The art of hygge

Hygge in practice

Attaining the right work-life balance has a hugely positive impact on business, but how best to manage that through the dark days of winter? Embracing the Nordic concept of ‘hygge’ may be the answer…

It lost out to ‘post-truth’ as 2016’s word of the year, but hygge (pronounced hue-gah, apparently), seems to be creeping into everyone’s vocabulary. But what is it? Another fad we will soon rather forget, like the hipster mullet or deconstructed burgers (don’t get me started), or a lifestyle approach that will reduce stress levels and actually help to make us all happier?

When something is described as “a hug without touching”, as Meik Wiking does in his book The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish way to live well, it’s hard not to be cynical. The concept of hygge, which originated in Norway but is now more closely associated with Denmark, is about “creating a nice, warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people around you”, according to And the UK could do with learning a thing or two about happiness from the Danes – Denmark was ranked the happiest nation in the world in the 2016 World Happiness Report.

The closest English translation of hygge is ‘cosiness’. “It’s a feeling of being warm, safe, comforted and sheltered… of belonging to the moment and each other,” explains Louisa Thomsen Brits in The Book of Hygge. That could, for example, be lighting some candles and snuggling up on the sofa with a hot drink and your favourite book, or putting on some music and dancing with your friends around a fire. Hygge is Christmas, it’s a warm cup of tea, it’s turning off your phone, it’s being in the moment.

Appreciative living

With winter setting in and the days becoming shorter and the weather gloomier, we could probably all do with a dose of hygge. “In our overstimulated lives, with so much to distract our attention and pull us in opposing directions, we can turn to hygge as a conscious and appreciative approach to living,” says Wiking, who is chief executive of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen.

Wiking believes that hygge functions as a driver for people’s everyday happiness. A key part of achieving hygge, he says, is through relationships with friends, family and partners. “Spending time with others might be the most important ingredient to happiness,” he says. “The most important social relationships are where you share thoughts and feelings and both give and receive support. In
one word: hygge.”

In the last year, Britain appears to have woken up to the concept of hygge. The sheer number of books and blogs on the subject reinforce its ubiquity. In fact, Morley College in London is even offering students the chance to learn about the art of hygge on its Danish-language course. “The point is that you’re taking an active part in your own enjoyment – you’re not just doing it to relax or pass the time, but as a way of being in the moment,”explains Morley College lecturer Susanne Nilsson on her lifestyle blog ‘Hyggeligt’.

Hygge may be this season’s most talked-about trend, but it would not be wise to dismiss it as just another fad. Who doesn’t want to be happy, after all? I, for one, will be following in the footsteps of the Danes this winter and appreciating all that’s good in life. On that note, anyone for a nice cup of tea? 

Hygge means cosying up with friends and a hot drink, as picturedHow to experience hygge

Play games Invite a group of friends over for a night of board games. Ask everyone to turn off their phones for the evening. Light candles, draw the curtains, dim the lights and turn on the heating. Get out the games and let the fun begin.

Get comfy Put on your pyjamas and a pair of cosy slippers and snuggle up on the sofa to watch your favourite Christmas movie. Make yourself a cup of tea or pour a glass of wine, sit back and enjoy.

Go back to nature Wrap up warm, put on your wellies or walking boots and go for a romp in the countryside with your pals. If you live in the city, find a green, open space to explore.

Cook with friends Choose a recipe and rustle up something from scratch using local ingredients. In an age of convenience it’s easy to forget exactly what goes into our meals. Hygge is about buying food with thought and preparing dishes that can be enjoyed together

Put together a photo album Familiar and comforting memories are a big part of hygge. Rather than uploading your photos to social media, select some of the hundreds of pictures you’ve taken in the last year, print them out and stick them in an album – and remember all the fun you’ve had.

The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish way to live well by Meik Wiking (Penguin, £9.99) and The Book of Hygge by Louisa Thomsen Brits (Ebury Press, £12.99) are out now

Learn more about hygge from our friends the Danes

For more information visit

About author

Hannah Baker

Hannah Baker

Hannah Baker is deputy editor at Think Publishing. Previously she worked as a features writer and sub-editor for Director magazine

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