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Hygge - Danish Secrets to Living Well

The latest fashionable Scandinavian export, hygge is a lifestyle concept centering on coziness, sociability, thankfulness and comfort. To find out how you can leverage this idea to improve your well-being, learn what inspires hyggelig moments and what keeps them at bay.

What is Hygge?

Pronounced ‘hue-gah' or ‘hoo-ga', hygge is a Danish concept that's best translated as a feeling of cozy contentment through appreciating and enjoying life's simple pleasures. In essence, hygge is all about living from moment to moment and spending peaceful, quality time in a serene environment without any agenda. It also encompasses warmth, humor, social connections, quality alone time and mindful moments with the family.

First coined in the 18th century, the word's roots sprout from the Norwegian term for well-being. The hygge concept is thought to have made the dark, cold Norwegian winters more tolerable. These days, it's quite common for Norwegians to express their enjoyment of a pleasant meal or social interaction as hyggelig.

While there's no exact English translation for the word hygge, the meaning is relatively self-evident. If you've ever spent a pleasant rainy Sunday enjoying a book indoors, you've experienced hygge. If you've ever felt time slow down while playing with your children or a loved one, you might describe the experience as hyggelig. However it manifests, the feeling of hygge inevitably disappears when we are focused on to-do lists or begin ruminating over responsibilities and problems.

Bringing Hygge to your life

Routinely voted as one of the happiest populations in the world , the Danes have long recognized that a determined pursuit of happiness doesn't necessarily lead to well-being. At the heart of Danish life and hygge itself is the deeper stability of contentment.

There are a number of tangible ways to create more hyggelig moments. Many of these will vary according to a person's individual situation or preferences. In the end, however, hygge is ultimately achieved through a combination of mindfulness and gratitude, both of which have been shown in studies to promote greater well-being. On the other hand, research has linked rumination and wanting to decreased happiness.

Cultivating the right mindset

By staying present in the moment, it's much easier to acknowledge and enjoy life's simple pleasures. A hyggelig moment can result from taking the time to slowly eat your food, tasting every bite. It could also come from a quiet conversation with a friend, where you offer your full attention. Hygge is usually best achieved by eliminating distractions and focusing more on your senses. For instance, when you are outdoors, you can search the air for smells or listen to the leaves blowing in the wind.

At the same time, it's also important to have gratitude for the gifts in your life. Whether it's friends, family, a pet, hobby or home, we all have at least a few precious things that make us lucky. We are also fortunate enough to enjoy countless simple everyday moments that enrich the human experience. By opening your mind to these possibilities, you can create a more fertile environment for hyggelig moments, which can help reframe the world into a place that inspires greater well-being.

Individuals seeking the support of a mental health professional for a range of concerns might find the practice of hygge to be a helpful complement to counseling.