What Is Hygge, and Why Is It Good for Your Well-Being?


Taking cues from the Danish art of getting comfy and cozy can definitely be a way to practice self-care.

People have been talking about “hygge” (HUE-geh) for a few years now. It’s the Danish word for coziness or feeling warm, comfortable, and safe. If you haven’t joined the trend yet, these colder weather months are the perfect time to do so.

The concept of hygge is all about creating a cozy, comforting physical environment: lighting candles, snuggling up with soft blankets, and consuming warm, soothing drinks. But it’s also (and perhaps more importantly) a mindset and a philosophy. Hygge is more a way of life, one that makes ordinary moments feel special, pleasurable, and meaningful, according to Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute and the author of The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living.

Wiking explains that “hygge is about an atmosphere and an experience, rather than about things.” It is also about creating a comforting social and emotional environment for yourself; it’s about who you choose to surround yourself with and what you choose to spend your time doing.

“It is about being with the people we love; a feeling that we are safe, that we are shielded from the world and are allowing ourselves to let our guard down,” Wiking says.

The Benefits of Hygge and Why It’s Self-Care

Experiencing hygge reportedly reduces stress and improves emotional well-being, though there isn’t any scientific research examining the perks of the practice as a whole.

Research found that people perceived warm, dimmer light as more relaxing than bright, white lights. And that being around certain scents (yes, aromatherapy counts) can induce relaxation. In addition, there’s strong evidence that having nurturing social connections is beneficial for physical and emotional health.

What’s more, science has shown that when we’re in a more positive or relaxed mood, we get better at problem-solving, we think more creatively, and we get along better with each other. All these potential benefits of practicing hygge explain why and how it can be a method of self-care.

How to Make Hygge Part of Your Life

How do you get started with creating the hygge effect? It’s really up to you. The important thing to remember is that your environment does influence how you feel — and you can take control of your environment and actually make it really good.

To that end, you can choose from the following strategies to get started with hygge and practice it as a form of self-care.

Opt for mood lighting. At home, dim the lights and light some candles. Or make a fire in the fireplace.

Make time for a small circle of close friends. The essence of hygge lies in close relationships where you share experiences, understand and support each other, exchange thoughts and feelings, and both give and receive support.

Make yourself comfortable. Add soft blankets, pillows, and throws to your home environment for snuggling opportunities. Go casual and wear comfy, loose pullovers, big scarves, leggings or jeans you’re not afraid to get wrinkled, thick socks that keep your feet warm.

Establish a comforting bedtime ritual and space. Aside from sticking with a regular sleep schedule, make your sleeping space as comfortable and cozy as possible. Cuddle up with some hot tea, wrap yourself in a warm blanket, and make your bedroom the most relaxing place in the house.

Get cooking. Food and beverages are a big part of the hygge experience. It’s about pleasure, so go ahead and enjoy sweets, cakes, hot chocolate, mulled wine, and other tasty treats. Hygge food is not just comfort food, it is also very much slow food. Meaning that part of the magic is in its preparation.

Relish the here and now. Mindfulness and gratitude are key components of hygge. Turn off your phone and other digital devices and focus on the present moment. Listen to music that soothes your heart and soul. Read an enjoyable book or play a fun board game with friends or family.

Hygge is about giving the responsible, stressed-out, perhaps overachieving part of yourself a break. It’s about joy and contentment. It’s about experiencing happiness in simple pleasures and knowing that everything is going to be okay.