“Hygge? What in the world is that?!! Heck, I can’t even pronounce it!”
Sitting in the rather crowded airport outlet of Flury’s in Kolkata, I was waiting for my coffee, waiting for my connecting flight, waiting to get going… Waiting for the next moment and completely missing out on the here and now… And staring into a book cover inscribed with a single word that I had never heard before, and couldn’t even say!
Two years later, I can admit without feeling inadequate that it was gut-wrenching to kill a rather large quantity of my ego, and ask the young fellow sitting opposite me, however casually, what the word was. But I am so glad I did.
So what is ‘hygge’?
To start with, it is pronounced hoo-guh. It comes from a Norwegian word meaning ‘well-being.’ But today, it is synonymous with a Danish concept that has taken the world by storm. To quote the official website of Denmark tourism, “… hygge means creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people. The warm glow of candlelight is hygge. Friends and family – that’s hygge too. There’s nothing more hygge than sitting round a table, discussing the big and small things in life.”
It sounded rather quaint to me. It reminded me of things I had forgotten and forsaken in my hurried little life in the fast lane.
A typical day for me started with the alarm going off. I rolled off the bed and rushed… from the bed into the bath… from home to office… from work to lunch to meeting to coffee to pub to party to home to next day. The dizzying pace of life was addictive. The more I pressed the accelerator, the more adrenalin pumped in. And nothing changed from day to day… for weeks or maybe months or years, until that fateful tryst with an alien word in Kolkata!
I had been so busy with life that I no longer had the time to enjoy my life. I had no time for anyone or anything. I was collecting so many commitments, at work and at home, that eventually I had no idea how I was going to handle them all. Sooner or later, I was headed towards a burnout.
Hygge made me realize that. It reminded me that life is meant to be lived, in the company of friends and family. It is to be filled with moments of simple pleasure, and it taught me to lead a frugal life… that did not stress me or the environment.
Simply put, hygge means living in the moment. Being content with simple comforts… Being happy whether you are alone or in company… And creating cozy surroundings with a zillion candles to light up your room, curling up into a thick, warm blanket with your favorite book!
It’s a rather abstract term but you can understand it if you visualize the ambience where you are having a good time, chatting and relaxing. It includes activities that connect you with the environment, your loved ones and your community. So think of stuff that will let you soak in nature. Create small rituals that you can enjoy with your friends and family. It could be something as simple as playing Scrabble with your kids on Saturday evenings, or starting the tradition of cooking a special Sunday brunch with friends. The key is doing something you enjoy.
Going for a walk in the park is hygge… enjoying a hot drink is hygge… crocheting a muffler; baking bread from scratch; chatting with a friend over a cup of coffee; curling up with a book; a good head massage; doing up the house with DIY crafts; going offline… all hygge!
When I finally got off the crazy rollercoaster that I thought was life, I began appreciating the small pleasures that make our lives so much richer… Taking a deep breath of the fresh crisp morning breeze, feeling the warm sun on my back, sharing a hearty laugh with a friend, feeling hungry just smelling the aromas that wafted out of my mom’s kitchen, chattering around the dinner table, patting my child as he wandered off into dreamland, lacing my fingers through my husband’s as we watch the moon rise on a quiet evening… This is hygge. This is happiness.