It’s the concept that’s been almost inescapable this year, a Danish term for which there’s no exact English translation. Yes, it’s Hygge. Plastered over every Sunday supplement, every glossy monthly magazine, featured in all the lifestyle bibles and interior design periodicals, it’s been hard to avoid it and resistance seems futile. But what exactly is it and how are you meant to do it.
Firstly, you should pronounce it ‘hue-gah’ not ‘hig’ or ‘hyshe’. It’s a word that means, roughly, the pleasurable, intimate feeling that comes over you when you’re savouring something everyday and ordinary, thereby making it more remarkable, lovely or meaningful. People have tried to find a corresponding English word and although none quite does the trick, the suggested ones include: cosiness, happiness, simplicity, security, familiarity, warmth, companionship and safety. The good news is that it’s a wonderful way to approach the stressful business of moving house. It doesn’t have to mean doing it more slowly, but it does mean that you’ll be able to feel connected and touched by life as you do it.
Hygge is about being in the moment, even when you’re doing something humdrum like packing up your house or flat. It’s about no longer seeing your day to day life as a series of chores but instead as a series of opportunities for peace, warmth, good cheer, calm and contentment. When you’re attempting to evoke hygge, you linger over a moment, such as the lighting of a candle, and embrace awareness so that the very striking of a match conjures up happiness within you. Before you know it, you’ll be moving house in quite a different mindset – one where meaning, beauty and magic are ever-present.
Since the Danes often rank very highly in those somewhat dubious ‘Happiest Places To Live’ surveys, it’s no wonder that they’ve given the world hygge. If you feel your life is too denuded of hygge, you can start creating it at any given moment. You can buy flowers once a week and take pleasure in the simplicity of placing them in a vase and giving them water. You can start making coffee by grinding the beans yourself and then putting them in a moka pot rather than using instant or capsules. Before you know it, you’ll have entered the state of hygge – a place where you celebrate reality rather than run from it by taking sedatives or glugging brandy from the bottle.
A great deal of modern life removes us from hygge – we meal-skip because of work and rush everywhere, always after some result or other rather than savouring the process, whatever it may be. Thanks to an almost non-stop stream of articles and books about hygge that have entered the marketplace this year, there are no shortage of ways to get started on this peaceful, intimate and meaningful approach to living life.