What is hygge?
Hygge, pronounced “hoo-gah,” is a Danish word and concept that means invoking or fostering a sense of coziness, contentment and well-being. The word can be a noun (“I love Sunday afternoon hygge with friends.”) or an adjective (“The candlelight in this room is so hygge!”). Hygge means “creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people,” according to Visit Denmark. It’s a feeling and an experience of coziness through embracing the small joys in life with family or close friends — think candles, good conversations, fuzzy blankets, a shared meal or curling up with a book.
Hygge can be practiced year-round, but its origin comes from Danish winters. Like Wisconsin, Danish winters are cold, long and dark. Hygge uses candlelight, blankets, scarves and warm drinks such as mulled wine, tea or coffee to combat and appreciate the small joys that come with harsh winters. It is as much a way to cope with winter as it is a way to change how you perceive winter. Looking at the cold winters as an opportunity to stay in and cozy up or go out and bundle up with friends is much more positive than seeing it as something to endure for six months. This mindset change that focuses on the simple moments can help you feel happier and healthier during the rougher winter months.
In his book The Little Book of Hygge, Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, explains hygge through the five senses. Hygge feels like warmth, comfort, organic materials. Think of the feeling of knit blankets, a wooden rocking chair, a mug full of cider, mittens. The taste of hygge is familiar and comforting. It’s often sweet, like hot cocoa or tea with honey. Hygge smells are those that bring you a sense of peace or bring up a fond memory from your life. This could be something like the smell of chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven or a scented candle. A crackling fire is the epitome of hygge sounds, according to Wiking, but the sound of cooking, baking or even silence can also bring that cozy feeling. Finally, seeing hygge includes soft lighting, neutral colors and organic movements, like an open fire or falling snow.
How to hygge in Milwaukee:
1. Grab coffee with friends and/or family
Many of Milwaukee’s local coffee shops have a very hygge atmosphere. Invite someone or a few people to get coffee or tea and have conversation — whether it’s about deep topics or light joys, it’s up to you!
2. Cozy up with some candles (or warm lighting!)
Whether it’s candles or a trusty lamp, creating some ambiance in your home can go a long way in winter. Try some candles from local candle companies Milwaukee Candle Co., Milwickie Candles or Copper Wings Candle Co., or try a Milwaukee Skyline lamp from KOKADA, if you prefer non-flammable lighting options. This is a great way to brighten up your home when it gets dark so early during the winter.
3. Spend time doing a hygge hobby
Give knitting, baking, cooking or another hygge hobby a try this winter. Learn how to knit or crochet in a class at Cream City Yarn. Make a recipe you’ve wanted to try or experiment to create an entirely new recipe. Grab a book from Boswell Book Company or Downtown Books. Take on calligraphy or woodworking. Whatever hobbies (new or old) feel comforting and bring you peace, do them this winter.
4. Notice good things and little joys
Take some time to acknowledge and talk about the little (or big!) things that are happening in your life. This could be a big life change or something as simple as the way the sun shines on Lake Michigan during these chilly months. Share these little joys with the people in your life, and maybe they’ll start to notice the good things in their life too.
5. It’s all about the mindset
At the end of the day, hygge is all about embracing the little joys and simple moments in your life. If you take the time throughout your day to stop and appreciate the smaller things, you’ll be surprised by how much it improves your mood. Instead of contributing to the “I hate winter” and “It’s too cold” mindset that we often have in Milwaukee, try celebrating the beautiful parts about Milwaukee winters — the community, the beauty of snow falling, the many coffee shops and restaurants waiting to serve you that warm mug. Take it all in, create moments of joy and find some hygge each day. You’ll be surprised how a little warmth and coziness can go a long way.