Have you heard about the Danish happiness magic called hygge? It’s been having a moment in popular culture the last few years and it isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Practicing hygge can be a great way to add a bit of happiness to your everyday life, especially if you struggle getting through the dreary months of fall and winter. Here are a ton of ideas to add more hygge to your life, plus info on the best hygge books to read to get you started.
How to pronounce the word hygge
First things first. Hygge is definitely a tricky word to pronounce! The ‘y’ is a vowel that we don’t really have in English. It sounds a bit like hoo-guh. The best way I’ve heard of pronouncing it is to make an “eeee” sound (like in read), but then round your lips so that they make a little ‘o’ shape. You might feel stupid doing it at first, but that trick really helps! But if you decide not to make the weird vowel sound and just say hoo-guh instead, no one will judge you!
What is hygge?
You’ve probably heard at least some definition of hygge already since it’s having a moment in pop culture right now. It’s a Danish word that explains how they survive the loooooong winters every year. More precisely, it’s defined as “a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.” There’s not really an English translation for it. The closest word we have might be “cozy,” though that doesn’t encapsulate everything. Hygge is about an attitude or feeling of contentment, coziness, and peace. It’s an experience and a state of mind.
You don’t have to be familiar with the term to experience it, and the fun thing is that people will experience hygge in all sorts of different circumstances. For one person, a hygge moment might involve lighting a candle and curling up under a blanket to read a good book. For another, it might involve gathering friends or family around a board game at the kitchen table.
Hygge Books to Read
Thankfully for us, the Danes have provided a handful of books for us to learn how to embrace their concept of supreme coziness.
This is the first book I read about hygge. I listened to the audiobook on my commute, which was fun since the author read it himself. It’s always such a treat when authors narrate their own books! This book was particularly enjoyable because it gave me some ideas to savor cozy moments in my own life, but it was also a peak into the Danish culture. I didn’t know a lot about Denmark before reading this, so it was fun to learn more about the beautiful country! It’s a quick read, which is great if you need an easy book for your Goodreads Challenge! Meik Wiking also happens to work at a happiness think tank in Denmark, so there’s a fair amount of (non-boring) research put into it as well. I would definitely start here if you’re wanting to read more about hygge.
Hygge: The Danish Art of Happiness by Marie Tourell Søderberg
This was a much different read than The Little Book of Hygge, but still incredibly enjoyable. Each page has a quote from a Danish person sharing their own personal experience of hygge. It really opened my eyes to the variety in the concept, which makes it a lot easier to apply to my own life. The design of the pages felt very Danish to me, with lots of white space and muted colors. A lot of the photography was also beautiful to look at. This definitely feels more like a coffee table book than something you would read through like a novel or biography.
The Hygge Holiday by Rosie Blake
I just stumbled across this fictional hygge book and it sounds like a really fun winter read! Here’s the publisher’s summary:
It’s autumn in Yulethorpe and everyone is gloomy. It’s cold, drizzly and the skies are permagrey. The last shop on the high street – an adorable little toy shop – has just shut its doors. Everything is going wrong for Yulethorpe this autumn. Until Clara Kristensen arrives.
Clara is on holiday but she can see the potential in the pretty town, so she rolls up her sleeves and sets to work. Things are looking up until Joe comes to Yulethorpe to find out exactly what is going on with his mother’s shop. Joe is Very Busy and Important in the City and very sure that Clara is up to no good. Surely no one would work this hard just for the fun of it?
Making Winter by Emma Mitchell
This looks like a really fun book to get you through a long winter. It’s filled with all sorts of cozy projects to inspire hygge feelings. The reviews describe the photography as being beautiful. I might just have to get my hands on this one. It would also make an amazing Christmas gift for anyone who has a rough winter ahead of them.
The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell
While this isn’t a book strictly about hygge, I’ve heard a lot of really good things about it and it’s been on my TBR for a while. Here’s a summary from the publisher:
When she was suddenly given the opportunity of a new life in rural Jutland, journalist and archetypal Londoner Helen Russell discovered a startling statistic: the happiest place on earth isn’t Disneyland, but Denmark, a land often thought of by foreigners as consisting entirely of long dark winters, cured herring, Lego and pastries.
