireplaces all become symbolic of Hygge.

Today it is a widely used concept in all Scandinavian countries. 

Two people by a campfire
Enjoying time in the outdoors with friends.

Why Is Hygge So Popular?

Hygge helps us appreciate the small moments in life. It helps us slow down and really see the beauty around us. We all know how good mindfulness is for us, and hygge is a great companion to being in a mindful state.

Most of our lives are so hectic – kids to chauffeur, jobs to work, to-do lists to finish, social media to check. We never really get a break.

In a world where we can (apparently) have it all, we sometimes forget to value what is truly important – our own happiness, our mental health, and relationships with our nearest and dearest loved ones.

Hygge helps us to remember all those things and to be grateful for what we have in our lives. I think many of us need that now more than ever. 

You have probably already experienced Hygge without realizing it. If you take time out for yourself to meditate, keep a journal or pursue a fulfilling hobby, notice how you feel when doing those things. Do you feel happy and content? Sort of connected to that thing you’re doing?

If so, you are already experiencing the feeling of Hygge.  

Hygge During the Holiday Season 

As Hygge is often associated with winter and cold, dark, nights. It’s no surprise, then, that it is also associated with Christmas. What does hygge mean as it relates to the holidays?

The Christmas Season really is the true essence of hygge; spending time with family, eating good food, and enjoying Christmas festivities. In Scandinavia spending time in the countryside is very popular, as many people have access to a cabin in the forest.  

When we talk about “what does hygge mean” it’s also important to note what it does not mean. As the hygge concept catches on in the US and Canada, retailers would have us believe it’s about buying something – buying a specific book, a specific blanket, or decorating your house in a particular way.

While buying these things may affect the way you feel in the very short term, hygge is not about spending or buying things. Just like love, you can’t buy hygge.

The Christmas season is a celebration of life and family – an end to another year and the beginning of the next. Our daily routines slow down for a few days and we take time to reflect and enjoy our family and friends, like no other time in the year.

Two Pairs of Socked Feet by a Fireplace
A couple wears their favorite socks and sips warm drinks snuggled up by the roaring fireplace.

I know some of you are thinking: this doesn’t sound like me. Christmas is usually busy and stressful. Well, time to make a few changes. How much of that hustle and bustle is really necessary?

Try to slow down a little, step back from what you “should” do, and think about what really brings you contentment and connection.

Develop a little Hygge for this year’s Christmas season. 

What Does Hygge Mean for Christmas – Indulgent But Not Expensive 

When we think of the word “indulge”, we often think of expensive gifts and possessions but indulgence in the concept of hygge means something altogether different.

Hygge teaches us to indulge in the things that create true warmth, love, and coziness. Hygge indulgence means giving yourself permission, time, and space to relax, unwind and enjoy good company.

It gives you permission to not feel guilty about doing what makes you feel good.

How to Develop a Hygge Lifestyle 

There are a few books on Hygge, with “The Little Book of Hygge” by Meik Wiking being one of the most popular.

Aside from learning the basics of the concept though, isn’t really anything you can buy or do to “become hygge” instantly. Just as you don’t need designer yoga pants to do actual yoga, you don’t need any particular product to experience hygge.

It’s not about acquiring stuff – it’s a mindset practiced and cultivated over time.

While the rest of the world slowly realizes the positive effects of Hygge on our wellbeing, the Danish are so invested in Hygge that it simply permeates their day-to-day activities.

With that said, let’s explore some helpful basics for developing hygge. You can’t buy hygge, but you can set the stage to experience the feeling for yourself.

9 Wonderful Ways to Invite Hygge

Alright, you’re sold. You want that warm, fuzzy hygge feeling for yourself.

But you understand that Hygge is not something you can just order on demand. You can’t buy a hygge kit or put up some hygge decorations to achieve it.

So, how what can you do to invite more Hygge into your life?

Think of it this way – hygge can happen just about anywhere, doing just about anything. It’s something that occurs naturally when the mood is right.

Here are a few simple ways to invite it in, and increase your chances of experiencing hygge. 

1. Consider Your Home Environment

With Hygge entering interior design as somewhat of a decorating trend, some people believe that you need to renovate your whole house to make it more hygge. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Again, it’s about experiencing a feeling, not buying material things.

Enjoy the home you have already made, however imperfect. Appreciate the journey you have been on in your life so far – our homes are a reflection of who we are and where we’ve been.

Consider decorating with objects that bring you comfort and remind you of important people or experiences in your life.

An old family quilt, a well-worn book, a comfy chair you’ve owned for years. These are examples of things you might use in your home to help facilitate hygge.

2. Lower the Lighting 

Create instant coziness by turning off bright, artificial lights at the end of the day. While they’re great for work, they’re not so great for hygge.

Our bodies are programmed to respond to light. Bright light helps us feel alert and energized in the morning, and decreased light later in the day naturally helps us unwind.

In the evening, use a few small, dim lamps or candles just where you need them for a bit of light.

If you’re able to, indoors or out, try lighting a real log fire to complete the warm, flickering, ambiance. There’s nothing more hygge-friendly than gathering around a warm fire with your favorite people.

3. Find Your Favorite Smells

Our sense of smell is very much tied to memory, so it stands to reason that certain scents can evoke feelings of contentment from our past. Tap into those warm, fuzzy memories through scent.

