Comfort & Joy: The Danish Art of Hygge (or how to survive January)

Oh the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful.”  The song, Let It Snow, has all the ingredients for winter comfort and joy – popcorn, snuggling by the fire, snowstorm, and the best part for those who hate winter driving, no place to go.   It’s also the perfect recipe for hygge.

          According to recent surveys, Denmark rates among the happiest countries in the world, and hygge, the Danish art of living well, is a major reason for their sense of wellness.   Hygge, which can be summed up as “cocoa by candlelight”, is the perfect antidote to the cold dark winters and is considered a major survival strategy for January when the hours of daylight are few.   The Little Book of Hygge – The Danish Way to Live Well was written by Meik Wiking, the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen.    You know that if a country sets out to study happiness they are way ahead of the game.   Here is my book review from Goodreads.

  The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live WellThe Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well by Meik Wiking

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a delightful little book, particularly suitable for reading this time of year, preferably during a snow storm. So light some candles, get cozy by the fire with a blanket and a cup of cocoa and prepare to be entertained. Based on the Danish art of living well, it may inspire you to practice a little hygge in your own life…..comes complete with charming pictures too, but warning – the print is very tiny.

         For those of us living in more melancholy nations, what exactly is hygge?  The word hygge derives from a Norwegian word meaning “well-being”.  Hygge is about atmosphere and experiences, not things, (great, I just decluttered, see previous blog post, but I hope I didn’t throw out anything hygge  – is it to late to retrieve those plaid pajama bottoms). 

           In the introduction the author describes a December weekend at a cabin with a group of his friends.  

Cabin in the Woods - AMc - 2016
Cabin in the Woods –  2016

Post hiking, they are sitting around the fire, wearing big jumpers and woolen socks, reading or half asleep and the only sound is the stew boiling, the sparks from the fire and someone having a sip of their mulled wine.  One of them breaks the silence and asks, could this be any more hygge, and someone answers, yes, if there was a storm raging outside, they all nod.     This is hygge in a nutshell, except he forgot the candles, (they are big on candles in Denmark as they have seventeen hours of darkness in the winter months), so I would like to add that I hope they ate by candlelight, and had coffee and cake later by the fire, (they are big on coffee and confectioneries too).

         According to the author, Danes have less anxiety and worry in their daily lives due to the cradle to grave social welfare state.  They don’t resent paying high taxes as they consider it investing in society and improving the quality of life.   What’s not to like about a country with paid daycare, where parents of small children must leave work early, and no one works nights or weekends, thus leaving more time for family and friends and all the other hygge-like things to do…..watch tv, read, relax.     

      The concept of hygge includes coziness, candles, coffee, blankets, fireplaces, hot drinks, good food, natural or rustic decor, nooks, soft lighting, comfortable clothing and casual entertaining.   Interestingly, the hygge life-style can be excellent for introverts, as it is a low-key way of being social without being drained or exhausted by too much activity and partying, not to mention being a soothing balm for over-stimulated minds at the end of the work day.   Even their workplaces try to be hygge.  They may have couches instead of desks.  I think I want to move.  I have a vague recollection of one of my first workplaces in the eighties where we had birthday cake during department meetings.  It was a horrible place to work but the cake was good. At my last job we didn’t even get meal breaks.  Or course, a hygge-like state is only possible if it is in contrast to something non-hygge, which tends to be the status quo for modern life.   Life today is a rat-race, stressful and unfair, money and jobs rule.  This book can inspire us to stop occasionally and add a little hygge to our lives, and don’t forget the cake!   (see next blog, How To Make Your Home Hygge).        

 Benjamin Franklin quote:  “Happiness consists more in small conveniences or pleasures that occur every day then in great pieces of good fortune that happen but seldom.”               

Snow - AMC - 2015

Snow Day –  2015

2 thoughts on “Comfort & Joy: The Danish Art of Hygge (or how to survive January)

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