Dozens of candles are lit. Soft instrumental music is playing. Your house is filled with the scent of stove-popped popcorn and you can taste the warm vanilla in your cup of hot tea. Your family enjoys a simple snack together at the dining room table while playing a game. Then, you move to the living room and pile onto the couch, snuggled under blankets. There’s laughter, coziness, togetherness.
This is hygge.
What is Hygge?
“In essence, hygge means creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people. The warm glow of candlelight is hygge. Cozying up with a loved one for a movie – that’s hygge, too. And there’s nothing more hygge than sitting around with friends and family, discussing the big and small things in life.”
Perhaps you have already heard of the Danish word hygge (pronounced hoo-ga). The first time I heard of it was when I read The Danish Way of Parenting: What the Happiest People in the World Know about Raising Confident, Capable Kids. And I was sold on it.
Hygge is often translated as coziness in English, but it means a lot more than that; it is a feeling, a lifestyle, characterized by warmth, softness, intimacy, and happiness. Alexander and Sandahl of The Danish Way…translated hygge as “to cozy around together.” The term is derived from the Germanic hyggja which means “to think or feel satisfied” (pg 124).
Hygge can look like a lot of different things, from sitting by a campfire to enjoying a meal with good friends; as long as the experience is cozy, intimate, and pleasant, it is likely hygge.
Hygge and Happiness
“Research shows that one of the top predictors of well-being and happiness is quality time with family and friends. Our modern world doesn’t always allow for this, but the Danish Way incorporates hygge into everyday life to guarantee it.”
The Danish Way of Parenting
The Danes, who are well-regarded as the world’s happiest people, endure dark, cold, and long winters, getting as little as 7 hours of sunlight a day. Many believe that their practice of hygge has helped them not only to endure, but to enjoy the darkest season. Many are attributing their success in happiness with this artful practice.
So what can we learn from this cozying up together?
In the Danish Way of Parenting, Alexander and Sandhal argue that practicing hygge can have a huge, positive impact on families.
Our American culture values productivity, busyness, money, technology, and independence. It is easy to see how these values are manifested in the average American family, and the repercussions are not so great.
The American family is rarely together. Often, both parents are working to make a living, and it’s easy for work pressures and stress to trickle into family life. Kids spend their time in school, doing sports, and jumping around to various extracurricular activities. Families rarely eat together. They’re rarely at home together, let alone in the same room. If they do happen to be in the same room at the same time, they are likely glued to a screen. Unfortunately, the American family can easily become disconnected, not to mentioned overwhelmed, stressed, and unhealthy.
Hygge offers an alternative to the crazed, artificial lifestyle. If we, as parents, took time to create an environment of hygge in our home, it could truly help restore and protect our families. We would certainly be better off with it.
Hygge is Connection
“Feeling connected to others gives meaning and purpose to our lives, and this is why the Danes value hygge so much. The individual is prized, too, but without the interaction and support of others, none of us can be truly happy as a whole person.”
The Danish Way of Parenting
Alexander and Sandahl discuss the importance of hygge being a team effort. Each member of the family is pleasantly involved in the family’s event, each person contributes in some way to make the environment and experience as comfortable as possible. That may mean big brother helps Mom in the kitchen while Dad and the little ones set the table, then all sit together to a meal in which each person is asked questions and given an opportunity to share. Hygge is about connection and interaction, and as each member of the family contributes, their individual value is esteemed.
It may require some sacrifice, however. Alexander and Sandahl state: “The concept of togetherness and hygge has many implications, but essentially it is putting yourself aside for the benefit of the whole. It is leaving the drama at the door and sacrificing your individual needs and desires to make a group gathering more pleasant.” This may mean that we, as parents, need to put our own negative emotions and agendas aside in order to make it happen. Children, they argue, naturally love hygge. It is usually the adults that need to embrace it.
Hygge in Your Home
“[Hygge] is choosing to enjoy the most important, meaningful moments of our lives — those with our children and family and friends — and respecting them as important. It is keeping them simple, making the atmosphere positive, and leaving our troubles behind. It is wanting to be there in those moments, choosing to be there, and helping contribute to a cozy time…If we are all willing to contribute to creating a cozy time together, it dramatically improves family get-togethers, which in turn dramatically affects our well-being and happiness.”
The Danish Way of Parenting
Are you ready to have more quality, relaxed, cozy time with your family? If so, here are some tips!
Make time. You may not be able to do it every day, but at least weekly, carve out a space for hygge when every member of your family can be there. Expect full attendance.
Remove distractions. Phones away. To-do lists put aside. Schedules forgotten. This is family time.
Light candles. While this may seem silly, lighting is actually a pretty essential part of hygge. Turn off the LEDs and enjoy the natural, warm glow of burning candles.
Be cozy. Wear your pajamas. Snuggle under blankets. Play your favorite, relaxing music. Break out some tea. Whatever it is, be comfy and cozy.
Be positive. No room for complaining or drama. It’s time to celebrate being together. There’s no room for negativity.
Be together. Play a game. Do a puzzle. Watch a movie. Sing or play music. Bake together. Eat a meal. Listen to an audiobook. Dance. Paint together. Have fun.
Connect. Ask questions. Share stories. Cuddle. Hug. Affirm. Encourage. Love each other.
Looking for More?
If you enjoyed this insight, consider reading The Danish Way of Parenting: What the Happiest People in the World Know about Raising Confident, Capable Kids. It has such good, practical insight into a more relaxed, communal, and positive parenting style.
And if you’re really into the concept of hygge, I have heard good things about these books (although I have not read them…yet!):