Happy is the one who hygges

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Last week I attended my first soiree of the new year. Somewhere in Whitechapel, away from the winter chill, 20 people cosied up around a dinner table. Despite having the most tenuous link of the city we inhabit, and our mutual friend, hostess with the mostest, Nairobi-based fashion designer Ann McCreath, the conversation flowed as we chatted about work, life, plans for the year ahead. At the end of the evening I felt re-invigorated with the positive energy that only a room full of creative people can generate.

A few months after discovering the Danish art of hygge this was the ultimate epiphany – it was hygge in action. For those of you who have not got on with the hygge programme, hygge, pronounced “hoo-guh”, is a Danish term defined as “a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.”

In The Oxford Dictionaries’ 2016 “word of the year” final ten, the word has no direct synonym in the English language, though “cosy” comes close and “hug” is a close cousin with its origin the sixteenth-century Norwegian term, hugga, meaning “to comfort” or “to console.”

Associated with gratitude, hygge also means taking genuine pleasure in making ordinary, every day moments more meaningful, beautiful or special, whether it is lounging with a book and a cup of coffee on a weekend morning or a cosy candlelit dinner with friends. Hygge is indulging in every day rituals, savouring special moments, and the art of creating intimacy at any opportune moment.

Much to Hubby’s dismay, I have been making a point of observing or going as far as creating “hyggelig” moments ever since I discovered the art of “hygge” – these days I take my camera with me and go for walks in the morning to capture the beauty of everyday, I take a full hour lunch break and enjoy every bite of my meal, every sip of my drink as opposed to the lunch al fresco hovered up with an eye on the computer and another on the phone, lighting candles in the evenings, and getting cosy with a good book. At home and on holidays, I have also been on the look out for “hyggelig” spaces: think low lighting, soulful sounds and a spaces that creates intimacy with every detail.

The much harangued January, with its post-festive blues, believe it or not, still remains the best time of the year if you are one for dedicating it to pursuit of a new passion. What is more, for those of us already weary of the rose-tinted spectacles we can’t help but put on in the first few weeks of a new year, the search for hygge will bring your life a new perspective and a newfound clarity.

While the Danish art of creating intimacy originated from the need of combatting long, dreary winters, hygge can be achieved anywhere in the world – regardless of the time, temperature or season – in a few simple steps.

Let there be mood lighting
Who says hygge is for those northern territories frost-clad for half the year when nature’s best mood lighting comes in fifty shades of twilight? It is the easiest way to add a sense of hygge in your life; I have in the recent months added a sense of wonder with a healthy side of gratitude to my everyday life by simply taking a few minutes to observe the dying light of another day and counting my blessings as I do so. When the dark descends, opt for mood lighting in your private space. Imagine coming home to candles and soft lighting for a cosy evening in after a long day at work.

Create daily rituals
Are you the one rushing through the door in a mad dash to catch up with the world, with barely a thought to breakfast? I have found that the way you start your day sets the tone for how the rest of it will go. What I strive to do is cut down on my snooze time as much as I can and recycle that time saved into my morning ritual of getting ready in piece and even having a few minutes left for me to clear my head. Some use this time to relax, or to read, others to exercise; each to their own. Likewise, I set myself a lunch rituals – no mater how busy the day is – I schedule in an hour everyday and try to take myself out for lunch at a new place to enjoy a full hour with no demands on my time or attention.

Make a date with loved ones
In the hustle and bustle of our daily routine, it can get tough to juggle friends and family and all else that demands our time. How often do you talk to friends and discuss meeting up and it never materialises? Before you know it a whole year has gone by. People are good for the soul, even for introverts like me, and a big part of hygge relies on intimacy which includes human interaction. Catch up with a friend over coffee, or like Ann’s Kitchen I attended last week, cook a hearty home-made dinner and invite friends over for a cosy night in.

Create your happy place
We all need a ‘happy place’ we can snuggle up in and get away from the world, even if just for a bit. Hygge is also about the art of creating a happy place which exudes a feeling of cosiness and comfort. Think textures and patterns, pillows and cushions, books and notepads – anything that will create a cocoon of comfort.

Switch off
Our ‘always on’ and ‘connected’ culture defeats the whole purpose of hygge. Hygge is about the simple bare necessities not about the glitzy world of material goods and supermodel looks I am sure you are bombarded with each time you scroll through Instagram. It is not about keeping up with the Joneses or the Kardashians; neither is it to be at the beck and call of your phone’s constant buzz of notifications. Hygge requires mindful presence and a genuine commitment to real intimacy, not of the emoji kind.

Simple, right? Switch off, set the lighting, get comfortable, even invite a few friends over. There you have it! I wish you a hyggelig rest of the year.

In this article:
Guardian WomanHygges
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