How to Hygge is subtitled “The Secrets of Nordic Living” and written from a Norwegian American point of view.
I sometimes feel that Norway is the poor relative in the Hygge world: they don’t have lagom or Ikea, they aren’t infamously happy and even the word that they created to mean well-being and happiness in oneself has been hijacked by their once-rulers and near neighbours, the Danes to become mired in cosy cushions, warm fires and hot cocoa.
How to Hygge has been written by Signe Johansen. She’s a Norwegian who lives in London, and famous as the author of Scandilicious and Scandilicious Baking. I’m ashamed to say, I don’t own either of these books, but I have got them on my ever-expanding list of Books I Want and Want to Review. She regularly posts about her fitness and work on Twitter and Instagram, and her love of nature, cookery and good living shine through.
How to Hygge is as far away from a ‘cosy up on the couch’ manual as it can be. It’s a good living guide, complete with advice on healthy diet, how to really enjoy the treats you have, clean living, exercise, self sufficiency, a look at the history of Signe’s family and plenty of memories of her relatives who she freely admits taught her to live well.
Her writing is beautifully clear and full of nuggets of wisdom. There are lines that you can just read over and over and memorise, and that if you do will lead you to a quieter, clearer, simpler way of being that is such a breath of fresh air. I love “If you want to live your life to the fullest… make the time to be active every day, no matter how miserable it is beyond your front door.” and “Underpinning hygge is a craving for simplicity, an urge to pare everything back to basics.” I can’t imagine Signe reading an article such as How to Hygge Your Home from Luxury London and recognising anything to do with hygge her way. The whole balance of the book… and this is a very balanced book… is that hygge is a response to life, not an escape from. Hygge is the rest in a busy life that we curate.
Signe organises the book into nine chapters, with introductions, index and further reading as well. Her emphasis on health as crucial to hygge is highlighted by headings such as Outdoor Pursuits and Healthy Hedonism. She writes “hygge neatly encapsulates everything that is great about Nordic living.” and goes on “Nature undoubtedly sets the pace in the Nordic region.” I love her assertion that “Hygge…. is not merely about gratuitous indulgence; to a certain extent you have to earn it.” There’s one in the eye for those people who can’t seem to grasp how hygge and lagom can coexist!
The book covers almost every aspect of life, from design to work to exercise to food… there are a lot of recipes, as you’d expect from a world-class cook, and they sound delicious (admission of guilt here: I haven’t actually made any yet. I’m waiting for that mythical time off that I keep saying I’ll have.) But even if you never touch your stove, Signe’s enthusiasm for food as a pleasurable part of life is infectious. There’s no Clean Living Guilt here: she honestly says “We don’t believe in feeling ‘guilty’ about the food we eat– a little of what you fancy is a way to bring hygge into your day.” Slow down, savour your food, choose healthy but delicious. Surely those are crucial elements for everyone who wants to eat well and enjoy life?
I don’t think I’d give How to Hygge to a beginner on the Hygge Way. I think this is more a manual for the person who is ready to move on from a simpler form of hygge and really wants to incorporate it into all areas of their life. In other words, after you’ve had the cosy blankets and candles phase and you’re looking at the Sun high in the sky and thinking, ‘How do I make this hygge?’ then you should read Signe’s book. Her hygge is very organic, very open air, very Thoreau in its simplicity. And all the better for it. Her How to Hygge at a Glance guide is about spending time in Nature, being active, being self sufficicent, spending time with others, keeping life simple, keeping hygge simple.”Being kind isn’t just about the self, and those moments of quiet solitude,” she writes, “it’s also about spending time with others, about being sociable and taking pleasure in simple things together.”
Yes, it is, isn’t it?
**If you follow any of the links through to Amazon and buy, I get a ridiculous amount like 5p a go. One day I’ll actually get some cash off Amazon, which will of course get spent on more books. Or if you own all the books already but would like to help me afford the next in the series, then you can click through to paypal.me/HyggeJem where every penny goes towards funding the next step on my hygge journey. At the moment, that’s a Jewel Pack from Scheepjes to make next Winter even warmer at my Bob Cratchit desk. Every penny gratefully received**
And if you’ve made it past the begging bowl, well done! If you like what you read, follow me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. If you love hygge, then consider joining The Hygge Nook. on Facebook. It’s a happy, hyggely corner of the world and full of lovely people.
ALSO NOTE the Weekend With… posts won’t begin until next week, due to half term and a need to be out of the Office tomorrow. But they’ll be fun. Have a good weekend, and see you on the other side!