I recently came across the idea of hygge (pronounced hoo-ga). Have you heard of it? It originally comes from the Norwegian word for “well-being”, but recognized more as a Danish tradition where they use it for the concept of “coziness.”  It’s apparently a big to-do in Denmark. According to Denmark’s official tourism website, hygge is a lifestyle that should be lived year-round. (which may explain why Denmark is ranked with the happiest people on earth), and made the short-list for Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year for 2016.

Hygee is the attitude of simplifying life and slowing down that brings a specific feeling of warmth, coziness, and the warm-fuzziness you get when you’re with people you love. And while it doesn’t necessitate cold weather, it’s a great way to thrive during the long, cold, overcast days of winter that the Danes experience year after year after year (and I thought Pittsburgh was bad!).

I love the idea of hygge. It moves our focus from grumbling to a place of contentedness, gratefulness, and living in the moment.   We seem to naturally do this for summer – – look anywhere on the internet or magazines and you’ll see bucket lists and “to do” list galore…. For winter, we see list for products like chapstick and gloves….. boy, that’s fun. (insert sarcasm here)

Since having Ryan and especially in the last few years, I’ve gravitated toward living a simpler life and slowing down so when I heard the concept of hygge (not to be confused with the Scottish food Haggis, which definitely isn’t the definition of cozy), my ears perked up.

Besides giving me an excuse to come up with another list, it also takes the four months of the year when it seems like complaining about weather and cabin fever abound and makes them into months we can look forward to with anticipation of all things cozy.

So without further ado, here are some ideas for experiencing hygge this winter and beyond:

1.       Sipping Hot Toddies: – or any other hot drink you love. I happen to love tea, but there’s always mulled cider and mulled wine; hot cocoa or hot coffee. Bonus points if you combine it with curling up with a good book or at a quaint coffee shop with friends.


2.       Browsing through boutiques and book stores. My mind and heart seem to slow down after just a few minutes in a bookstore. Browsing a book store with no goal in sight should be prescribed for lowering anxiety…. The best part is it’s free!

3.       Learning something new – whether it’s knitting at home on your couch or signing up for a class at a local art school, exercising our mind can do wonders for our mental outlook and, according to researchers, the long-term health of our brain.

4.       Making something with your hands – opposite of working our minds, something about working with our hands, frees our minds to relax and unwind. Whether it’s redoing a piece of furniture, drawing, or coloring mandalas, find something you enjoy that lets your mind wander.

5.       Spending time outdoors – yes, it’s cold. And no, I’m not going to tell you to go skiing. Skiing to me is working (you say potato, I say potahto), instead take a walk through fresh fallen snow, take an unhurried bike ride through the city… do something that is slow and lets you take in the beauty around you. Winter trees laden with snow can be just as beautiful as a summer sunset. Just make sure to bundle up. (insiders tip: wear your ski pants for added warmth on a winter walk)

6.       Making a fire or lighting candles – It’s no wonder moths are drawn to a flame. When I’m feeling the need to hibernate, a warm fire brings a warmth and coziness that’s hard to beat. Likewise, lighting a candle at dinner or while I’m reading gives the room a warm glow – the perfect juxtaposition to the harsh weather outside.

7.       Gaming with friends or family – it makes me smile to think of all the memories I’ve made with friends sitting around a table playing cards or board games and how fun it is to teach our kids these same games now that they’re getting old enough. (Chutes and Ladders, you are dead to me and definitely NOT hygge!)

8.       Simplifying things – we live a world where meals, parties, and gifts have become about perfection and if they’re social media worthy. Guess what? It takes a lot of energy to cook a gourmet meal. Simplifying our standards on what constitutes as good food can bring contentment (instead of palette boredom). One of the most hygge things in Denmark is the porridge. It’s their comfort food.  Bring a little hygge into your meal time, by making simple food with simple ingredients. Nothing says a little hygge like foods from your childhood.

pasta-702937_12809.       Unplugging from technology – In his book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, Greg McKeown talks about how not only are we overcome by decision fatigue, but we’ve now become overwhelmed with opinion fatigue – the phenomenon of posting our lives online and getting opinions from anyone who cares to join in. Try unplugging from social media, your television, and if you’re brave enough, the phone option on that smart phone (there was a day when the only option on your phone was the phone option, but I digress). It will free up your time and mind to do any of the other things on this list! Including reading a book, which I just realized is not it’s own bullet point on this list, but combined with several others and is definitely hygge! I promise you the world won’t come crashing down, and in the event of an emergency, people will eventually find you.

10.   Journaling – It may sound self-serving for a writer and life coach to tell you to journal for coziness and comfort, but I am not alone in saying that journaling is good for your mental health. If you aren’t a writer, it may take a few tries to get the writing juices flowing, but it’s worth it in the end. It’s an excellent way to process your thoughts…. don’t forget to write down at least one thing you’re grateful for at the end of your journaling session. It will change your life.

11.   Watching old movies – Singing in the Rain, A Streetcar named Desire, or a favorite Hitchcock “thriller.” Grab some popcorn and a few friends (or your pet!) and have a night in at the movies or binge watching. Since when has someone told you that binge watching your favorite new series might qualify as hygge? Even though that sentence gives me hives, I’m leaving it for those who love to curl up for an hour (or 10) and watch tv. Gold star if you do it with someone you love.

12.   Calling a family member who isn’t online (hello, grandma!) or old friend you haven’t talked to in years. We live in an era where people who are spending time with others are typically texting someone who isn’t there, so put the texting down and pick up your actual phone. Call someone you haven’t talk to for awhile or a family member you want to connect with. It doesn’t have to be long, but it does go a long way with connecting you to people who’ve made an impact in your life, whether now or in the past.

13.   Lying with your eyes closed while soft music is playing for 15 minutes letting your thoughts wander. Have a few minutes in between commitments and don’t want to start something new? Lie down for a few minutes and put on some relaxing music. My favorites other than classical: zen and movie scores. It’s amazing how many incredibly talented musicians live in this world. Let them help you relax.

14.   Meditating or praying – Some people practice meditation to help build their mental stamina and center themselves, I use prayer. There’s something very grounding about humbling yourself before an entity that has no beginning and no end, holds all the power of the world in His hands, and loves you unconditionally.

15.   Driving without a destination – The hubby and I love taking a drive without a destination in mind, especially when we head out of the congestion of the city and suburbs and into the country side. It’s a great way to be in nature without actually being in nature. Some of our best conversations have happened on a Sunday afternoon drive.

Although these 15 activities encourage hygge, it isn’t only something you “do.”  It’s a presence of mind, a purposefulness of spirit. It reminds me a lot of the eastern practice of mindfulness and the idea of living with purpose I teach my clients. If the idea intrigues you, but you don’t know where to start, learn more about signing up for 1:1 sessions here.

If this article inspired you, share to Facebook or Pinterest so others can learn the benefits of a hygge lifestyle. They’ll thank you for it!


Comments (1)

  • Linda Hogeland / January 8, 2017 / Reply

    Hi Leighann…Happy New Year!
    I loved this post! I embrace lots of the things you listed…and they do help bring relaxation, contentment and peace!
    I also like to count my many blessings and meditate on God’s goodness!

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(c) 2016 Leighann Marquiss