I've recently been reading a huge amount about the concept of "Hygge" and by the influx of news articles that hit the internet over the weekend, plus the fact that numerous books are to be published this year on the topic, it appears I am not alone in drawing inspiration from this confusingly pronounced word!
Hygge [pronounced Hue-gah] is a Danish word (though many other Scandinavian countries have a similar term for the concept) which has no direct translation to the English language. Instead it describes a feeling or mood created from taking genuine pleasure in making ordinary, everyday things more meaningful, special or beautiful to you, thus it can be seen as a ritual of enjoying the simple pleasures of life. As a fundamental quality of Danish culture the term is interchangeable with a feeling of cosiness, intrinsic well being, contentment, a warm glow, comfort, kinship, familiarity, simpleness, security and graciousness.
Why should this concern us? Well, for one, the Danes are cited as the happiest nation in the world! They practice Hygge not as an external effort, but rather as an extension of themselves and their culture, meaning it is in an intrinsic part of culture & community. They make enjoyment a priority and both acknowledge & celebrate activities that really nourish the soul. Secondly, it's an exceptional mindfulness practice, one that allows you to truly connect to reality and the present moment, to find the beauty in the ordinary - which leads to the feeling of gratitude and a sense of community. With the rise of our connection to technology and the constant busy-ness of our lives, there is a general sense that we are removed from our actions, that we are moving through life on auto-pilot - with tasks seeming more like a chore or bother, just 'another task to tick off the list', which takes away a level of authenticity from our actions. In contrast, Hygge is about recognising these moments and being fully immersed in them, perhaps to acknowledge the task and find the joy in it, rather than muscling or drudging through- for where is the joy in that?
Much of Hygge revolves around the winter months, to bring around a lasting happiness through the darker days. The short edit of it, is indulging in the things that make you feel great: the warm glow of candles, long dinners with great food, company and wine, with present, engaging conversation and a space you inhabit that is familiar, comforting and reflective of your personality. It additionally is often about creating small rituals that bring you happiness; be it brewing your favourite tea in a gorgeous tea pot and enjoying pouring into your china cup or indulging in your morning routine with your favourite skin & hair products; any pattern of habits or activities that bring you a sense of contentment.
So how to we implement some of this into our lives?
Well, begin with taking away the guilt of doing things that make you happy. That feeling that you have to push through the tough things and those things perhaps you really hate, to be allowed to enjoy the things you do like. Step back and begin to analyse things from a simpler point; does this make be happy, make me feel fulfilled and satisfied? If the answer is yes, it is something to keep doing and keep on enjoying! Ifthe answer to that is no, well how perhaps can you find a sense of joy in that task? How can you appreciate that activity or do it in such a way that you can find some enjoyment in it? In short, how would you be able to alter your mindset and perception of any said "chore" so you can be truly present and engaged?
Do the exercise that makes you feel great and which you love! There may be a class or method that really sings to your soul, that afterwards you walk out with your head in the clouds and a beaming smile on your face regardless of the amount of sweat covering your body. Or perhaps it is a long relaxing unwinding walk, that one yoga teacher's particular session that leaves you feeling incredible, or smashing the sprint up that tricky hill...whatever it is, find a way to make that exercise a priority and immerse yourself in the practice. This will make you feel confident, comfortable and great in your body (plus you're more likely to stick to the routine if you love it!).
Additionally this then has a huge knock on effect. For you may find when you do the exercise that makes you feel great, your mindset is more positive, filled from positive self talk rather than the negativity you feel when you drudge through a workout that doesn't fulfill your soul! This can then lead you to be kinder to your body whilst taking extra care of your self. You could find you want to fuel yourself with nutritious food and hydrate cleverly, make it a priority to get a good night's sleep, taking care of the nature of products you put on and inside your body- all the little things that add up to increased and mindful self care.
This in turn may lead to being open to other mindful practices, practicing gratitude, connecting to your intuition, meditation - whatever makes you feel great. This in theory, is "healthy body: healthy mind", reflecting health in both the physical and mental - whatever that means, individually to you! As you do this, you see it is nourishing the soul to be immersed in taking care of the self.
Often once you feel better in your body and mind you can be open to see the little things surrounding you, as you are not wrapped up in a blanket of self consciousness and insecurity.
Connect with your friends and loved ones. Surrounding yourself with those who uplift, inspire and celebrate in and with you, which brings a true sense of contentment. Even though that may not be in the physical, engage with the people who matter to you and trust in making time and clearing space to be present in your interactions.
Indulge in self love and care, not for vanity but for rejuvenation and relaxation- be it the facial you've put off for months or years, soaking in a long bath, filling your room with flowers or lighting your favourite candle. It is the small things, that needn't cost anything, that make you feel like you're taking care of the soul.
Clock in to what is aspirational in your life. This may require a deep check to your intuition, but try and register what you really are aspiring too; what your true goals and ambitions are. Often there is a pressure to be living a high achieving, high earning, high paced lifestyle - however is that really what you want to aspire to? How important is reaching the next salary bracket? And at what cost to your happiness? What perhaps, could you take a step back from, or what could you really look into enjoying more in your work that may shift your perspective and as such the way you view work and your work life?
Connect with nature. The Danes live an outdoorsy, nature filled existence, believing in the power of fresh air & our relationship to the environment. Look for ways to ground yourself in our world, even if you do live in a concrete jungle! Moments of "earthing" or being surrounded by our Earth provide youwith a chance to disconnect from the tangled busy web of the everyday and check back in to our simpler existence. Additionally, connecting with nature can be looking to eat seasonally and organically, adapting our nutrition to the local, available sources to us for better quality and sustenance.
And whilst Summer here in London is just drawing to a close, we being to brace for the Winter, knowing in the shorter, darker days ahead, we should grasp every possible ounce of sunshine and daylight in between racing to appointments, classes, trains, the list goes on!
So there we have it, a little insight to the concept of Hygge! I hope you can find ways to begin to implement this practice into your everyday lives, to enjoy each and every moment and embrace the Danish ways!