Is Hygge just mindfulness in a new, fancy Danish wrapper?


I have read in several articles or discussions on hygge that it is essentially just mindfulness in another form, that is it about doing only one thing at a time and focusing on that to the exclusion of all worries.

Mindfulness was everywhere the other year, you couldn’t pass a bookshop without seeing the mindful book of colouring, of cats, of everything. A quick search on Amazon reveals 75,000 books on Mindfulness from one that said it was doable in 10 minutes a day, to one that takes 8 weeks to achieve! The dictionary definition of mindfulness is

  1. 1.
    the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.
    “their mindfulness of the wider cinematic tradition”
  2. 2.
    a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.

I’d argue that hygge is not mindfulness. It doesn’t have the clinical approach, it’s not a technique, and it can’t be learnt from lessons, only by doing. In my defence, I’ve never tried ‘mindfulness’ because I’m a busy woman who has very little time to herself to sit and think about what we’re having for tea tomorrow, let alone to let my consciousness rise above and think of wider things.

But I think I have been good at hyggering, without knowing it. I think there is something inside all of us that recognises when a time is hyggely, when we feel relaxed, at rest, in the moment, full of a super-warm emotion of belonging and companionship and security. If hygge is ‘cosiness of the soul’ then using physical and mental stimuli to trigger those feelings is not tied to a higher level of thinking, but to an acceptance of a warmer, softer feeling in the heart.

I think the friendship and belonging aspect of hygge is vital, the lack of competition, of one-upmanship, the loss of the need to impress. Hygge asks us to be with others and to cast aside any need to be Top Dog. That’s why, sometimes, it’s easier to hygge with people who aren’t our family, or to indulge in solo hygge (and yes, there is such a thing) rather than to try and get a really hyggelig feeling in a group where competitive feelings have been part of the DNA since birth.

Butterbeer moustaches at The Making of Harry Potter; in the middle of a busy cafe, we stopped, and drank and laughed and paused. we were all happy to be alive and with each other. And we were all content with life.

I’d argue that when I get hyggelig at home, I am fully immersed in the moment, I am feeling the love and the joy of enjoying a pause and a time apart with those I love, even if only over a cup of tea after a morning shopping before heading our separate ways. It’s an instant, just a moment, and barely worth the fuss, but it’s that second when my soul and my head and my heart is at rest… well, it’s worth striving for. And I think that moment would be mindlessness… a pause from stress and strain… not mindfulness. A freedom, not a capture. A feeling, not an achievement. Is that what mindfulness feels like too? I don’t know. But that warm fuzzies of universal love (for the people in the room at least) is what I recognise as achieving hygge.

Hygge on the web; 

Embracing Hygge; The Danish Approach to Happiness from Analyse Life. I think I may have quoted from this page before, but this post ties in hygge and mindfulness as similar things, which I don’t think they are.

Hygge and the Pursuit of Happiness from the Herald Scotland website. I prefer this site’s approach. It interviews Charlotte Abrahams, whose latest book on Hygge is due out later this month and I think she frames it best when she says, “The key thing to note is that in Denmark, hygge is an ingrained mindset rather than a trendy, self-help fad. It is woven into the fabric of everyday life. You can’t purchase a hygge starter kit: it is a hugely personal endeavour.”

And so say all of us.

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