Bust out your cashmere socks, boho chic blanky from Anthropolgie and that extra foamy latte with a perfectly etched leaf in the middle; hygge is trending and coming to a home near you. Long hours, stress, fatigue, kombucha and having intimate conversations with your gym socks over whether or not they spark joy, is soooooo 2016. People are searching for a new philosophy and way of life—one that will make them happier, healthier and feed their soul. This new Danish lifestyle may be just the thing to fill our cultural void, as well as our mind, heart and spirit.
Hygge has taken the world by storm this year as evidenced by the plethora of books, news articles, Instagram sites and blogs all dedicated to its tenets. I can only look at so many hipsteresque pictures of extremely attractive, ironic people, reading poetry from their library books while sipping on yerba matte with their perfectly manicured feet peeking out of their white fluffy blankets. As a responsible blogger, it is clearly my journalistic duty to examine this trend and evaluate whether it is just that—a fleeting trend that will soon evaporate with the changing season or if there was something to this “hygge” thing. Most importantly, I wanted to see if this “culture of cozy” was something I could integrate into my own home; a home in which presence, mindfulness and peace is severely lacking.
Pronounced “hoogah,” the word “hygge,” originated from a sixteenth-century Norwegian term, hugga, meaning “to comfort” or “to console.” It is said to have no direct translation in English (further illustrating that us Americans do not know how to calm the f*ck down), but the terms “cozy” or “hug” are close cousins. The concept of hygge was created by the Danish in an effort to combat the winter blues, or what is now termed “SAD” or Seasonal Affect Disorder. And thank goodness there is now a legitimate medical reason for my behavior from December-March, when Eeorye from the Winnie the Pooh mercilessly takes over my mind and body and there is no essential oil or mantra on the planet that can make me happy.
Helen Russell, a British journalist who wrote “The Year of Living Danishly,” most aptly describes the term hygge as “taking pleasure in the presence of gentle, soothing things.” These “soothing things” can be anything from donning your ultra-comfy piggy slippers after a hard day at the office to listening to the rain fall outside your local Starbucks while you indulge in that PSL you’ve been fiening for all summer. However, the term hygge also has a deeper, more spiritual and philosophical meaning that extends well beyond big round mugs, captivating mantras and cashmere socks. It’s about mindfulness, ritual and simplicity—finding the time to appreciate the small, beautiful things in our otherwise chaotic lives. It’s about creating presence in the midst of chaos. It’s like that feeling you get after a long, hot ass day at the public pool with your kids when you suddenly remember that you packed a roadie in your brand new, fancy S’well bottle. Life saved. Game changed. Peace in the midst of a shit show.
Being the thorough and responsible journalist that I am (okay rooky blogger), I decided that the best way for me to examine and report on this trend would be for me to go FULL hygge for one day.
Unapologetically wearing my oversized N’Sync shirt I got for my 20th birthday around the house all day?
Curling up in front of the fire during one of our perfect storms, nestled under a furry blanket with a good book and some pink macaroons? (Or more like turning the tv to the fireplace channel and pounding some pirates booty with a shot glass of chocolate milk before the kids wake up.)
I’m totally in.
Honestly, I could go hygge for a year but I have other s#%t to do in 2017 like have a coronary over things that don’t matter and repeatedly forgetting to breathe as I run out of the house in the morning with my signature flip flops and socks, abandoning my cold ass tea on the counter. And I, like all other homosapiens on this planet, do not have the luxury of sitting by the fire while sipping chai lattes and watching the rain fall for days on end. So, I took one beautiful, glorious day for my research. What I did not anticipate is starting a hot and heavy romance with hygge and yearning to integrate it into my everyday life.
