I was rather proud of how well I held up in 2020 despite everything thrown my way. The loss of my job was a silver lining. Family illnesses taught me the importance of the present. Staying home allowed me to grow my business.
Yet, we entered into autumn and changed our clocks. More darkness, cooler weather, and the imminent “how do we celebrate the holidays this year?” settled into my anxiety-prone brain.
I about lost it.
Something needed to change because I was right on track for burnout and an anxiety attack. Everything was chaotic — from my job to my side-hustle, social media, family, and even my living space.
Then I remembered a Danish term that trended several years ago, hygge.
I’m half-Danish, and I love everything about Danish traditions and culture. After I visited Denmark last summer, I tried to implement different parts of Danish culture here and there, but hygge somehow missed the list.
I thought, why not? It can’t hurt to try something to make life simple, cozy, and a bit brighter.
What is hygge?
While there’s no literal translation for the Danish word “hygge” (pronounced hue-guh), the rough translation, or concept, is “coziness.” It’s about creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people (visitdenmark.com).
Other western countries picked up on hygge a few years ago, and many people capitalized on it. Hygge became a home decor term — search it on Pinterest, and you’ll find an abundance of articles on how to create hygge in your home, including what specific home decor items to purchase. In fact, I just received an email from a home decor company with a winter hygge collection.
Here’s the thing, though — look back at the concept of hygge. It’s not all about home decor, but creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life. Now, that’s not to say that home decor can’t be part of it — rearranging furnishings and decor in my home certainly helped me create a cozy space — but it’s a small, insignificant piece. Hygge is about the atmosphere you create.
Your hygge might look different from someone else’s. Practicing hygge in the summer might mean something completely different than practicing it in the winter and around Christmastime.
For example, I visited Denmark at the end of June. Not a time usually considered “cozy.” My friend and I stayed with my cousin for a few days, and we spent evenings in the backyard sitting around a table, just chatting and enjoying each other’s company. We turned off our devices and got to know one another. In these actions, we created a warm atmosphere and enjoyed a good time with good people — we were practicing hygge
It’s easy to see why Denmark is one of the happiest countries in the world. Living in a manner that reduces stress, increases connection, and promotes well-being can only benefit us in the long-run.
How to Practice Hygge in Your Life
There’s nothing that produces more anxiety at home than clutter and stuff everywhere, at least for me. I’m not the best at home decor, but I try to make my place — no matter if it’s an apartment or home — mine.
The first thing I did after I researched hygge was to clean up. I put clutter away, threw out things I didn’t need or, as Marie Kondo says, didn’t spark joy. I only allowed objects in these spaces that created the warm, cozy atmosphere I wanted.
I also instituted a new policy with myself — put things away as soon as I don’t need them anymore. I can get lazy, leaving clothes on the bedroom floor, mail on the counter, or receipts on the dresser. Everything has a place, and putting things away from the start allows me to keep the neat and cozy atmosphere I want.
Tip: Start by decluttering a space you intend to use to relax — your bedroom or a corner of your living. Then work your way into the other spaces you spend time in to help create a stress-free environment.
I didn’t buy into the hygge decor trap online, nor did I buy anything (yet) to re-decorate my living spaces. Instead, I rearranged my living room and bedroom to create a sense of coziness.
I started with the living room, where I intend to spend my evenings reading while enjoying a cup of tea in cozy pajamas. The end tables were empty, devoid of any decor. I picked a few books with colors that complimented each other and stacked them on the tables. Then, I added a candle to each along with a piece of decor I already owned. Coasters with the same color scheme finished off the look.
Lighting also makes a significant impact, so I opted to keep it minimal — a lovely lamp and white Christmas lights draped over the TV stand and a bookshelf. Combined with lights from the candles, it adds the cozy ambiance that I wanted to achieve.
On to the bedroom — tidiness and organization were only the beginning of curating hygge. With the ongoing pandemic, I work and sleep in the same room, so I need an office-like space without the office-like feel.
I cleaned up my workspace and relocated binders, notebooks, and other folders out of sight. Scent is one way I create a warm atmosphere, so I incorporated a fall scented candle into my decor. I light it during the workday to achieve coziness and warmth in an otherwise bland part of my day.
When I finish work for the day, I put everything away as neat as possible, so when I spend my non-work hours in the space, I can shift out of work mode into relaxation.
Tip: Start by rearranging pieces you already have to create your cozy space. See what pieces promote relaxation in your body and what pieces make you feel tense, and arrange accordingly.
Coziness is all about comfort in my book.
When I’m ready to read or spend time being present at the end of the workday, I change into something comfortable and set up my space.
For me, getting cozy is a soft sweatshirt, joggers, fuzzy socks, and my hand-crocheted blanket. Sometimes it’s leggings and a sweater with wool socks. I lean into what I’m feeling that day and how my clothes make me feel.
I curl up on the couch with the blanket, candles lit, white lights on, a cup of tea, and a good book. It’s comfy, cozy, and gives me time to sit and breathe.
Tip: Dress in a way that feels right for you and your body. Create a comfy, cozy space where you can relax, breathe, and be present.
Our phones, computers, and other devices keep us connected all hours of the day. As our reliance on technology increases, are we ever fully present?
The goal of hygge is to:
“engender a feeling of contentment or well-being” (New Yorker).
That’s my objective of practicing hygge — to feel contentment and well-being. And how can I do that if I’m on my device 24/7, watching as notifications come through? It creates more stress and anxiety, which is not the result I want.
My phone is generally on silent, and now it gets tucked away when I’m done with my day and read to settle in. I stow the laptop in another room and don’t interact with my digital assistants. I give myself an hour or more away from technology.
Disconnecting allows me to be fully present in what I’m doing, whether I cozy up to read a good book, write, or reflect on my day. And when I’m in the presence of others, staying away from my devices allows me to be in the present moment. It inspires genuine connection because I’m not distracted by emails or social media notifications.
I also started disconnecting before bed, set limits on social media use, and stopped relying on devices at all hours of the day.
By disconnecting, I’m able to be more mindful and intentional about my day. This reduces stress and increases my overall contentment and happiness.
Tip: If disconnecting is hard for you, start easy. If you’re reading a book, writing, or spending time with friends, turn the device on silent. Then start putting it in another room or out of sight.
I’m two weeks into practicing hygge, and I already feel a difference in my mind and body. I feel relaxed, and constant stress is slowly disappearing.
I’m staying present more often and enjoying my time. I can focus on the words I’m reading or writing because I’m present in what I’m doing.
When my space is less chaotic, life feels less messy.
Hygge helped me feel better in the chaos of 2020, and I recommend it to anyone looking for a piece of relaxation and happiness anytime.