As you may or may not know, I have some Danish heritage. My maternal great-grandfather immigrated from the land of the Danes back in the day, and I’ve always felt a kinship with the Vikings. I have ALWAYS believed Leif Erikson was far superior to Christopher Columbus. Brief history spotlight: my boy Leif was the first European to step foot on the North American continent, and he didn’t brutally decimate the indigenous cultures he found (point Erikson). But I digress… Scandinavia is the most feminist area in the world, and Denmark is the happiest country in the world (coincidence? I think not).
A month or so ago, I came across a Danish concept called hygee (pronounced: hoo-gah). It’s a difficult concept to define properly, but essentially hygee is the feeling when you take genuine pleasure in making each day just a little bit more special or meaningful. I’ve heard it translates literally to ‘internal coziness’ or the ‘art of creating intimacy’. It’s not dissimilar to the French concept of ‘joie de vivre’.
So why am I rambling about the Danes? Well, Denmark deals with an incredibly dark and cold winter and still manages to maintain their happiness (and avoid that pesky seasonal affective depression disorder). As Americans, who tend towards the negative, we can get a lot out of our lives by incorporating some hygee into our day-to-day.
We tend to remove ourselves from some of the simple joys in our lives. Technology is amazing, but having access to pretty much everything immediately makes us a little less present. It’s a weird, dark time in the world (as I’ve discussed previously and will be sure to continue to discuss), which just makes it that much harder to take a beat to make small moments just a little bit more magical.
It’s important to remember our lives are not chores and routine doesn’t have to be something to ‘get through’. Ordinary tasks can be special and enjoyed. Maybe you take a second to light some candles or take a bath or read a book by the fire. Maybe its drinking and savoring a glass of wine or whisky while you cook dinner. Or waking up a little earlier to watch the sunrise. Maybe its going to dinner with friends and acknowledging the moment. Make the perfunctory pleasurable! That’s what I think hygee is really about- savoring moments and activities, not just ‘getting through it’.
This is my favorite description:
“Hygge isn’t just a middle-class thing. Absolutely everyone’s at it from my dustbin man to the mayor. Hygge is so crucial to living Danishly that the other day on the motorway, I saw a camper van driving along with lit candles in the windows. This is probably illegal but Vikings don’t tend to be too hung up on health and safety.”- Helen Russell
Take a beat and enjoy yourself. Relax. Be kind to yourself, spend time on your soul.
So I wrote the above throughout this past week- I had spent time working to really appreciate smaller moments, and to take the time to enrich the perfunctory moments. However, I just had the most perfect hygee experience. I ran myself a peppermint scented bubble bath and brought out the candles and prosseco. I spent 2.5 hours in that bath reading a book that spoke to me, and I was almost giddy by the point the water turned cold. Yes, I was drinking, but this was so much more than that- it was being at peace, and being not just content, but happy. I’m not sure I’ve ever been more relaxed and present, so a serious THANK YOU to my Danish people.