Now unless you’ve been living in a cave for the last few years, which I know is pretty tempting sometimes, you’ll have noticed the ever-growing trend towards all things Scandinavian.
From homeware to films, fashion to working patterns, Scandi-style is most certainly having a moment.
The world of wellbeing is no exception.
People living in Scandinavian countries are said to be some of the happiest and healthiest people on the planet, and many attribute this down to “hygge”.
Now, you’d be forgiven for thinking, as I did, that “hygge” is bound to be something to do with cuddling. As you’ll know if you’ve been reading this column for a while, cuddling is hugely beneficial to our health, and if you’re hitting the recommended 12 hugs a day, then I imagine you’re in a quite a good place right now.
But no, hygge is not cuddling, although a snuggle and a smooch may be involved if you’re lucky!
Hygge is a Danish word, pronounced “hoo-ga”, and while there’s no one English word to describe “hygge”, the closest translation is “cosiness” or “the art of creating intimacy”.
It’s a feeling or a mood that comes from taking pleasure in making ordinary, every day things more meaningful, beautiful or special.
A candlelit dinner for two, drinking a mug of cocoa in front of a roaring log fire, a bath with essential oils, watching movies in bed together, Sunday lunch with friends after a country walk, wrapped up in a blanket cuddling the cat, a new pair of Uggs for the winter…you get the picture.
For me, I got the feeling of hygge just from putting my clothes on after 3 hours in the rain in a choppy sea, falling in every five minutes. There’s nothing special about getting dressed, but when you’ve been cold and wet for that long, there’s something just so deliciously comforting about a warm hoodie.
When I think of “hygge”, I think of the phrase, “it’s the little things in life”, and it is. It’s those magical moments, borne out of everyday events, which make you feel all warm and fluffy.
In Denmark, which is one of the happiest countries in the world along with Iceland and Switzerland, it’s even more than that. It’s an entire attitude to life.
Helen Russell, author of The Year of Living Danishly: Uncovering The Secrets of The World’s Happiest Country, has this to say:
“Hygge seems to me to be about being kind to yourself – indulging, having a nice time, not punishing or denying yourself anything. There isn’t so much enforced deprivation in Denmark. Instead you’re kinder to yourselves and so each other”.
In Denmark people don’t starve themselves then binge eat. There’s no yo-yo dieting, or living on rabbit food twice a week so you can get wasted at the weekend. There’s no guilt to drinking wine or beer, there’s no forbidden fruit. But when you have it, you’re in the moment, savouring every sip or mouthful without guilt.
Russell uses this example:
“My most hygge experience to date was probably watching the sun set from a hot tub in a blizzard in January, beer in hand. But it needn’t be anything quite so dramatic. I generally light a candle at my home desk while I’m working”.
I couldn’t agree more with this concept, and it has inspired me to embrace the colder months with the aim of having more “hygge” moments.
I’ll be getting my candles out for my yoga classes, but also my bath, my White Company dressing gown, furry throw and cat at the ready, a hot cup of cocoa with coconut milk (sorry, but there’s nothing cosy about camomile tea), and arranging long walks with friends followed by a Sunday roast and red wine by the fire.
And the best thing, there will be no guilt, because it’s all hygge, and that could just be the secret to health and happiness.
As published in the Express and Echo.