“This is so hygge,” said our host Anett Wæber, the founder of Meet The Danes (an agency that offers Danish home experiences to travelers), as she dimmed the lights, lit a few candles and put on some music. This was my introduction to hygge – the Danish word for the feeling of cosiness, comfort or fun. Yes, the feeling that you get when you curl up on a chair with a book and a mug of hot chocolate…the Danes have a word for it…hygge, pronounced as hoo-guh. In the Oxford Dictionary, which shortlisted hygge as ‘word of the year’ in 2016, it’s described as “a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.” Hygge is derived from the Norwegian term hugga which means “to comfort”, doesn’t it sound like a close cousin to the English word ‘hug’? After all there’s nothing more comforting than a tight warm hug from a friend or loved one.
In The Little Book Of Hygge, one of the most popular books written on the topic, author Meik Wiking (CEO of a Copenhagen think tank called the Happiness Research Institute), calls it ‘the absence of annoyance’ and ‘taking pleasure from the presence of soothing things.’ So something as simple as a cup of hot tea to something more extravagant like vacationing with friends can be hyggelig. ‘Spending a Christmas day with friends in a woodsy cabin, listening to the crackle of fire’ is what Wiking describes as one of his most hyggelig experiences.
On that cool and breezy summer evening – in the midst of complete strangers, It took us barely few minutes to stop taking notes or pictures and completely be present in that room and just soak in that feeling. The more I think of it, the more I relate hygge with mindfulness. Being more mindful of the present is probably how the Danes stay happy…so happy that they’re considered the ‘happiest people in the world.’ In the country where the weather is cold and dark for most part of the year, it’s finding joy and comfort in little familiar things that’s essential to living a healthy life.
In the past few weeks, I too am constantly looking for that familiar comfort…my hygge; by trying to create cosy space in my new flat, meeting friends or just reading. Uprooting – even if it’s just moving houses – is unsettling. To the point that it gave me a major writers’ block. Every effort to put my head down and just write failed miserably in the past two months. What came out was half-hearted. It felt like my wiring was off and it needed major grounding but this time just meditation wasn’t going to cut it. I needed familiarity, comfort, home and more than anything the people I call home.
And now, back in Lucknow at my parent’s home, I find my hygge…in the cups of evening chai accompanied with warm conversations, in my mom’s cooking, in the little winter chill and warm blanket. I am home and I am writing.
This post is written in association with Wonderful Copenhagen, the official tourism organisation for Denmark’s capital region.