There are plenty of reasons Danish people are some of the happiest on earth, but chief among them might be the life philosophy known as Hygge (pronounced Hoo-gah). Hygge isn’t simply the Danish word for “coziness,” it’s a whole “cozy” way of life. Despite long, cold winters, the Danes still fully enjoy their lives because they place such a high value on practicing hygge.
The Danish cherish their indoor time, snuggling under blankets with books, making sure the mood lighting is just right, and having friends and family over without fanfare to get hyggeligt (cozy). My favorite thing about hygge? It’s so low-key that it doesn’t require me to add more to my plate. In fact, it really encourages us to slow down and enjoy life and togetherness in the most simple ways possible. Heat up a cup of tea. Add an extra blanket. Light a candle. It takes surprisingly little to practice hygge.
Which is why I decided to bring the philosophy of hygge into my parenting–especially since we’re in the dead of winter, and struggling with a whole lot of indoor time. Here are 5 things that have helped our family get into a hygge frame of mind.
1. Ditching the guilt about screen time. Usually when I’m trapped indoors with all three of my kids, I resist screen time and then feel like a failure when I inevitably give in to the lure of a Paw Patrol length swath of peace. But a very hyggeligt tradition is getting cozy and watching Danish dramas (like the excellent police procedural “The Protectors”). So I decided to ditch the guilt about having screen time and instead make it into an event where we pile on the blankets and pillows, make a comforting snack like popcorn and hot cocoa, and settle in for some relaxation with a good family Netflix pick.
2. Eating simple, delicious foods. Food is an important part of hygge, because who doesn’t love to gather around a comforting dish and some mulled wine? The thing I love about hygge food, however, is that it doesn’t have to be an extravagent affair. I’ve definitely upped the amount of one pot meals and simple finger foods we’ve been enjoying together, and no one has been complaining. In fact, the more simple the food, the greater chance my picky eaters will want to eat it. Sometimes less really is more.
3. Practice the art of fulfillment. Unlike many lifestyle changes, hygge doesn’t encourage adding more to your life, but rather enjoying what you already have. According to Helen Russell’s book The Year of Living Danishly, hygge is all about scaling back on life’s annoyances and focusing on what you value. Hygge lends well to practicing the art of fulfillment and appreciating simple pleasures like the warmth of a fireplace, a good book or an extra long snuggle session with the kids. While we’ve been focusing on hygge in our household, we’ve been spending bedtime talking about what we are thankful for. More often than not, the kids include things like the cat snuggling alongside them, a warm bed, and a simple game like fort-building. Sometimes it involves watching movies on the couch, and that’s just fine too.
4. Turn the lights down low. Creating a hyggeligt space means getting the atmosphere extra cozy. I’ve been focusing on turning the lights down low, lighting some candles, and really savoring being inside (even with the kids screaming all around me). Maybe it’s the ambiance that makes me feel less stressed, but I think it’s helping my kids calm down a bit more, at least at the end of the day.
5. More friends, less expectations. Hygge is all about togetherness, but not in a fancy dinner party sort of way. We’ve been lowering our expectations for get-togethers (think those same one pot meals and easy snacks) and simply enjoying having other adults and kids around. I don’t stress about the house getting trashed or whether or not we’re missing naptime when visits go long. Having the company is worth disrupting life a bit. Long winters inside can be hard, but they’re a whole lot easier with friends around.