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A cup of tea and a chocolate on a cozy gray blanket

A national obsession in Denmark, hygge has caught on in many other countries — perhaps because it captures the universal desire to slow down and feel connected.

“The term ‘hygge’ gives a name to ideas and yearnings that people are having,” says Tova Brandt, curator of Danish American culture at the Museum of Danish America in Elk Horn, Iowa. “People are struggling to find healthier work–life balance, to be more in the moment, to build interpersonal relationships, and to turn off digital distractions.”

Below are 10 tips to help create space for you to slow down — hygge-style — this holiday season and create cozy and content moments for yourself and others.

Hygge Tip No. 1: Spark Cozy Conversation

To maximize hygge when you’re in a group, agree to set hot-button issues aside for the night and talk about topics that unite instead of divide.

If you’re worried that this will lead to a perpetual loop of small talk, fret not. You can generate some delightfully thought-provoking questions beforehand, such as “What job could you never do?” “Do you believe in love at first sight? “What has been the best year of your life so far and why?”

If you want help creating questions, search out the Hygge Game: Cozy Conversation in Pleasant Company, which has 300 questions designed to build connection and create the right hygge atmosphere.

Hygge Tip No. 2: Let There Be (the Right) Light

Imagine the bright, fluorescent light in a surgical suite. Now picture the exact opposite and you have the perfect hygge lighting. “Danes select lamps carefully and place them strategically to create soothing pools of light,” notes Meik Wiking in The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living. In general, he adds, “the lower the temperature of the light, the more hygge.”

Speaking of soft light, candles are synonymous with hygge in Denmark. They create the perfect atmosphere for feeling warm and safe, whether you’re settling in for a quiet night by yourself or enjoying hot chocolate with a group of friends.

Most Danes stick to natural, unscented candles, and you’d be wise to follow their lead: Scented candles emit a range of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can lead to headaches, respiratory problems, and other ailments. Try to choose unscented candles made from beeswax and always air out the room after you’ve burned candles. Any combustion (scented or not) can be hard on the lungs.

Fireplaces are also central to hygge. The same cautions apply, however, so make sure you’ve got proper ventilation. Alternatively, you could opt for an electric fireplace.

Hygge Tip No. 3: Brew Hot Beverages

Warm drinks — like tea, hot chocolate, hot apple cider, and mulled wine — epitomize hygge.

Cozy up to a cup of something hot (in your favorite hygge mug, of course) and let the steamy beverage warm your soul. Here are a few of our favorite recipes:

Hygge Tip No. 4: Wear Cozy Clothing

If you craft the perfect atmosphere for a night of hygge but you’re wearing tight jeans or an itchy sweater, it’s hard to really settle in. You don’t have to sacrifice style to enjoy a cozy night with others; just make sure your clothes aren’t actively bugging you.

And if you’re having a solo hygge night, bust out your hyggebukser, which is the Danish word for your most comfortable pair of soft pants that you would never wear in public. Add a pair of woolen socks to the mix, and you will be in sartorial hygge heaven.

Hygge Tip No. 5: Turn Off Screens — With Two Exceptions

Screens tend to be anti-hygge, with their harsh blue glare, stress-inducing noises, and habit of shutting down real conversation.

One exception is a fireplace video turned on in the background of your gathering (you can find hours-long videos of wood-burning fireplaces on YouTube — a great alternative if a real fireplace isn’t an option).

Another exception, says Wiking: watching your favorite movie or organizing a Friday family movie night, where you and your crew pile under a blanket, pop some popcorn, and watch a classic film.

Hygge Tip No. 6: Create a Cozy Corner in Your House

Hyggekrog is a Danish word that describes a deliberately cozy corner in a house. Think of an oversized armchair in a little nook or near a bay window, with throw pillows, a blanket, and a stack of good reading material.

Surrounding yourself with things you love is very hygge. “Home is hygge headquarters,” Wiking notes, so it’s worth spending some time getting to know your tastes and surrounding yourself with things you treasure — and weeding out things you don’t.

Hygge Tip No. 7: Keep It Simple

“Doing things simply can be very satisfying — maybe more satisfying than getting stressed out over something extravagant,” says Tova Brandt, curator of Danish American culture at the Museum of Danish America in Elk Horn, Iowa.

For example, next time you’re hosting, serve mulled wine and some dark chocolate instead of fretting over a sprawling hors d’oeuvres plate and multiple drink options.

Hygge Tip No. 8: Read a Book

All books are hygge, notes Meik Wiking in The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living. If you love to read, make books front and center in your home. And don’t assume that only certain books count — yes, Jane Austen and James Baldwin are great, but the most hygge books are the books you love, whether it’s sci-fi, romance, or specialty cookbooks. (Here are some of our staff favorites!)

Rather listen to music? Although classical music is perhaps the most hygge of all music types, at least according to the Danes, whatever sounds you find soothing (ocean sounds, nature sounds, folk music, gospel music) — or silence — can promote hygge.

Hygge Tip No. 9: Play Board Games

An old-fashioned board game is an engaging social activity with low stakes — and a high chance of having fun and making memories (two things that are very hygge). Bonus! Beloved board games from childhood can conjure a warm sense of nostalgia, says hygge expert Meik Wiking, which enhances the overall sense of hygge.

If even low-stakes competition sets your nerves on edge, gather your family or a group of friends together over a jigsaw puzzle, giant crossword, or other cooperative brain teaser. These cozy activities unite participants in achieving a common goal (rather than pitting them against each other) and allow conversation to ebb and flow with ease.

Hygge Tip No. 10: Think Experience Over Things

It can be tempting to read a list of hygge tips and immediately start a shopping list (e.g., candles, new lamps, artisan hot chocolate, cozy sweaters, etc.). But to think of hygge exclusively as a collection of stuff is to miss the point.

“There is no checklist of items that will provide hygge,” says Danish-American culture expert Tova Brandt. “You can’t just go shopping and put things out around your house.”

The word “hygge” and the English word “hug” have the same etymological origins, after all, and that is what you’re going for: the feeling of feeling protected and safe, of stepping out of life’s torrent for a few hours to do something that is restorative and heartwarming and that connects you more deeply to yourself and others.

Laine
Laine Bergeson Becco

Laine Bergeson Becco, FMCHC is an Experience Life contributing editor and functional-medicine certified health coach.

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