Hygge

I recently stumbled upon the latest Pinterest fad called hygge. Hygge is a Danish word pronounced “hoo-ga” that has no literal English translation, but is interpreted by me to mean “the state of mind meant to help one beat the winter blues.” My interpretation is a summary of multiple pins.

At first, I wanted to learn more about hygge and how the Danes practice it. They’re usually listed as one of the happiest countries in the world, and it’s cold there. It doesn’t really get cold where I am, but I am prone to the winter blues (and spring, summer, fall blues), so my curiosity made me ponder if perhaps I could learn something. What does hygge offer that I’m not already doing?

Leave it to Pinterest to send me on a philosophical free fall. Now, don’t get me wrong, I can admit that I’m an addict. I am no stranger to using pinterest for life advice. I am a person with 3, yes, 3 boards of different kinds of quotes based on my mood, as well as a board dedicated to my Myers Briggs Personality Type and zodiac sign. But what Pinterest showed me about hygge made me kind of irritated.

From my interpretation, hygge is a state of mind. According to Pinterest, some of the best ways to practice hygge are to wear cozy, knitted socks… to hang string lights around and light candles… to drink hot chocolate, ALL THE HOT CHOCOLATE… to have fluffy pillows… 

As I read this all I could think was, really? I can beat the winter blues with fuzzy socks while I drink hot chocolate and read a book? Why, that sounds like Tuesday night. It’s been legit winter for like, a week or two in my parts and I’ve been in a long-term funk since summer. I own string lights and burn candles. I don’t drink hot chocolate but I do drink hot tea everyday. Should I be drinking hot chocolate? Is that the missing link to my happiness?

Knowing what I know about Scandinavian values and how they decorate their homes, reaching hygge is not about what’s on your feet or on your couch. One of my favorite quotes, by my favorite author Kurt Vonnegut, is this:

I actually do this sometimes. I usually say it real quiet, or I’ll just say, “this is nice.” I think this is the most accurate way of explaining hygge as a state of mind, and a lot of what I saw on Pinterest missed the point. You see, Scandinavian homes do not have a lot of stuff. They tend to lean towards minimal homes with only items you need, and items you love. Function over frivolity. We Americans like our stuff. So, if you look at the American interpretation of hygge, it’s focused on stuff: the candles, the socks, the goddamn hot chocolate. It’s like, I could go to target and redecorate my house, and when a guest says, “your house is so cozy!” I respond, “thanks! It’s hygge!” 

None of the lists told me to think about how I feel as I’m in the moment. I could reach hygge while ice skating downtown, or while scrolling Facebook with my morning tea. I’ve reached hygge watching snow fall in a street light. It’s a fleeting moment where I take a step back from the funk and the stress and appreciate the simple beauty of life. I don’t think that this needs to become a Pinterest trend. I think it could serve us well if we practiced this everyday. Then maybe, just maybe, we could be as happy as the Danes. 

So while Pinterest initially steered me in the wrong direction, I think I finally got the hang of hygge. I also think that it’s more than just hygge that makes the Danes so happy, but that’s a topic we can discuss on the twelfth of never. I suppose the missing link to my happiness isn’t a box of Swiss miss, but rather coming back around to what Mr. Vonnegut urged me to do, and practicing it during every season of the year.

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