Baking a loaf of bread, cutting a sprig of pine needles, steeping a cup of spiced tea, or the smell of a well-worn old blanket – whatever aromas feel right to you – can help connect you to a feeling of comfort.

There are conflicting opinions on whether artificial scents should be used to enhance your hygge experience as generally, hygge celebrates the natural.

However, this is about inviting hygge for you. If scented candles help you feel comfortable, include them in your setup. The ambient scent is certainly an important part of a cozy environment for many people.

4. Include Some Natural Sounds

For many of us who live in urban environments, everyday life is full of noise.

It’s now known that even low-frequency sounds (the ambient noises we may encounter in an open office space or in the grocery store without much notice) can be mentally taxing. Unfortunately, we can’t really escape the sounds that surround us as we go about our days.

Research has shown, though, that exposure to natural sounds such as wind, water, and bird song can actually have a calming effect and lower stress. These sounds give our brains the signal that our current environment is peaceful and safe.

Blocking out unwanted noise at home can help encourage hygge by allowing our bodies to relax. Turn off noise-emitting devices and use fabrics (think curtains, upholstery, rugs, and pillows) to dampen echos.

Try getting out into the forest if possible, where these relaxing, natural sounds outnumber man-made noise. At home, you can play “sounds of nature” recordings, or even soft, gentle music to send your brain the message that it’s safe to relax.

Cozy summer patio
A hygge summer patio, ready for an evening with friends

5. Invite Your Favorite People 

You may see your friends and family quite often, but when did you last properly sit down and truly catch up? Laughing, sharing stories, and drinking into the early hours? This is the perfect place for hygge.  

Although it can certainly be enjoyed on your own, sharing hygge with friends is even better.

We’re not talking big parties with loads of acquaintances here, though. Strive to make intimate connections with those you hold dear.

Invite 3 or 4 of your dearest friends or family around to experience a cozy, low-key, night in.

6. Show You Care with a Special Gift 

With the most common hygge time of year being near Christmas, it’s no surprise that gift-giving can play a big part.

While there is no need to give gifts at every hygge event, if you haven’t seen family or friends for a while, it is customary to give them a small gift to remember the day. 

Keep gifts small and sentimental. The goal is to show your loved ones how much you care about them by giving them a special gift personal to their interests.

A candle with a meaningful scent and beloved edible treats are great gift ideas to start.

7. Set the Mood with Food

Food is the highlight of any gathering, and a hygge event is no different.

Remember to keep it simple, wholesome, and cozy.

Don’t plan complex menus or spend hours cooking over a hot stove to try and impress your guests. Chunky vegetable soup and crusty bread are perfect for warming up on a cold winter’s evening.

Or rediscover your love of baking to add some extra indulgence – who doesn’t love homemade cake with a cup of good coffee? 

Don’t overcomplicate things. Plan easy recipes and prepare food that is flavorful but cooked with minimal effort, giving you more time to enjoy time together with loved ones. 

8. Bring the Outside In 

The Danish are huge fans of nature and being outside. Just like here in Canada though, the long cold winters can make the outdoors a little less appealing as a gathering place.

During winter, hygge by bringing the outdoors in. Cozy cabins come to mind with their warm wooden floors, exposed beams, and big piles of logs ready for the open fire. 

Of course, not everyone is lucky enough to have access to a rustic cabin. Even in a tiny apartment, though, you can decorate with natural wood and greenery, and include natural fabrics and wool accents.

If you do want to brave the cold outdoors, that’s very much in the spirit of hygge. Just make sure to wrap up warm so you’re not in a rush to head back inside. Consider bringing hot chocolate or mulled wine to help keep away the chills!

9. Appreciate the Small Things 

Hygge doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. The simpler the better.

Focus on appreciating the things, relationships, and experiences you already have and give yourself permission to slow down and truly enjoy them.

Sit in on a park bench with an old friend and listen to the birds while you catch up. Relax in a warm bath full of bubbles and give yourself permission to relax for as long as you want. Fill in a coloring page with your kids and really listen to them – whatever they want to talk about.

Ideas to Incorporate Hygge in Your Life What Does Hygge Mean

What Does Hygge Mean? Here’s a go-to list of ideas to inspire comfort, happiness, and all-round hygge experiences: 

  • Wind down and turn off distractions – that includes phones
  • Light a few candles or a log fire
  • Use aromatherapy, essential oils, or burn incense 
  • Make homemade crafts 
  • Play your favourite, relaxing music
  • Practice mindfulness with an adult colouring book 
  • Get cozy and read your favourite book 
  • Pick a bunch of wild flowers or evergreen sprigs to brighten up your home 
  • Meet up with friends, enjoy good conversation and delicious food and drink 
  • Snuggle up on the sofa with lots of blankets and your favorite persion 

This list is written to give you a base to develop your own ideas. What’s important is how you feel and creating your perfect atmosphere to help you relax, reset and refresh your body. 

What Does Hygge Mean? It’s up to You!

As you can see, hygge is a concept we can all start to practice more often. Honestly, who doesn’t need a little extra coziness, especially this time of year? Besides, you already have everything you need to get started. 

Taking the time to slow down, appreciate the life we have and the people we love the most is always a worthwhile exercise. Practicing the hygge ideas and techniques mentioned above is sure to have a positive impact on your mental health and maybe even make your winter a little warmer.

Amanda Ilkov
Amanda Ilkov
Articles: 95

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