Hygge, in the current run of articles, is very much being tied up with happiness at the moment; ‘you can only hygge when you’re happy’, ‘hyggelig moments will be the happiest of your lives’ and other thoughts about it are being bandied about. But is that what hygge actually means?
I don’t think so. If I am looking at hygge right, it’s actually a sanctuary in the hardest of times. It’s not an attempt to build your life into a fluffy ball of cashmere comfort, but a way to escape from the cold, dark, mean nastiness outside the front door. It’s why the dark nights and raging storm increase the hygge factor (Meik Wiking writes of a cabin in the woods after hiking, and the question “Could this be any more hygge?” from one man. “Yes,” one of the girls said after a moment, “If there was a storm raging outside.”)
Hygge is building an oasis of self-care and love into a busy life, not building a life that isn’t busy. The modern world is a stressful one, but life has always been stressful. We’ve forgotten, or allowed to lapse, the small treats and rituals that make us pause, and appreciate, and enjoy.
Our ancestors knew that they couldn’t work the fields in the winter, so they had crafts and stories to fill the time, time spent around the one fire in the house and with each other. Nowadays with insulated homes and central heating it’s just as easy to take a tablet and go to bed to binge on the latest Netflix alone as to sit in the common area and reach a consensus about what programme to watch or to play a board game, but which one will build family community better?
Similarly the hard days of the summer harvesting had cider and dances to act as a pick me up. Did these disappear with the factories? I don’t know; but the chances are they were replaced with something else the worker could afford or that cost nothing. We still have those options available, to have picnics in the park or just sit and watch the sunset with a friend or colleague.
In more modern times, the clean eating brigade have cleared our cupboards of anything sugary, fatty, wheat-laden…. The list of things that are ‘good for you’ changes weekly or according to which diet you’re on at the moment. Sitting, cocoa in hand and a slice of hot buttered toast to the lips would be looked on as wrong… sinful… silly.
Well, I say ENOUGH! It’s time to stop being so uptight. It’s time to remember that we live in herds, actually, and that we need the company of others to boost our happiness levels. We need to build in the natural pauses of life whilst at the same time living the modern life that we have constructed. That’s where hygge comes in. It isn’t about eating cake all day every day; it’s about saying that Friday lunchtime is cake day in the office, or that Saturday teatime we have sweets as we watch Strictly, or than Monday deserves a special treat to mark it out as important because, as we all know, the first five days after the weekend are the worst.
And we need Hygge Ambassadors. People who have lived hygge and know that, no matter what happens in our lives, we can always hygge together (or alone; that’s the great thing; hygge is a moveable feast). That hygge is a comforting of the soul, a pause and a refreshment. People who will spread the gospel about the transitory nature of happiness and help us to see that attitude (gratitude) and approach (better work-life balance, and knowing that busy isn’t always the best) will build a better level of contentment, and a better community. We should get out on the street and find hygge ambassadors. They probably won’t apply for the job, because they’re too busy being hyggelig and hyggering with others; so we’ll need to get them. Think now of the happiest person you know, the one that makes you feel safe and comforts your soul. That’s a hygge ambassador just there. Go, and spend time with them. Thank them for how they make you feel and when you leave, smile and think “I had a hyggelig time today.” That feeling will carry you through the rough time tomorrow… or next week… or next year, although hopefully you’ll be looking out for the chance to say yes to other hygge moments of life. Build a life that allows for the pause. Let’s just stop, shall we? Say yes to that coffee, take your friend home for tea, smile at the person on the bus and say ‘Thank you’ to everybody, just for being there.
And then post it, on your favourite social media site, and hashtag it #hygge #hyggeambassador
Top resources today; Hygge Cities.
These are the places where I found I could feel a good hygge feeling, mostly because someone in the place opened up and let me join their gang, if only for a short while. With apologies to Denmark because I’ve never actually been there yet and I can’t say whether it’s all hyggelig.
The Germans have this habit that if you are a couple and sat at a table for 4, you have to share the space with someone else. We’ve had some of our best and most unexpected conversations over meals this way. For that evening, at least, we were hyggering with a German who was having a Gemutlich time!
Any city where you can get an invitation to a family party just going upstairs in the lift is a good city. Friendly, when you know them (and capable of bad swearing if you annoy them), and happily with a very hygge teashop in the Chinese Tearoom.
You knew I’d have to put this one on! We are a very friendly city… very open, and we’ll swear at you if you get in the way, but make mates with a scouser and you’re there for life. And we do a mean lobscouse, so all those Scandi people should be right at home!