Hoo-gah

A definition of hygge:

According to Meik Wiking, the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute, hygge (pronounced hoo-gah), is a Danish concept that embodies love, family, homey-ness, and an overall sense of well-being that is settled not in the things we have but in the people we surround ourselves with and an atmosphere we create.

What you need to hygge:

If you’ve heard anything about this now international phenomena, it’s likely been in association with the colder months. I know my copy of the hygge bible, The Little Book of Hygge arrived in my lap in the early part of January, and I spent a lot of time with it while sitting in a oversized arm chair at a steamy little coffee shop, waiting for E. to get out of her gymnastics class. But it doesn’t not have to be the darkest weeks of winter for one to get all hygge-ly. While hygge places an emphasis on coziness and warmth, those don’t have to be physical.

And not everyone’s vision of hygge, what makes them feel cozy, safe, and loved, is going to look the same. For me, regardless of season, I generally require a good book, comfy clothes, a hot or refreshing drink, weather depending, and my children and husband. An afternoon spent on our sofa snuggled up to my chin in blankets and babies and staying hydrated via some Earl Grey is, for me, the epitome of hygge, no matter the season. But it might look different for you, and like anything in this life, that is a good and beautiful thing.

That said, when it comes hygge, there are some standards by which we all may want to adhere:

Soft, warm lighting, from candles, a fireplace, soft afternoon sunlight, or well placed lamps evokes a glow inside our homes, lifting them from simply being those places we go to sleep and store our things to true refuges from the elements and busyness of the outside world.

Cozy clothing is another must when it comes to hygge. Thick knit socks and sweaters on chilly spring mornings and nights, those sweatpants or leggings you won’t wear anywhere but home, a favorite old t-shirt from your first concert might still smell faintly of that night — these cozies bring you back into yourself, warm your body as well as your heart, and leave you feeling cared for and safe.

Soul food, comfort food, Grandma and Mama’s cooking, all this kind of stuff is necessitated when bringing on the hygge. We so often forget to feed ourselves well in our busy lives, and hygge reminds us that not every meal must be fast or sparse, but can be created slowly and with love and is absolutely best if enjoyed with others.

And yes, the invitation of others is the final crucial detail. The summer provides us with so many reasons to encircle ourselves with those we know and love best. These hygge gatherings shouldn’t be formal or too planned out. Just an evening, perhaps, with all sorts of food to be cooked over flames and coals and drinks (maybe with little nips of something added to the grown-ups’ drinks), lawn games, music, and a bonfire, the bigger, the better. Bonus hygge points if you do this after a day out hiking or swimming or otherwise exerting yourself in nature.

Hygge asks us to do things so many of us have forgotten how to do or feel guilty for doing in the first place. With so much on our plates, it can feel wrong to just sit and rest. But an important distinction between hygge and simply sitting down with a cup of coffee is this general sense of well-being, of being safe, of feeling as though all is right with the world. So often society tells us that it is normal to feel uncomfortable, that we must push, push, push ourselves, that we haven’t achieved or found success unless we have had these prolonged moments of discomfort. But what kind of life is that, one where we are discouraged from enjoying our lives and feeling secure and well?

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