I woke up extremely early on Hygge day. In fact, I jumped out of bed before my 5:30 am alarm shouting “IT’S HYGGE TIME BITCHES!” and raced to the shower. I only had 30 precious minutes to pregame before the kids woke up and my hyggleig ability would be put to the test. I started to throw some shampoo on my hair and quickly realized that I just experienced my first hygge fail. Crap. Only a couple minutes in and I already forgot to stop and smell those Danish roses. This was going to be a bit more challenging than I expected. After showering, I gave myself a full blow-out and did my makeup (with eye-shadow). Just kidding. I threw on my Lulus and ran a comb through my hair. Another hygge fail. I went downstairs and started to prepare the kids’ breakfasts. As I got the plates down from the cabinet I focused on being totally and completely in the moment. With the plates. Sounds weird but I kept moving and doing each and every task with intention. Breakfast making turned into a sort of dance as I tried to stay focused and appreciate the experience and ritual of placing the egg on the plate instead of having all the plates done and ready to serve.
Soon the kids appeared like any other day– grumpy, blurry-eyed and resembling Cousin It from the Adams Family. Game on. I quickly moved around the kitchen (going from sink, to table, back to sink), but I found myself again focusing on the ritual of breakfast time; trying to see this time as an experience, rather than a bullet point on my iPhone calendar app that could be checked off once it’s complete. I also did something pretty unorthodox in our house during morning routine–I stood with my back to the counter facing the kids and made eye contact and conversation. Yes, I admit it. I don’t really talk to my kids all that much in the morning. It’s not because I don’t love them. I just would rather get them fed and off to school on time than talk about why Rachel got the highly coveted “My Little Pony” placemat for the second day in a row. We shared a laugh over Monica’s “grape fingers” (yep EVERY morning she puts the grapes on her fingers and shows them to me like it’s a revolutionary breakthrough in the way in which we consume fruit) and actually talked about the upcoming day. Plates amassed in the sink and I’m pretty sure there were oatmeal particles stuck to the sides of the counter before we left. But the point is, I abandoned my motherly duties in favor of engaging in important conversation. I was becoming more hygge by the minute….
Even driving to school was more purposeful. No radio, no fidgeting with my lip balm or iPhone, just me and the kids chatting on our way to school. Just being. I had major anxiety over this. I was so used to distractions that I felt naked without them. And here comes the Oprah “AHA” moment…these small distractions were like little crutches helping me get through the day and without them I felt anxious. Why? Because in my Type-A brain, not multi-tasking equals unproductive. I hate the dreaded “u” word. A lot.
Once the kids were dropped off, I went home to clean up what I like to call “Kitchen Armageddon.” Like seriously, if Tom Hanks were to appear and act out the first five minutes of Saving Private Ryan in my kitchen I would not bat an eye. There is crap everywhere. Well, today was no different. There was still crap everywhere, but instead of lamenting about said crap, I put my big girl Hygge pants on and got to work, taking one task at a time. In fact, I made it a game—I could only move onto the next task when the first was finished. The result? I did less laps around the kitchen and I was more efficient! Mind blown.
Now this where the REAL hygge began. With the girls gone and baby fast asleep, I could have done an extra wipe down on the counter (remember the oatmeal particles?) and a couple loads of laundry but instead decided to make a cup of tea and read a magazine. Making tea in my house in the morning usually consists of sticking a mug of water in the microwave and then inserting a tea bag. But this is “Hygge Day” and my former routine simply will not do. Instead I picked my favorite mug inscribed with my mantra of the year “You Got This,” placed it on the counter, boiled water and steeped some old chamomile leaves that I purchased from a tea shop several years ago in San Francisco. And yes, pulling these puppies out of hiding did evoke several memories for me (so hygge)—one in which I sat at a tea bar with a dear friend on Polk street sipping little tea tasters until I had so much caffeine I thought my heart would explode. I’m pretty sure I overshared my life story with the owner and then walked/ran to meet my friends for dinner, and could not stop banging my head on the table. Anyway, I actually enjoyed the process of making the tea because it felt gratifying and purposeful—like I was taking care of myself for once because we all know that my kids would rather eat dirt than drink Chamomile. And the tea wasn’t that great. Turns out that tea leaves do expire. But I drank it all because I had made it for myself and darnit the hygge in me thought it was the best damn tasting tea I had ever had!!
