What is 'Hygge,' and Why You Should Embrace It

We need to talk about hygge. Pronounced “hoo-guh,” this is best described as the Danish concept of coziness, and creating a warm and happy atmosphere while enjoying the simple things in life. In the past year, hygge has taken health enthusiasts by (a calming) storm. During the winter, when many Canadians experience a decline in mood due to the lack of sunlight and less time spent outdoors, we could all use some hygge in our lives.

Here’s how you can embrace the Danish lifestyle to make the season a little less dreary.

Spend quality time with your family

You may be surprised at the significant effect that spending quality time with those you love the most has on a person’s levels of happiness. In a study published in the World Leisure Journal, researchers found that those who engaged in recreational activities with their families were more likely to succeed in the pursuit of happiness. Although it’s difficult to measure the levels of happiness of different individuals, they concluded that “quality family leisure time” was the best predictor of happiness.

Don’t forget your friends, too. We often consider our friends part of our family as well, and for good reason. According to research from the University of Sussex, spending time with friends can result in even higher levels of happiness than from just your family.

Essentially, whether it’s inviting them over for a yoga or meditation session, a healthy meal or just a cup of (organic!) coffee, the best way to hygge is to simply surround yourself with positive people who bring about warm vibes.

Rethink your décor

To ensure your home is cozy and welcoming for your friends and family to enjoy, it may be time to consider redecorating.

When we think about Scandinavian décor, minimal is often considered a defining characteristic. Another is a thoughtful consideration for nature, which you can easily bring into your home. Research shows that your décor can have a significant impact on your mood. By influencing the atmosphere around you, what you bring into the space can inspire better moods: a study from Texas A&M University found that decorating the home with plants — flowers, specifically — helps to boost your mood, and “reduces the likelihood of stress-related depression.”

Growing your own greenery at home when it’s too cold to maintain an outdoor garden can also be a relaxing hobby. At the beginning of the year, we named sprouting one of the top natural health trends of 2017 as a way to bring a bit of summer freshness into your winter diet. Fresh sprouts can also bring a bit of colour and life into your home as they grow in your kitchen. Check out the video below for easy sprouting tips:

 

Enhance the ambience

Our sense of smell has a powerful effect on the mind. The worst smells can completely ruin our experience of virtually any place. On the other hand, pleasant smells can also be used to achieve hygge at home, as it enhances our mood and improves the ambience of a room. A study published in the International Journal of Neuroscience found that participants who were given three minutes of lavender aromatherapy experienced less depressed moods and felt more relaxed.

While we’re thinking about décor, a natural lavender reed diffuser is one of our favourite ways to add a touch of elegance to any room. In a glass vase, simply mix 20 to 30 drops of lavender essential oil for every cup of water. Depending on the size of the vase, add plenty of bamboo reeds but make sure they do not block the opening. The mixture will infuse the reeds, which will naturally dispense the tranquil aroma.

 

Sleep it off

There’s nothing quite like getting into your comfortable pyjamas and falling asleep in a thick blanket. Unfortunately, getting a good night’s rest is harder than it sounds for some people. We conducted a survey and 73 per cent of Canadians reported that a lack of sleep negatively impacts their general health and happiness. In fact, according to the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, bad moods and sleep are both causes and effects of each other.

Improving sleep quality is important for more than just boosting your mood, so make this a priority! One way to do this is to consider your vitamin D intake. Those who had lower levels of vitamin D in their bodies were found to have shorter sleep durations, according to a study in Medical Hypotheses. For those of us living in Canada, this is especially concerning, not just because we require about eight hours of sleep per night (which is just as important), but also because our bodies are unable to synthesize this vitamin in the winter months. Health Canada recommends supplementing with the following amounts:

Age Recommended dosage per day
0-6 months 400 IU (10 mcg)
7-12 months 400 IU (10 mcg)
1-3 years 600 IU (15 mcg)
4-8 years 600 IU (15 mcg)
9-70 years 600 IU (15 mcg)
70 years and up 800 IU (20 mcg)
Pregnant and lactating women 600 IU (15 mcg)

 

Click here to learn more about vitamin D.

You can find vitamin D in a variety of forms, such as tablets or drops at your local CHFA Member health food store. Speak to your health care practitioner to see if supplementation is right for you.

There are no definitive method to achieve hygge because everyone finds happiness in different ways. As Nordic writer Signe Johansen notes in her book How to Hygge: The Nordic Secrets to a Happy Life, hygge is “as much a feeling as a cultural concept.”