Have you heard of “hygge” yet? It seems like every time I turn around, I see another book or an article about it! My innate curiosity lead me to doing some research about this Danish buzzword and what it really means. I ended up finding the concept of hygge so fascinating that I decided I would share it with you all today! Here’s the thing: The Danes are among the happiest on earth. Sure, this has to do with the many benefits of living in Denmark (lengthy parental leave and vacation, free health care and education, etc.), but it also has to do with a way of being. While many who are intrigued by the Danish tradition consider hygge to be about candles, blankets, soft lighting, and good books, in the end, it’s really about being fully present: to place, to self, and to those you share life with
First of all, hygge is pronounced as hue-ga. And it turns out that hygge is a Danish word and idea that has absolutely everything to do with creating a haven.
For the Danes, hygge is both a noun and verb. “To hygge is to build sanctuary,” writes Louisa Thomsen Brits in The Book of Hygge. “Hygge exists in moments of contentment.”
So, you can actively hygge to find and experience hygge. Or, in other words, you create a haven to find and experience a haven.
To the Danes, hygge is less about a particular aesthetic and more about feelings of belonging, conviviality, and contentment, so essential for the soul. In that sense, hygge could almost be considered a spiritual practice: a stance and attunement that helps you return to your true self and pay closer attention to the many blessings and Sacred stirrings that surround you.
Right now, hygge sells. Retailers around the world are using it in their cleverly-concocted marketing campaigns to sell us an alternative offer of comfort, and one that can never satisfy us at the deepest levels. No amount of fluffy socks and mugs of mulled wine by the fire can. In fact, there is no secret to achieving happiness and calm.
As Meik Wiking points out in his book The Little Book of Hygge, “Hygge is about enjoying the simple pleasures in life and can be achieved on a shoestring budget.” In fact, the more money and prestige associated with an activity, the less hygge is.
Hygge is a Danish word for “a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.” Sounds pretty great, right? Hygge can enter every aspect of your life, from taking the time to enjoy the simple things, treating yourself to good food, having nice moments with friends, or just trying to achieve balance in your day to day.
As I’ve thought more about this concept over the last several weeks, I’ve decided hygge is my word to embrace, and I’ve come to see it as an important aspect of the Christian life.
As Christians, we share the love of Jesus with our neighbors with open arms. We find contentment in the blessings that come from God’s hand, both big and small. We open our hearts and souls to one another to spread the joy that comes from the hope we have in our savior.
The Lord has given this world to us, to glorify him! Let us praise him and appreciate it!
Read the following verses with this picture of hygge in your mind:
You have put more joy in my heart
than they have when their grain and wine abound.
In peace I will both lie down and sleep;
for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety. Psalm 4:7-8 ESV (emphasis added)
Dwell in safety. Lie down in peace. Hearts full of joy.
Cozy, together, content. There’s hygge in the Lord.
Paul’s letter to the Christians in Thessalonica includes this directive:
…make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody. I Thessalonians 4:11-12 NIV
Why are the people in Denmark so happy? The answer, says Wiking, is hygge. But hygge creates something deeper than happiness.
Louisa Thomsen Brits, author of The Book of Hygge, puts it perfectly:
A determined pursuit of happiness doesn’t necessarily lead to wellbeing. At the heart of Danish life, and at the core of hygge, is the deeper stability of contentment.
Hygge emphasizes being content with what you have, and embracing the joy of living in every moment. For example, to hygge” during an afternoon, you may consider that even though the dishwasher is broken and you must wash dishes by hand, the sun is shining and your favorite songs are playing on the radio. To hygge is to find pleasure in the little things.
I want to take a moment to remind us that God loves when we are content, but He also loves when we find joy in small things. Although we will experience suffering, He encourages us to have joy. In John 16:33 He tells us to “take heart,” and in one of my new favorite passages, his servant Solomon says:
Hygge also emphasizes that money isn’t everything, and values homemade gifts and food above expensive gifts and eating out.
Hygge and gratitude go hand in hand. The philosophy entails feeling thankful for the little things, like a bike ride on a beautiful day, or a cup of hot chocolate, or re-watching your favorite movie. “Research shows that people who feel grateful are not only happier but also more helpful and forgiving and less materialistic,” says Wiking. “It’s all about savoring simple pleasures.”
This may not be a very popular topic among Christians, but selflessness and self-care go hand-in-hand. It is not selfish to give ourselves the basic physical, spiritual, and emotional attention our minds and bodies demand; in fact, it prepares us to help and encourage others. Hygge is about finding the twinkle in the everyday. That could be using your favorite china mug for your evening tea, just because it feels a tad fancier. Popping on those dreamy cashmere socks you’ve been saving, even if it’s just to curl up and read.
