What Can We Learn from Scandinavian Tradition?
When the January blues hit, and the ash-grey sky makes it difficult to differentiate nine in the morning from four in the afternoon, good vibes and high spirits need to be preserved at all costs. Countries like Denmark and Norway are all too familiar with the issues that come with living in some of the world’s most northerly places, and have found a remedy for low moods and depression: Hygge.
Word of the comforting tradition has spread like wildfire over the past couple of years, creeping into many people’s lives through TV and books. But exactly what is this curious custom, and is it possible to successfully instill this Scandinavian lifestyle choice in other parts of the world?
The word Hygge (pronounced Hyoo-guh) can be traced back to the 19th century and the practice has evolved over time to become part of the trendy lifestyle we know today. The name originates from the Old Norse word hugr, which later became hug – meaning soul, mind, consciousness. It’s a name that tries to embody the many things that Hygge is: a lifestyle choice created with the purpose of reanimating and even preventing depressed souls.
Now the Danish tradition is spreading to other European nations like Germany, Poland, and even the Czech Republic – bringing positive energy to combat the low spirits synonymous with the dark, bleak months of January and February.
Hygge encourages us to surround ourselves with and be mindful of all the things that make life beautiful. As individuals, this can mean different things to each of us, be it laughter, friendship, light, food, or creative projects. If all of this is leaving you feeling a little confused, rest assured that even the Danes struggle to put the concept of Hygge into concise terms.
The wonderful thing about Hygge is that it’s a state of mind which you can implement into your daily life wherever and however you see fit and without following rules and regulations too much. It’s an idea, a thought – a change in our lifestyle that we make, and one which can lead to long-term health benefits.
So, how can you introduce it into your life? Why not start by creating a Hygge corner at home? A designated spot full of fluffy blankets, a good book, and scented candles. Design a space where you can completely isolate yourself from the world and be mindful of what you need and want. Disconnect your phone and laptop and instead focus on therapeutic activities like meditation or even cooking.
Many Scandinavians also enjoy putting their time and energy into good causes when practising Hygge, because doing something positive for people and the planet will almost immediately give you a good feeling.
Whether you are a firm Hygge believer or get through the dark months after Christmas with other traditions such as the Scottish Cosagach or the Swedish Lagom, alternative methods of wellbeing are on the rise – and with good reason. Studies have shown that methods like Hygge can have a positive effect on mind and soul, reducing the risk of stress and depression. Hygge may also help to build and strengthen trust, mindfulness, and balance. Perhaps Denmark’s third-place ranking in the World Happiness Report is testament to this.
So, when you find yourself shivering and a bit down in the dumps, wrap yourself up in fluffy blankets, feast on hearty food, start a project with friends (or complete strangers!), and lighten up your world throughout the season of darkness and cold – because this too will pass. Kan du hygge dig!