The Danish concept of hygge has swept across the nation. In case you haven’t been caught up in it’s warmth, hygge is the sense of safety and belonging experienced through the people and things we love.
Meik Wiking, author of The Little Book of Hygge, prefers this atmospheric feeling to be at home and contain hot drinks and candles, but really it can be found anywhere. It is the scale on which Danish social gatherings are measured, by the hygge-ness. It is anticipated, appreciated and fondly remembered, and fosters an awareness of gratitude, something I think we could all use a little more of.
The Danish are known to be the happiest people on the planet and even kindly go so far as to scientifically research how to make the rest of the world happier; Wiking is also the CEO of The Happiness Research Institute (best job ever, right!). So surely there must be something to this hygge malarkey.
“[Hygge is] the absence of anything annoying or emotionally overwhelming; taking pleasure from the presence of gentle, soothing things.”
Near the end of October as I was heading for a train out of London I was handed the week’s edition of Time Out (18-24th October 2016). The article inside entitled Hygge is a Waste of London clearly riled me enough to inspire me to write, as obvious by the fact you’re now reading this.
Granted the magazine is obviously aimed at Londoners, which makes me think that perhaps I was mistaken for one rather than the tourist vibe I usually emit. Taking this into account it’s understandable that the article argues that anything resembling comfort in a Hygge way in London is a waste in the city renowned for not being comfortable. For pushing boundaries and comfort zones and, as more people move there, space limitations. The author states that ‘nothing spectacular ever happened to someone when they were feeling cosy’.
However, who is to say that that is true? There are claims that Sir Issac Newton was drinking a cup of tea when he saw/was hit by the falling apple and discovered gravity. Hygge experiences are often described as including hot drinks and discovering gravity is nothing short of spectacular.
Elements of Hygge also feature in self-care advice; noticing the beauty in nature, quiet meditation, coffee with friends, doing anything with people you love, your favourite book (any book) in a cosy nook, a bubble bath…
The original article was so London-centric in made my teeth ache; only encouraging an unrealistic mindset. Some people need to understand that an entire country carries on moving outside the boundaries of the underground zones, and far past where your Oyster stops working. Here, in the North, I’m writing this whilst sat alone in a coffee shop. I have a hot chocolate, a large scarf and I’m writing; I’m feeling pretty damn Hygge. I’m not being dull and complacent, nor am I not doing anything, as the article insinuated. I am Hygge whilst grabbing life by the proverbial balls. Who says it’s impossible, Londoners! So kindly widen your capital-centric mindset past the Big Smoke, consider that the rest of the country do not laze in blanketed ‘dull complacency’, and that enjoying every and all aspects of life is possible outside of the busy London lifestyle.
What is important is that hygge is an atmosphere, an experience and a shared feeling. Perhaps it is on your sofa, with Netflix and hot cocoa by candlelight. Perhaps it is covered in mud with your friends in the middle of watching your favourite band at a festival. Or singing in your car, by the fire in the local, or the sting of the breath-stealing cold breeze on your Christmas day walk. Brunch with the girls, trying out that new restaurant, anything which makes you forget time still moves.
Time Out have also published another response to the article, Hygge is Part of London, (originally published here) a Danish Londoner defending the lifestyle amidst the onslaught of media attention and the perpetual busyness of London. She writes that “Your hygge is your own.
As the stresses of modern life slowly suck at our soul’s will we could all use a little more self-care for our own well-being. So perhaps hygge is purely an extension of this, in which case I welcome it with open arms.
Because anything that can help ensure our mental and physical well-being is worth spending a little time under a blanket for.
Whatever hygge is, it is our own vivid experience.