Use Empathy-Try to see all the good in the family members who would otherwise irritate you. Try less judging and more tolerance and understanding. We get into bad habits in families where we often focus on the negative or feel upset or offended. We are actually hard wired as humans to do this. It is called the negativity bias and it evolved to protect us from when we were cave men. This vulnerability to feeling threatened or on alert is not protecting us anymore and it can cause more havoc than good, especially in family gatherings. When you understand that a negativity bias exists, it’s easier to be conscious of why we are more attuned to snide comments from family members and try not to focus on them.
Enjoying the moment
Hygge is about living in the present moment enough to recognize and acknowledge the act, the moment and the feeling …and all this transforms the ordinary activity into one with extraordinary charm and feelings .Be joyful in whatever you’re doing, grateful that you’re able to do that task, and fully appreciate every little movement .You’ll learn that anything can be an amazing experience, anything can be a miracle
Winter is long here in Manitoba, Canada– always six months, sometimes more – and it can be a struggle. So unless we want to slip into seasonal sadness for half the year, we might as well embrace it and look for loveliness against the backdrop of long, dark nights.
I find little bits of winter cheer in undistracted conversations, in walks along the riverfront and over good meals with friends. I find it in watching Netflix with family, hot apple cider in hand, as we bundle up under blankets in our living room. Hygge has a lot to do with nurturing relationships – through inviting others to your home, listening to others well, and making time for people.
Often, we panic about the future or fixate on the problems of the past. One of the main attractions of hygge is its focus on the present moment, and as Christians, this is a really important perspective to have. God is interested in our lives at this moment, and the Bible reminds us not to worry or be afraid.
Hygge doesn’t happen while we’re checking our emails, or replying to that not-so-urgent text message. Part of its beauty and power is found in the simplicity of things that don’t require a plug socket. An open fire; a warm candle; a big sofa; good conversation and friends. So challenge yourself to switch off from technology every so often, either to spend time listening to God’s voice, or investing in other people.
Tell uplifting stories from your past.
Still battling about how backwards Uncle Bob sounds? What about that time when you were little and you all had that great time at the beach? How many wonderful memories we all have with our families if we allow ourselves to talk about those? It doesn’t serve us to focus on these things or fall into the same repetitive negative storylines. We can build up a positive family storyline by talking about the good times. This is connecting in the moment and this is the essence of hygge.
Do random acts of kindness
Whether it’s bringing a box of donuts to the office or simply lending a compliment to a co-worker, you can turn someone’s entire day (and your own) around just by being kind.
“Social support does help manage stress,” said Iben Sandahl, Alexander’s co-author and co-creator of “The Danish Way.” According to Sandahl, knowing we have people who care about us makes us more resilient.
“Being vulnerable with someone [allows for] a huge distribution of the stress we carry, helping to get it off our backs,” Sandahl said.
Treat everyday like it’s special.
We often feel that in order to treat ourselves, we must have done something good. Get this out of your head and wake up seeing everyday as a special day, pretend it’s Christmas if you need to. You don’t need to keep your favorite lipsticks and perfumes for special days, every day can be special.
Find Comfort Zone
‘Hyggelig’ can mean to comfort oneself, or to be reflective. We believe it’s really important for us to allow ourselves time to idle, to dream, and to ponder…find a time and space where you can allow your spirit to catch up with your mind Try bathing by candlelight, a mindful morning of making a slow hot cup and journalling. Be spontaneous and take a day trip to your favorite place, make something, exercise, or just sit quietly and allow your mind to wander before you go to bed. Whatever works for you to allow yourself to catch up.
Thank you for reading this, I would love to know your thoughts on the concept of Hygge? Do you maybe practice ‘Hyggelig’ without even realizing it, or will you be making some new plans in the run up to winter? We’ll be sharing some more thoughts on Hygge for you and your home very soon!
3 Comments Add yours
Awesome post! I’d never heard of hygge before reading this post, but it definitely resonates with me. I’m new to WordPress (and your site), so I didn’t know if you were a Christian or not at the start of the post, but as I read about hygge and contentment, I was definitely thinking about how we are meant to learn to be content regardless of circumstances (certainly still a work in progress for me)! I love your thoughts about how self care is not selfish. Living only to please yourself, yes – selfish – but taking time to care for yourself is so necessary and even (one could argue) biblical! Lots of thoughts on that topic, but suffice it to say: great food for thought! Thanks for this post!
Thank you so much for your comments. You are very much right we should be content under all circumstances 😀😀
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