Hygge!

So far, so good. The mercury is in the 50s in New York and winter seems to be slower to come this year. I did encounter a few snow flakes in Indianapolis but I also discovered a concept there that will help me weather the cold.

My Indiana friend told me she used to suffer from Seasonal Affect Disorder. I know lots of people who do. SAD is a form of depression that comes on with the shortening days of autumn and lasts till spring. The treatment usually involves gazing at boxes of color-corrected lightbulbs and popping Wellbutrin. But my friend said that one word had helped her enormously. One word and she immediately felt a color-corrected bulb go off in her head.

Hygge. It’s a Danish word that’s pronounced “hoo-ga” and has no direct equivalent in English. It’s sort of like ‘cozy’ or ‘snug’ but it’s bigger. Hygge isn’t just about soft sweaters, wood paneling and roaring fireplaces — it’s about attitude, about a sense of well-being. About being gentle and calm rather than battling arctic gusts. And it’s about people. It’s about having a warm heart, even in cold times. About sharing comfort and cheeriness with friends and people you love.

hyggeDenmark, despite 17 hours of darkness each midwinter day, has the world’s happiest people.  They value being good to oneself. To finding warmth in others. To sitting around in wooly socks, sharing a mug with a couple of friends. To chilling, without being chilly. The Danes buy more candles more capita than any other nation. And, come on, they have a pastry named after them.

This winter, I plan to hug hygge. I will enjoy the changing rhythm of winter, rather than fighting it tooth and claw. I will cultivate cheeriness. I will fill my house with friends and warmth. And I will take it easier on myself.

Care to join me?

34 thoughts on “Hygge!”

  1. Or… you could move South… where it rarely gets cold, or even further South where the days and nights are always the same length (the Equator for the geographically challenged)… Wool socks… or live somewhere wool socks aren’t needed… hum?

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  2. I live in the desert southwest. Winters are mild, and I appreciate that. But as the sun angle dips below my emotional horizon I desperately cling to the every ray of sunshine. SAD syndrome nearly eats me alive. I understand. Thank you for this post, and for hygge…

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  3. The miserable people I see in southern Ontario, Canada during the winter are the ones who refuse to dress appropriately for the weather. It’s impossible to be cheery when your teeth are chattering. Dress warm and you’ll feel warm. I rejoice in the winter because there’s no mosquitos or black flies. M

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  4. Danny, this could not have come at a better time of year, especially the part about taking it easier on myself 🙂 Thanks for responding to my tweet! I hope you enjoyed Christmas on the Circle. I will be practicing hygge this season!

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  5. Great post! Read a article about the Norwegian version of this idea, just last week! Theirs is a bit more outdoor oriented – fully embracing all the good things of winter, skiing, skating, cross-country skiing, any activity that makes winter unique. But they too have a very low incidence of SAD – attitude is so important! btw, have you read “Thrive” by Dan Beuttner about the happiest communities around the world? He does a whole chapter on Denmark, much to be learned from them!

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  6. What a lovely word! the socks convey warm and cozy, and with your explanation … “attitude…gentle…sharing… comfort…” you’ve done a great job of translating a pretty untranslatable word. Thanks, shall keep in mind, and in a couple of weeks days will start to lengthen again 🙂

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  7. Thx for explanation and count me in too. It’s all about the lack of light I think. Against the cold (which seems to be surprisingly forgiving this winter) you can wrap yourself in lots of softy layers. But the darkness! The bad part comes when there is no sunshine and no blue sky for days or even weeks. , there are still tree more weeks for the days to start to be longer 🙂 BTW Really nice socks!

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  8. I just discovered your blog and love it! Thanks for the reminder of Hygge. We need it up here in Bellingham, WA, where we are currently getting about 8 1/2 hours of daylight, by which I mean low clouds and rain that block out all light. It’s basically perpetual dusk. But we don’t let the weather keep us from living our lives! Most people ski, snowboard, keep paddling and mountain biking. The kids play outside in all weather except when there are high winds. And at our son’s school we celebrate every chance to remember the light within ourselves even during dark times, the rebirth of light, and the light that remains even in the darkness: Michaelmas, Lantern Walk, Winter Spiral and so forth. These events make the dark months beautiful and inspiring for us. Cheers! And lovely socks indeed!

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  9. I put lots of “warm white” fairy lights up at the weekend, all around my house, and it feels so happy! Very hyyge! Now I read that SAD is to do with blue light I understand why.

    I love your socks. They should be declared the official Sketchbook Skool socks! Do you think your mum could be persuaded to knit us all a pair? 😀

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  10. Creative Mom – creative son. Hygge! Yes! Thanks for sharing this – I wonder if using more candles helps with this? We have battened down the hatches in prep for winter. I’m trying to be more cognizant of being kinder to myself during this upcoming holiday which will send a better vibe for everyone around me.

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  11. Reblogged this on michelle geffken and commented:
    Boston’s winter last year was legendary and this is just the right attitude to have as we brace for the winter ahead.

    Ahem … That should be, as we happily anticipate the cozy season ahead.

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  12. Here I am and it is Spring and somehow I missed this post. Wonderful essay Danny. I love the change of seasons. And I tend to handle winter quite nicely. Just wished each of the four seasons lasted longer. Cheers-Darlene

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