The rest of my day was filled with similar experiences, where I would vacillate between completely falling off the hygge wagon to living the hygge life. What made my experience even better was the fact that there was a torrential downpour all day long. Staying indoors, being comfortable and slowing down all felt more acceptable and natural. I even (gasp!) took some time out to listen to the sound of the rain while I helped my eldest with homework. After homework, I played a board game with Rachel while the other two sat and played independently. I managed to stay in the moment, even though I thought a lot about the laundry and how badly I wanted to clean out the lint drawer in my washer instead of putting slippers on the baby doll for the 25th time. And seriously, if you need a shoe horn to get the slippers on a baby doll I’m pretty sure they are too damn small. Why not make them bigger? Please?
It turned out to be a pretty awesome afternoon. I didn’t hit my 4:00 PM slump per usual. Okay I yawned a couple times but also marveled at how I was able to pay more attention to my kids. By the time dinner rolled around I felt ready. Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.
And then came the most dreaded two hours of my entire day and life-BEDTIME. I’m over them, they are over me, we are over life. To be honest, I still felt that way this evening. Even if I could retrain my brain to view the nighttime routine as an “experience” it was still monotonous and I was yearning for my spoiled chamomile and US magazine. But after baths were given, diapers changed, heads kissed and 120 glasses of water drank, I finally retreated to my room for more hygge. After soaking in a Epsom salt bath, I put on my coziest jammies, my favorite socks, climbed into bed and started writing. I felt good. Relaxed, cozy, accomplished, loved.
As a reflected upon my day and experience, I realized that my life is actually pretty hygge in and of itself. I have just chosen to make it rushed, stressful, arduous and monotonous by focusing on the end game instead of the experience. As Aerosmith so aptly stated, “Life’s a journey, not a destination.” And they also coined the phrase, “Dude looks like a lady.” But I digress. To me, hygge is more than just the perfect cup of homemade tea placed on a vintage mirrored tray next to a beautiful vase with perfect pink roses that also match your nail polish. It’s about striving to take time out of your hectic day to appreciate those small little moments that are actually huge in the grand scheme of life. A smile, a laugh, a conversation, a look of understanding between two spouses that says I get it, this s#%t is hard. That is my hygge.
Now that being said, I truly believe that “hygge” is a broad term and means different things to different people. What may be “hygge” to you, may be a serious form of torture to the next. In the example I used above, if setting your tea on that fancy vintage tray helps to evoke a certain sense of calm, appreciation or love, by all means do it! Some may like to watch the rain fall, others may like to be out in the rain stomping in puddles. Yet another group of you and may be upstairs with ear plugs in and shades drawn hanging in the tub pretending that it’s sunny and 90 degrees outside.
In the realm of hygge, you do you.
And finally, my most important take away from this experience—hygge is not absolute; but rather about compromise. You do not need to go full hygge to reap the benefits, but rather there are small changes you can make to your daily routine that may make the experience more joyful, more palatable, more doable. Here’s an example: It’s 7:00 am. You’re late to a meeting so you dash out the door, drinking your lukewarm coffee in the car and repeatedly spilling it on your new pantsuit. And you sure as hell do not appreciate the “ritual” of hitting every damn light on your way to work. But, then after eating dinner and completing all your nightly chores, you strip off that pantsuit, get into your hygge-worth drawstring pants and breathe a sign of relief. Move over Mr. Rodgers. There’s a new hygge sheriff in town!
So now that I’ve shared my experience with hygge what it means to me, the burning question still remains…
HOW DO YOU HYGGE??
Tell me about it in the comment section!
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 Altman, Anna. “The Year of the Hygge, The Danish Obsession With Getting Cozy.” The New York Times: Culture Desk, December 16th, 2016.
 Russell, Helen. The Year of Living Danishly. London: Icon Books, April 12, 2016