What is the secret to their success? Are happy Danes born, or made? Helen decides there is only one way to find out: she will give herself a year, trying to uncover the formula for Danish happiness.
From childcare, education, food and interior design to SAD, taxes, sexism and an unfortunate predilection for burning witches, The Year of Living Danishly is a funny, poignant record of a journey that shows us where the Danes get it right, where they get it wrong, and how we might just benefit from living a little more Danishly ourselves.
My favorite hygge tips
The awesome thing about hygge is that, with a little intentionality, it’s really easy to start enjoying. Here are some of my favorite ways you can start practicing hygge right away.
Candles. Candles everywhere.
According to the Danes, candles should be unscented. They’re to be enjoyed for the sight and the ambiance. As an America, however, I have to admit that I’m a huge fan of scented candles. Why deprive yourself of good smells to go along with your soft lighting?
No overhead lights.
Speaking of soft lighting, overhead lights are a no go when it comes to hygge. The light in a room is something that people pay a lot more attention to in Denmark than they do here. It’s crazy how much the lighting in a room can affect you without you realizing it. Try turning off the lights in the ceiling and turning on a few lamps instead. I promise that the atmosphere will instantly feel cozier.
I’m not great at remembering to play music when I’m just hanging out around the house. I forget how much music can change the mood of the room. Try finding a cozy fall playlist or some peaceful piano music to listen to. Whatever makes you enjoy the moment most.
Little things to help savor everyday moments.
The awesome thing about practicing hygge is that it doesn’t require a complete life overhaul. It just requires doing a little bit more of what you already love and savoring the experience. That might mean making an event of watching a show by pulling out your favorite blanket, making a cup of tea, and grabbing a couple squares of chocolate first. It’s not hard, but it goes a long way in making you feel happier.
Put your phone down.
I feel like we can’t be reminded of this enough. If you’re feeling like you never have peaceful moments that you can enjoy, chances are you’re just missing them. Hygge and phones don’t mesh very well — though I’m not saying it’s impossible! If you’re wanting to practice hygge more though, start by putting your phone down a bit more often. It’ll do wonders in making you feel more present and peaceful.
How to hygge with friends
One of the neat things about hygge is that it can be done completely alone or with friends. Here are some great ideas for fostering hygge with friends.
Watch a comedy
Normally screens can make hygge challenging, but I can’t think of a better way to savor a moment with friends than with laughing. I don’t watch a lot of comedies (okay, none), so let me know if you have good ones you’d recommend!
Play a game
Board games are definitely coming back in style and there are so many fun ones to choose from! I’ve heard great things about Ticket to Ride, but the classic ones like this one are always fun too! Charles and I have been enjoying this card game lately.
Listen to an old-fashioned radio show together
There’s a skill on Alexa that you can use to play old radio shows together. It sounds like a really unique and cozy activity!
Have a soup potluck
Invite a few friends over and have each one bring a pot of their favorite soup. It’ll be a great way to spend time with friends and try some new recipes at the same time!
Learn a craft together
Is your friend awesome at knitting beanies? I seriously can’t thing of a more hygge activity than that. Invite her over and ask her to teach you. Maybe you’ve both wanted to scrapbook (does anyone do that anymore?) or you could all buy macrame kits and learn together (people are definitely doing that still!). This one looks like lots of fun!
Hygge at work
Creating an incredibly enjoyable work environment was something that, crazily enough, never even occurred to me. I guess I’ve had the mentality that work is work and it’ll never be cozy. I loved reading how people in Denmark practice hygge in their workplace environment. Sadly for us Americans, most of us aren’t allowed to burn candles at work, but here are a few other ways you can practice hygge without burning candles.
Put up fairy lights.
If you’re allowed to decorate, fairy lights are a great way to make your workplace feel cozier. I love the idea of putting some in a glass vase.
Bring in a potted plant (or three)
Nature is very hygge. If you ever have a chance to bring nature in, do it. I love these tiny little pots that would fit on a desk perfectly.
