Years ago, I was talking to a theatre friend about why I was struggling to get some of my theatre production ideas funded. I was using all sorts of phrases to describe how the theatre I made wasn’t edgy. It was still dealing with the issues of our times, but it had a warmth to it and a gentle honesty that wasn’t very sexy to arts funders. However, I was convinced there was a big audience for such work.
He said I was describing my work like it was hygge.
Pardon me? I replied thinking he’d choked a bit on his cappuchino.
And then he introduced me to this wonderful concept.
A few months later, Hygge was suddenly commodified. It was nearly Christmas and everywhere you turned there was a book or a candle or a blanket emblazoned with Hygge. It was all a bit icky. It felt like such a pure and uncommercial concept when it was introduced it to me and now it
was just being used to sell stocking fillers.
Thankfully, that craze came and went and there’s a lot less mentions of it now on the high street. My interest, however, remains and every Autumn I make a conscious effort to make my home more hyggeligt as the nights draw in and my boys and I get excited about this safe, warm cosiness that we can create.
So what is it?
Well it’s a kind of cosiness for the soul.
It can be very individual, so you get to decide what feels hygge to you. But in general it’s about creating a warm, safe and cosy atmosphere in your home and sharing that space with those you love the most, and feel you can be yourself with. Common ways to do this revolve around good food and drink, gentle lighting, fire or candle light, warm socks, comfy blankets, reduced visual clutter and nods to nature indoors. It’s definitely a winter thing, coming from the Danish harsh winters where the desire to coorie in (a fabulous Scottish phrase) and shut out the wild weather and chaos outside.
There’s a few different, competing voices on how it should be pronounced. My best attempt (and I have consulted with some Danes on this), is that it should be pronounced HUE-GAH and hyggeligt (the adjective to go with it) is HUE-GAH-LI. Feel free to contradict me on that one though. I’m the first to admit I know virtually nothing about a good pronunciation of Danish words!
I don’t know about you but the depths of winter can have a negative effect on me. I talked about it in a previous blog here. After suffering marginally for several winters I realised it was a problem. It’s not as though I actually needed to seek help for my general winter malaise, it just made life that bit harder. I needed a change, and bringing in lots of hygge based inspiration into my life did just that.
As I said before, it is what YOU make it, but here are some ways I’ve embraced hygge in my life that might be useful in shaping your own approach. Also, if you’re reading this in November 2021 when it was published, there’s some other ways of getting inspiration too. I’ll be posting a weekly book review on my Instagram and LinkedIn each Friday throughout the month. My newsletter will also be Hygge themed with lots of further ideas and there will also be a post or two as things occur to me throughout the month.
Get your lighting right!
Maybe it’s the theatre maker in me, but lighting is SO incredibly important in creating the atmosphere in a room. Use that hideous cold white LED lighting and a part of you will feel like you’re in a hospital waiting room or some other municipal, fluorescent tubed purgatory. You might feel like it doesn’t bother you, but on some subliminal level it does. Sort it out! Cosy warm lighting that is real flame, or mimics the glow and flicker of an actual fire is perfect. Failing that, warm white lightbulbs are a must. Also invest in fairy lights. I know by their very name they suggest a certain group of people will like them more than others, but I’d recommend if you feel like you’re not in that group, that you give yourself a stern talking to and let the sparkly twinkly light in. It will make you happier, I promise!
Be warm and cosy
With energy prices getting silly, this is perhaps more than just hygge chat but a sound practical suggestion to save some pennies, but yes, getting cosy with soft fabrics, comfy clothes, snuggly blankets and lovely socks will make everything feel better. I’d go as far as to argue that this cosiness doesn’t have to only be in downtime either. I can be just as productive, even more so, if I’ve got cosy socks and a soft hoodie on. Perhaps not the attire for that important zoom call, but if you’re working from home there really is no excuse to bringing a bit of hygge into your professional world. Cosy but practical slippers are the wisest investment anyone working from home can make!
Food, drink and laughter
Not a huge amount to say on this other than sharing delicious food and drink with lovely people will make life better. End of.
If you want more thoughts on this, then sign up to the monthly musings here. And keep an eye on my Instagram and LinkedIn throughout November (or scroll back, if you’re joining me from the future. I hope it’s a hygge place out there!).
Right, I’m off to get under that supersoft blanket with a decent book. See you soon!