Bringing Hygge Home from 2 Weeks on a Danish Island
Is it just me, or does your day-to-day life also feel frantic and over-scheduled? Are you always trying to do too much and spending too much time with your phone in hand? If yes, then you need hygge in your life!
What is Hygge?
Hygge, without having much of an English translation, is a Danish way of life that is all about enjoying life’s simple, cozy moments. It’s about creating a joyous and intimate atmosphere in whatever we do. Quintessential hygge is lighting candles, making a perfect cup of tea and curling up on the sofa with a great book. Or lighting candles and lingering around the dining table with friends, enjoying wine and lively conversation late into the evening. Candles play a big role in the image of hygge, probably because of those long periods of darkness in the Danish winter.
Since I heard about hygge a few years ago I thought it sounded lovely and certainly we all need more of this in our fast-paced, overly scheduled lives, but it wasn’t until I spent my summer vacation on a Danish island that I really understood what this Hygge thing is all about.
Let me tell you about my time in Denmark, how I experienced hygge and how, with little effort, we can bring this sense of calm and coziness into our everyday lives.
My Danish Island Vacation
I spent two week this past summer on the island of Rømø with my husband and two children. I had heard for years how beautiful the North Sea is and we finally decided to book our vacation there.
Rømø is on the west coast of Denmark, the southernmost island in the Wadden Sea. In English, you would call this kind of sea a tidal mud-flat, which doesn’t sound very pretty, but means that when the tide goes out the beach extends kilometres into the sea. You can walk out on the “beach” for what feels like forever, always careful that the tide will return every six hours. It makes for wonderful long walks and exploring the sea life that stays behind when the tide is out: loads of shells, muscles, clams, watt worms and more. The island is covered with heathered dunes, wild roses and thatched roof houses some of which date back to the island’s whaling history in the 1600s.
I thoroughly enjoyed our long walks and bike rides on the beach, learning to sailbuggy on the mud-flats and admiring thatched-roofs, but I have to tell you that I spent most of the two weeks feeling cold. I knew that the weather might not be ideal, considering how far north we were going and that we would be on the North Sea, and I came prepared. The car was filled to the brim with rain boots, jackets, sweaters and the like. I had all the gear, I just wasn’t expecting to have to wear it all at the same time! When I saw the weather forecast would be about 22°C (71°F), I assumed I would need a sweater, but I was not prepared for the wind which made it feel so much colder.
On some of the days I really did only need a long-sleeve t-shirt, but in the evenings when we sat out on our terrace sipping wine and watching the kids play with all the other kids on the playground, I needed about five layers and a blanket.
The funniest part was that the Scandinavian vacationers clearly didn’t feel as cold as me. The Swedish and Norwegian kids were a lot hardier and in the evenings they would run around with sundresses or shorts on. As they ran past our terrace they would look sceptically at me wrapped in all my layers and blankets and I would look sceptically at them in their nearly naked state and feel incredulous; the feeling obviously being mutual.
It wasn’t my ideal summer vacation. There was no lying on the beach for hours basking in the hot sun. There was no strolling the town in sundresses and flip-flops (not for me anyway!). Being on the sea, it rained on most days but rarely for more than a few hours. We often found ourselves holed up in our vacation house drinking hot chocolate and playing board games. Those are some of my favourite memories from the vacation and that’s when I really felt Hygge.
We had a wonderful holiday in spite of the cold. I learned to embrace the weather, treasure the moment and focus on what was right in front of me as we surrounded ourselves with what is most important to us: our family.
How You Hygge
You can Hygge alone. I think the most important thing you can do to experience a little hygge in your life is to put away your phone and any other technology. Slowing down is key to experiencing hygge You can’t feel relaxed and comforted if your phone is beeping every few minutes or you’re distractedly scrolling through Facebook.
The next time you have an evening spent alone watching your favourite Netflix series or reading a book, do it with intention. Put on your comfiest clothes, light a candle, wrap up in a blanket with a cup of tea or glass of wine and perhaps indulge in one luxurious piece of chocolate. DO NOT sit on the couch with phone in hand as your series runs in the background, absently scrolling through news headlines or answering WhatsApp messages.
On our vacation on the island, sometimes I would wake up before the rest of the family. On these days I would go downstairs, make myself a coffee and enjoy a few moments of peace and quiet on the terrace looking out over the dunes. When you are a mom and are spending 24/7 with your family, these rare moments are worth their weight in gold. I had to look past the mess that could have been tidied up in the living room and not worry about what we’d all have for breakfast and just go outside and sit quietly letting the morning sun soak in. It was so worth it.
