This snuggly Danish phenomenon has encouraged me to savor life’s simple, wholesome pleasures.
“Hygge” (pronounced HOO-gah) has quickly become the buzzword du jour. Last year it appeared on the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year shortlist; The New Yorker called 2016 “The Year of Hygge, the Danish Obsession with Getting Cozy.” Here in the States, it has spread coast to coast—from the fashion & style pages of The New York Times to the hygge-themed book display at my local bookstore in Portland, Oregon. Just as the concept of “freedom” is inherently American, hygge is rooted in the psyche of Denmark (not coincidentally, ranked one of the happiest countries on earth). The literal Danish translation is “coziness” but there’s much more to it than that: The word evokes warmth, connection, simplicity, authenticity, and slowing down to be truly present.
A typical way to get hygge, according to one New York Times article1 about this Nordic craze, is to go home and stay there, preferably in your hyggekrog (“cozy nook”) – wrapped in a blanket, drinking a steaming cup of glogg and watching a murder mystery. If there’s a storm raging outside, all the better!
In a world that feels increasingly cold, divided, and overly sped-up, what better antidote than a practice that extols the virtues of cuddling, board games and hand-knit socks? The sudden popularity of hygge clearly reveals that our collective souls are parched and craving a good watering.
I’ve talked on this site before about digital detoxing—where I spend an entire blissful weekend with my gadgets switched off, indulging in cardamom lattes, a glowing fire and cozy, intimate conversations with loved ones. Up until now, I didn’t have a word to evoke that snug feeling. But as one Colorado-based seller of Nordic home goods says in the Times1 article: “Once you have a word like hygge in your vocabulary, you can’t stop using it.” Another reason why I think hygge has really caught on is that people around the globe are realizing that many of the possessions and achievements they worked so hard to acquire have actually become liabilities—from expensive educations to overly large homes and fancy cars. These items are draining joy from people’s lives, and hygge is an almost meditative practice that helps restore that joy—without denting the pocketbook. It’s all about savoring wholesome, everyday items like candles, porridge and line-dried laundry.
For so many of us, the sheer logistics of daily life can be so overwhelming that it’s hard to hear answers to questions as fundamental as “what brings me joy?” Hygge is a timely backlash to the tyranny of technology; it’s about disconnecting from the digital world long enough to hear the quiet voice in your soul that tells you what makes you feel authentically alive.
In Part 2, I explore how the concept of “financial hygge” can help close the gap between wealth and wellbeing.
1. “Move Over, Marie Kondo: Make Room for the Hygge Hordes,” The New York Times, December 2016.
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