To be in the present and enjoy the moment is the intention. Danish Hygge (Hew-Guh) offers a path toward the comfort and joy of staying in the present which is a way of life in Danish culture. Hygge is a serene retreat into enjoying the simplicity of a cozy and warm environment devoid of the autopilot rushing so common in most cultures.
In Copenhagen, where most of the population joyfully ride their bikes to work and social events, there are bike paths everywhere. During the snow days the bikes paths are plowed first! The major commerce is spread out over the many kilometers of the waterfront city to avoid traffic congestion. The harbor is peacefully shared by their neighboring country, Sweden. The Danes think of themselves as the happiest on earth and with reason when one explores how to Hygge. 16 hours of darkness a day in the winter and cold temperatures create the perfect environment to come in out of the cold to a warm cozy tradition.
Hygge started in Norway around the 19th Century but strongly caught on in Denmark becoming entrinsically entwined with their cultural goals. It has recently become a popular word in the British and American lexicons.
Taking time throughout the day to go into a state of relaxation, rest, calm and happiness reminds our body that there is more than one way to be. The goal is to turn the momentum in the other direction away from stress. Hygge makes calm our baseline, the norm to which the body should always return. It also pumps up seratonin and norepinehrine. The simplicity of the Hygge activity is what makes it even more wonderful and it doesn’t invlove any of the usual materialistic purchases of similar practices.
Hygge, in a word, is mindfulness, being in the present… living a life of being open and and in a state of equanimity. Hygge is… a safe haven of enjoying the simple things in life with either alone time or socializing. It’s a daily experience during all seasons. In the winter it is the time to come in out of the cold, snuggle with your warm puppy in the sherpa blankets and settle in with friends and family to enjoy the well being of the moment. The shared glass of wine or tea with viennoiserie pastries and the flickering of the candles in subdued yellow tones set the mood. The additional warming slippers and fireplace heat omits the mental disquietude and allows for the comfortable socialization of respectful conversation.
More than just part of the daily Dane cultural practice Hygge is the Dane identity… socialization, compassion, respect for all other practices and an awareness that taking that bike out in the morning is, in addition to the environmental benefits, a sound practice toward better quality and quantity of human life.
Watching a small group of millenials place a blanket down on the park lawn and pull out the Dane beer “pilsner” and cheese for a Hygge while the sun is out is a joy and comforting for the observer. An actual sunny day is rare with less than four hours of sun a day and a great deal of precipitation.
Imagine Hygge in Central Park on a sunny day or the Poconos in February. The joy of a cozy and comfortable conversation with people who respect the diversity of opinions and create a safe environment to simply stay in the moment. Hygge is a way of life in Denmark, the sharing of foods and drink and relaxing alone or in small groups. Light a candle, kick off your boots, build a fire in your wood burning stove and visualize our global neighbors in Copenhagen.