Hygge with Company. Sitting around the kitchen or dining room table with family or friends is the perfect place to hygge. It should be a cozy, casual atmosphere. Hygge is the opposite of formal. It is simply hanging out with people who are important to you, telling stories and jokes. Enjoying coffee or wine or fresh baked cookies. It is lingering, not feeling rushed. It is just being yourself and not feeling the need to impress anyone.
During our stay on the Danish island, we met a lovely family from Berlin whose little boy and my son bonded over swords and shields at the Iron Age outdoor museum. We met up again on our last day and spent the entire day together. We had lunch, we had coffee, we walked the dunes and the beach, we talked, we told stories, we laughed. We lingered. The was no real plan when we met up and they were essentially strangers, but by the end of the day we felt like friends. Everyone was at ease, no rush, no need to impress, just enjoying the time we had.
Embrace the weather, no matter how bad. Rainy or cold weather is the perfect opportunity to add a little hygge to your life. It is the easiest way to feel more positive about something you can’t control and could easily put you in a bad mood. In our family, we have a ritual of drinking hot chocolate on rainy days. The kids always remind me of this when I pick them up in the afternoon when it’s raining. We sit around the kitchen table with big mugs of cocoa topped with marshmallows and make jokes and talk about the day. It makes us appreciate even rainy days and it’s a lovely ritual that will hopefully stay in the memories of my children as they grow up.
In Denmark, when it started raining we would go “home” into the warmth and feel good by getting gout of the wet clothes. My husband and I would savour a hot cup of coffee and the kids would have cocoa while we wrapped up in blankets and planned our next adventure. When the sun came out we took every advantage of it and enjoyed the outdoors, but were always ready for the rain and our cozy time at home.
How To Bring Hygge Into Your Everyday Life
The Hyggeligt Home There are a few small things you can do to make your home feel more cozy and comfortable. Your home should be the perfect balance between lived-in and organised. A sterile, perfectly minimalist home feels just as unwelcoming as a messy and dirty one. You want your home to feel welcoming and inviting. Be sure you are surrounding yourself with these three things:
- Soft textures and ambience: Blankets, pillows, comfortable seating and soft lighting. Have alternatives to harsh overhead lighting. Create a warm glow from multiple sources of lamps and don’t forget the candles!
- Things that tell your story: Your home should reflect your personality. Show off family photos, collections of things you love, momentos brought back from a trip. These things will make you feel good and feel inviting to those who visit.
- Natural elements: Plants and flowers bring the outdoors inside, and natural materials such as wood, metal and leather feel warm while at the same time breathe life into a home.
Hosting with Hygge Inviting friends or family members into your home shouldn’t be stressful; that is the opposite of hygge. This one is hard for me, as I am a perfectionist when it comes to entertaining, and a spontaneous drop in by friends or acquaintances can send me into a panic. But I am learning to embrace the idea that simplicity is key and having a little plan in place sets me at ease. Your home deosn’t have to be spotless to have people over and there shouldn’t be pressure to invite friends only when the house is perfect and you have a Pinterest-worthy menu in store.
My spontaneous guest plan: I keep wine and bubbly stocked as well as simple snacks like nuts and cookies so I am ready for spontaneous visits. If I get a phone call that someone is coming in 10 minutes, I quickly clear up my entrance area and then the living room or dining table. I place a tray on the dining table or coffee table with a candle and small bowl of nuts of cookies, and then I prepare for coffee or wine. Done. Feeling relaxed is the most important element in creating a hyygelig atmosphere and making your guests feel welcome.
Hygge habits If you want to have this cozy relaxing feeling in your life every day, habits are the best way to do it. Here are a few things you can do every day to create hygge:
- Make your bed every morning
- Open windows and doors to let the fresh air in
- Light candles regularly, don’t wait for a special occasion
- Make drinking tea or coffee special (at work as well as home). Use a beautiful mug; put it on a nice tray.
- Invest in really comfortable and attractive loungewear for evenings and weekends. At the end of a long day, nothing is nicer than changing into clothes that are cozy and make you feel good and are attractive enough that if you get a late package delivery you are not embarrassed to answer the door.
Hygge Rituals These are the things that we do as a tradition, they are bonding experiences if done with family and they give us something to look forward to. Don’t forget to light the candles!
- Hot chocolate on rainy days
- Family movie night or game night
- Pancakes for Sunday breakfast
- Taco night (or whatever meal your whole family loves and can look forward to on a certain night of the week)
- Special traditions on birthdays, Christmas and other holidays
Ultimately hygge is about simplicity. It doesn’t take a lot of effort or expense to add hygge to your life. The biggest effort is in taking that extra moment to slow down, put the phone away and do the every day routine with intention and joy. Hygge is about getting the best out of your every day life, enjoying the small things.
I hope this helps you bring little coziness into your everyday life. What do you think is the easiest and most overlooked thing you could be doing to hygge? I would love to hear in the comments!
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