Guest Post: by Self-Care Expert Hannah Massarella in conjuction with Work Well Being
Hygge (pronounce 'hoo-gah') is a Danish philosophy which describes a lifestyle that is helpful when the nights get longer and the daylight fades in winter. Hygge is a way of being. It’s about stepping away from the busy-ness of life and intentionally stepping into experiences that are in some way calmer, softer, and more selfcaring.
Hygge is about putting our screens away and sitting down with a hot cup of coffee and a book, it’s about using ambient lighting and soft cushions and blankets. It’s about treating ourselves to cakes and the odd glass of wine in a mindful way and spending time with loved ones and being present and aware and grateful in those moments.
Crucially, hygge is about moving away from our everyday busy-ness and to-do lists without guilt, something that us Brits can find quite challenging. In her book ‘Hygge, a celebration of simple pleasures, living the Danish way’ the British writer Charlotte Abrahams explains:
“I don’t think we are very good at allowing ourselves to enjoy moments of downtime. We always have to justify it in some way and I’m not sure why that is, but it is something very deep-rooted in our psyche in a way it doesn’t seem to be in the Danish psyche.”
A strange concept to most of us, hygge is about giving ourselves permission to be a ‘human-being’ rather than a ‘human-doing’. The focus is on being present, being soft, being still. In the UK we are encouraged to place value on getting lots of things done and having lots of goals to achieve. We are perpetually busy. We tend to focus on what’s next rather than what is. And so, it’s understandable that it may feel challenging for us to embrace the hygge lifestyle because we’re not encouraged to negotiate the world in this way, even though the benefits are clear to see.
In 2017 Denmark was ranked number 2 in the world’s happiest countries list, losing out only to Norway, who incidentally have their own version of hygge. Research suggests hygge, when embraced as a way of being, helps increase feelings of contentment. Furthermore, Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, suggests hygge is about an “atmosphere and an experience rather than about things.” Hygge re-directs your attention from what you might be lacking in, to what you’ve got in your life right now to be grateful for.
How to Hygge, 5 Key Starting Points:
1. Nature and ambience
The Danes are prone to bringing in a bit of the outside world to the inside when practicing hygge. This is about connecting with nature when it’s not so inviting to actually be out in it. This tip is about bringing in natural foliage, lighting a fire in the fire place, lighting candles and creating a soft ambience to be in with blankets and cushions. Additionally, incense and soft hygge enhancing music can be helpful.
2. Books and absence of screens
This tip is about consciously stepping away from screen time and choosing something else to connect to or be with. Granted this can be a challenge, as we’re surrounded by entertainment and updates via our phones and laptops. But, if you manage to prise yourself away, a good book with this strategy is difficult to beat, and you could also try meditation, crafts or cooking.
This tip is about being with others, and being mindful and present in those moments. It’s important to connect with people who warm your soul, people who allow you to connect with the calmness within you. This is also about being grateful and really reflecting how it feels to have love and people around you. It’s about feeling supported.
4. Take mindful hot drink breaks
The Danes will take purposeful hot drink breaks called Fika (as opposed to jumping up, making a coffee and sitting back behind the screen). I liken the ritual to the ancient tea ceremonies of the Far East; it’s a process of being with the objects around you, and of being with yourself and your inner emotional world. This tip is about allowing the heat of the contents of your cup to warm you on the inside, it’s a process of telling your subconscious that you deserve to be nourished and looked after.
5. Tame that guilty feeling
Embracing treats, slowing down and stepping away from hectic schedules will inevitably evoke an internally critical response. Tip five is about giving yourself permission to ignore your inner critics and embrace being a human-being rather than a perpetual human-doing.
Embrace hygge at our heated Hygge Hideaway on the Plaza between 5 and 16 February. Find out more about the installation and activities taking place within it here.