Have a killer work playlist
Find something that makes you feel cozy, happy, or inspired. I listen to this playlist when I just need a bit of white noise. This is a great playlist if you enjoy cozy-sounding acoustic music.
Spend lunch outside, weather allowing
I have zero windows in my office, which is kind of a downer. It’s especially hard in winter, when I show up at work when it’s still dark and leave with only an hour or so of sunlight left. Bringing some walking shoes to change into and soaking up some vitamin D during my lunch break would definitely be a good hygge activity.
Bring pictures to work
I love visiting other people’s desks and seeing pictures of their family. It’s a great conversation starter, plus it always feels good to be reminded of your loved ones when you’re slaving away at the office. If you don’t have any pictures that make you happy at work, bring some in! If you haven’t brought in any new ones in a while, freshen them up a bit.
Plan a work potluck
It’s easy to wait for the designated people to organize lunch activities, but a work potluck doesn’t have to be difficult at all. Coordinate with different people you work with to bring in something special for lunch. You could even make it a weekly or monthly thing. There’s something special about connecting over food.
Things for your hygge wishlist
I currently have myself on a spending freeze, so I won’t be buying anything new right now, but these things are definitely on my hygge wishlist.
I mentioned fairy lights for office decor, but fairy lights make for great hygge home decor too. I love the idea of clipping pictures of your loved ones to them.
We actually have two and I love, love, love them. They’re super soft and cozy. Bonus: it makes for a great backdrop to your Instagram photos. See here, here, and here.
Having potted plants in your home is a great way to add style, and they’re good for so many other reasons, like purifying the air and boosting your mood. I love the mid-century modern plant stands that are trendy right now.
How to hygge solo
Read a book
Unless you hate reading anything, then reading a book definitely counts a hygge activity. You can check out my personal fall reading list for inspiration if you’re not sure what to start with!
Listen to an audiobook while crafting
There are so many good audiobooks out there, it’s hard to suggest just one or two for a cozy evening. Wuthering Heights is a great fall read, all moody and gothic. I’ve been enjoying The Chief Inspector Gamache series by Louise Penny. They might actually be the coziest books I’ve ever read.
Light all the candles
I think it’s actually impossible to talk about hygge without talking about candles. It’s a central tenant to the philosophy.
Snuggle up with a pet
If you don’t have your own, borrow a friend’s! (just maybe ask first). There’s something extra warm and comforting about having a dog or cat snuggled up next to you.
Baking is very, very hygge. If you love baking, consider this your excuse to get back in the kitchen.
Hygge on a budget
Another cool thing about hygge is that it doesn’t have to be expensive. Here are some free or cheap ways you can add more hygge to your life.
Learn to crochet
Crocheting is super peaceful and relaxing, and it’s really inexpensive to start. All you need is a ball of yarn and a crochet hook. You can rent a book from your library that’ll teach you the basics. My favorite way to learn is by watching YouTube videos. If you’re brand new to the world of crocheting, it’s better to find an easy pattern before you buy the yarn and hook, otherwise you might get the wrong kinds.
Stock up on library books
I’ve been making a lot more trips to the library lately and it’s so worth it. I always feel a thrill of excitement coming home with new books. I also don’t feel incredibly guilty if I don’t finish a book because I didn’t spend a ton of money on it.
Use fireplace white noise
There are lots of apps you can download for white noise, not to mention the fireplace on Netflix. When my neighbors are noisy, I just tell Alexa to play fireplace sounds and the atmosphere is instantly more peaceful.
Get board games from a thrift store
I discovered that a lot of thrift stores have great board games when I needed one for a school project. Sometimes a piece or two is missing, but you can get a great board game for just a couple bucks. Hard to beat!
Buy candles from the Dollar Tree
The Dollar Tree has a tooooon of white un-scented candles that you can get for a really affordable price. Check them out, or stores like them, to kickstart your candle stock.
Have you been practicing hygge already? What’s the one thing that gets you in the hygge mood? Any hygge books I should know about? I’d love to hear! Leave a comment and let me know.