Cozy by the fireside. Phot by Taryn Elliot.

What Is Hygge?

The Danish know the key to thriving during a long, cold winter is to embrace the simple warmth and comfort of all you have at home.

Like many people, I am constantly seeking happiness.  And, also like most in this pursuit, I’ve found that happiness comes from the inside.  It is not based on material things, but more so on your view of things and the feelings you allow and emanate.  In recent years a certain word has gained immense popularity, and I feel it embraces this key to happiness.  That word is “hygge”.

Hygge (pronounced “hyoo-gah”) was a term originally from Norway which meant “wellbeing”.  But over time it has evolved into a more specific meaning. The Oxford English Dictionary defines hygge as: “A quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.”  And importantly, this is regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture.

To be clear, I think this concept exists the world over.  But what is really neat is that the Danish (and Scandinavians in general) actually have a word for it.  Winters in the region are so dark, cold and bleak, natives have found it critical to establish the places and means to provide comfort and joy.  Not surprisingly, the easiest place to find comfort is indoors at home.  And as for the means… it really comes down to attitude.


Read about another stress-reducing concept: Niksen


Hygge (or being “hyggeligt”) is not about adopting a certain lifestyle nor buying anything.  It basically just requires you to be conscious – to be present in the moment and really take time to enjoy it.  Being mindful like this forces you to let go of desires for things you lack.  Additionally, it promotes a sense of gratitude for what you do have.  So hygge is not a physical thing.  Rather, it is a feeling.

You may now find many items are marketed as ‘being hygge’.  But it’s important to recognize that the items themselves cannot be a feeling.  They are merely a commodity.  It is how you use these items to promote your own feelings of comfort and contentment that is important.

A warm mug. Photo by pixabay.

Hygge is not a particular mug, nor a certain type of tea or hot chocolate.  However, you may recognize how your cup fits perfectly in your hands.  You can appreciate how the hot beverage warms your fingers.  And you find simple satisfaction in how it pleases your palate and soothes your throat.

Candles. Photo by Matej Novosad.

Neither is hygge a special candle.  But certainly candles can help stimulate your hygge. You can enjoy that the flickering flame brings a comforting glow to the room that artificial light just can’t.  And the scented wax may invoke happy memories and other calming feelings.

Puppy in blanket. Photo by Emily Hopper.

Similarly, a cashmere blanket in itself is not hygge.  However, you can definitely find comfort in it’s fluffy folds.  The soft texture sure is pleasant as it caresses your skin.  And the cozy hug of the blanket may invite you to snuggle in with a good book, or simply cuddle with your partner.


Practice Wabi-Sabi to find contentment in the present


You can find hygge on your own. But it can also be shared with family and friends. After all, don’t we find comfort in the hugs of our loved ones? And isn’t it more enjoyable to share food, drinks, and laughter with those that warm our hearts?

All it takes is a home in which to gather, and feelings of gratitude and contentment. So as we navigate the stresses of life, remember to embrace the happiness and hygge already at home. And okay, a few candles never hurt, so light a few, too.


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David Hughes

Contributing Editor and Author at Kaldzar

Certified Biologist and Data Scientist
Constantly curious. Curiously compassionate.


Main photo by Taryn Elliot.