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What Is Hygge? 10 Ways to Cozy Up to Your Life

You’ve probably heard all about hygge (pronounced hoo-gah), a Danish word that’s been popping up next to anything that has to do with being cozy, from finding perfect, wintery recipes to Instagramming your blankets (#hyggetime).

It’s not just a Danish thing, though. Swedes have mys, and Norwegians have kos. All three words are untranslatable in English but evoke feelings of warmth and coziness that we’ve learned to recognize as quintessentially Scandinavian. But you don’t have to travel to northern Europe to get your hygge on—you can totally replicate these feelings in your own home. Here’s how to hygge like a boss.

1. Be mindful about your downtime.

Binge-watching Netflix, scrolling your Instagram feed for hours… there’s nothing inherently wrong with these activities. But if we’re being honest, there’s nothing inherently rewarding about them either.

The concept of hygge is all about taking your downtime seriously and making your moments of relaxation count. Instead of another night of aimlessly browsing Netflix with a gnawing feeling that you should be doing something more productive, try to make more conscious choices instead.

As in, consciously tell yourself things like, “I will now take a nap.” Or “I will now start that book I’ve been saving since last summer.” Or even “I will now watch a couple of episodes from this show I’m really into.” It doesn’t really matter what you choose to do, as long as you are 100 percent invested in it and you approach it as a treat.

2. Knock on wood.

We all know Scandinavian design is minimalist, but it’s not cold. And although decluttering your space can go a long way, you probably won’t get the warm and fuzzies if you’re left with a semi-barren living room that consists of glass and metal furniture.

Try including some wooden elements—even if it’s just a wooden serving platter on your sofa table or a wooden chest in the corner. It’s now scientifically proven that wood used in buildings, furniture, and walls promotes health and well-being. Who knew? Well, the Scandinavians did.

3. Treat light as a precious resource.

One of the elements of hygge involves treating light as a gift—and using natural lighting whenever possible. Yes, this is where we talk about candles, but this is also where we say that you should examine your home, find the corners with the most sunlight, and place your reading/chilling nook there.

At night, try to avoid harsh lighting. Candles may be essential to #hyggetime, but if you want to avoid them for safety reasons (like small children or pets running around), string lights are an excellent and versatile alternative. Drape them from the ceiling, put them inside lanterns, line the wall or the floor with them… just don’t remove them when it’s time to take down your Christmas decorations.

4. Surround yourself with nature—even indoors.

So maybe you don’t live near a lush Scandinavian forest where you can forage acorns every morning to decorate your coffee table. That’s OK—most Scandinavians don’t, either.

Hygge is about being grounded and in touch with nature, appreciating its bounty, and living a green and sustainable life. The easiest way to do that is stock up on plants: Especially if you followed the rule of a minimal interior with wooden details, these green babies will be the perfect companion to your furniture. And we don’t have to tell you the many perks of growing plants indoors.

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5. Make hot cocoa a daily thing.

Remember that feeling of sipping hot chocolate as a kid during the holidays? Like it was a magical, special occasion? There’s absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t have that feeling every day!

In fact, unsweetened cocoa powder is rich in polyphenols and good for you for a number of reasons, from reducing inflammation to improving blood sugar levels. It has enough caffeine content to give you a boost but not enough to give you the jitters. And because your brain still sees it as a decadent treat from your childhood, making it part of your every day is like pouring hygge in a mug. (Just maybe hold the marshmallows if you’re trying to cut back on sugar.)

6. Cardamom, cardamom everywhere.

What’s the first smell that comes to mind when you think about Scandinavian baked goods? Cinnamon or anise, right? But the real star of the Nordic kitchen is cardamom. Cardamom is used in most pastries, buns, and brioches—and for good reason.

The seeds and oil of this herb have been used for medicinal purposes, like treating infections and colds or fighting headaches and high blood pressure, for centuries. Try adding it to your oatmeal or even brewing it together with your coffee: It tastes great, does your body good, and has the added benefit of leaving your kitchen smelling like a Scandinavian bakery, which… yes, please.

7. Invest in loungewear.

Hygge is about spending quality time at home. You don’t have to own a different robe or pair of sweatpants for every day of the week to successfully do that, but if your usual approach to loungewear is “has one too many holes to wear outside,” then you should reconsider. Your hygge outfits should be a) comfortable b) make you smile when you look at the mirror and c) comfortable. Which brings us to our next point…

8. Prioritize what things feel like.

Even when it comes to outdoor clothing, the concept of hygge is all about keeping you warm, comfortable, and happy—not looking a certain way. When choosing outfits, try to experience them with your eyes closed: How do they feel on your skin? Do you feel the need to bury your hands and your nose in them? Can you move around, for hours, and not feel constricted while wearing them? Great, now open your eyes: This is what a hygge wardrobe looks like. And if you still want to Instagram it, absolutely go ahead.

9. Treat your treats with respect.

You feel like devouring a cinnamon roll? Awesome. Give it the attention it deserves: How would you serve it to a beloved guest? Probably not on a paper towel. Get a fancy plate out, find that beautiful cutlery that you save for special occasions, and serve yourself. Eat slowly (and perhaps with a cardamom-spiced coffee). You’re getting the hang of this hygge.

10. Take cuddling seriously.

Hygge is ultimately about connecting to your loved ones, and there’s nothing like a good, prolonged cuddle to strengthen that connection. Whether it’s with your partner, your pet, your comfort pillow… or all the above, just hold tight and soak in that elusive Scandinavian feeling of coziness—which maybe isn’t that elusive anymore.

Danai is writer and editor by day, an almost-vegan baker by night, and a cat person 24/7. Born in Athens, Greece, Danai spent five years commuting in NYC before deciding to relocate to Scandinavia and learn how to forage berries and find a better work-life balance. Follow her on Instagram @accidentalscandinavian, or in real life in some Swedish forest.

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