Books about Hygge

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Have you heard of hygge? {Pronounced hoo-ga.} I’ve seen the word so many times over the past year that I had to do some digging.

Scandanavians consistently rank as some of the happiest in the world, most notably the Danes. Some think it has to do with a little something they call hygge. It’s a way of life, a state of being, but it is not entirely easily to translate.

The word originates from the proto-language Old Norse – hyggja means thinking and feeling satisfied and is related to finding shelter, rest and safety, and regaining energy and courage. ~ from Hygge by Marie Tourell Soderberg

Still, you’d be surprised to how many activities to it can be referred! Here’s what I explored to learn more about hygge.

~

The Book of Hygge
by Louisa Thomsen Brits 
(nonfiction) – skip

This book sometimes read more like a thesis or a professional journal than it did a book. I almost came away more confused about hygge than when I started. But in the end, I learned that everything can be hygge (just like everything can be yoga). It’s a way of life, but most likely learned subconcsiously. That’s why describing it is so hard.

“Hygge happens when we commit to the pleasure of the present moment in its simplicity. It’s the things we do that give everyday life value and meaning, that comfort us, make us feel at home, rooted and generous.”

It encompasses the following:

  • Belonging (inclusivity)
  • Shelter (within our homes, our lives, ourselves, our family)
  • Comfort (feeling welcome, warm, safe)
  • Well-being (contentedness)
  • Simplicity (and authenticity)
  • Observerance (mindfulness)

~

The Little Book of Hygge
by Meik Wiking 
(nonfiction) – worth a read!

Whenever I would encounter a little something about hygge, this is the book that was always recommended to learn more. And I see why! I learned so much about the Danish culture and think I have a pretty good grasp now on what hygge is.

When I’d read about it online, it was often referred to as coziness or that feeling of warmth and togetherness that we often feel during the holidays when we gather with friends and family. While both of those are the case, being alone, sipping on a cup of something warm and a good book can be hygge, too. It’s a sense of safety and security, but can also mean having a good time. It’s just the right lighting and warming up after coming in from out of the cold. But it can also be visiting a cabin in summer. It’s everyone pitching in and creating such a good time and feeling included to do so. It’s simplifying and getting everyday enjoyment out of life with your loved ones.

This book is written by the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute (yes, that exists!) I feel compelled to travel to Denmark now, but am perplexed which time would be best. I am not a winter person, but that seems like it might be the hyggest time! This book comes with recipes, too.

I felt the hygge just reading this book. 🙂

~

Hygge: The Danish Art of Happiness
by Marie Tourell Soderberg (nonfiction) – worth a read

I was drawn to the cover of this book, as I am often to blue covers. The glow of the yellow light on the cover also cast a hygge-like spell that made me want to cozy up with this book. My library only had it available however as an e-book and the Cloud Library had a bit of issue with the pictures. I would have really liked to have looked at the photos that were often used to illustrate examples, but they were always cut off. There was no way to zoom in or zoom out. And while I could make the text on each page smaller or larger, it had no effect on the photos. My library did work with Cloud Library and the publisher to see if it could be fixed. They recreated the problem and thought they had fixed it, but nothing changed on my end, not logging out, not returning the book and checking it out again, not rebooting my phone or deleting and reinstalling the app.

So not hygge. 🙂

In any case, I got some really great nuggets of info from this book. Hygge can be described as a peaceful feeling, one of contentment, such as how one feels when they feel safe, secure or having a good time. I liked this quote:

“Hygge is a state of being you experience if you are at peace with yourself, your spouse, the tax authorities and your inner organs.” ~ Tove Ditlevesen

Also, the Danes are serious about their lighting. Most of them light candles every day. But one chapter of this book went as far to suggest the right kind of bulb and its color temperature in degrees Kelvin for the best kind of warm lighting!

Hygge is relaxed, informal and inclusionary. Danes don’t like so much to brag or be in the limelight. During times of hygge, no one talks of politics nor pushes the envelope.

~

How to Hygge:
The Nordic Secret to a Happy Life
by Signe Johansen (nonfiction) – worth a read

Here ^^ Sophie Jean is telling me to stop learning how to hygge and snuggle with her instead. Shouldn’t that be hygge enough? Truth be told, it is. But Sophie has an independent mind of her own and doesn’t always come to snuggle with me when I call her. {Unlike Miss Phoebe!} Instead, she gets to determine when we snuggle. I guess we know who runs our household.

This book was written not by a Dane, but a Norwegian food writer, which shows that the hygge pours over to the rest of Scandinavia. You’ll get a hefty dose of Scandinavian recipes {especially sweets!} in this book. A few things I learned:

  • Scandinavians are active every day – no matter what the weather! Throughout these books, I keep seeing the phrase, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.”  It’s normal to just snap on some skis and go for a quick glide around the neighborhood in the winter, even in urban areas. Otherwise, Danes bike everywhere – taxes are 170% on cars.
  • Spending time in nature is common and important. Studies show that “spending time in nature means you are less prone to brooding”. Okay, Carrie, go for a walk, there’s no need for that runner’s high to be beneficial!
  • Bring the outside in. Scandinavians love to use natural materials to build furniture (often wood) and bring the outside in. My dentist office was newly decorated on my last visit and I felt like someone had read up on hygge…
  • “Self-sufficiency is the greatest of all wealth,” ~ Epicuris. Scandinavians teach their young not only to “survive”, but also how to flourish individually in society.

~

Happy as a Dane:
10 Secrets of the Happiest People in the World

by Marlene Rydahl (nonfiction) – worth a read

Okay, this wasn’t exactly a book on hygge, but I’m sure you can guess that hygge was not left out of this book as one of the reasons the Danes live a fulfilling lifestyle! In fact, I learned a lot about the Danish mindset from this book. I won’t go through all ten points, I’d rather you pick up the book yourself. It’s a quick read.

The first “secret” of the Danes is not really even a secret at all. It’s something that has been ingrained subconsciously in their culture, their society. I don’t think it’s something any of us, especially in the U.S. can change individually and expect our lives to change or be happier:

TRUST

There are two specific examples of trust that stood out to me that I could never see working where I live, nor most places around the globe!

  • Farmers Markets – You won’t see farmers selling produce there. But what you will see is a jar in which to place your cash when you take what you need, as well as a few coins, in case you need to make change. The farmer comes back to collect the earnings and anything leftover at the end of the day.
  • Babies – It’s not uncommon for parents to leave strollers with their sleeping babies out by the curb while they run in to a store or sit and have lunch or coffee with someone, just as if they are sleeping in the other room. Around here, I know some people tie their dogs up outside when they run in, but I wouldn’t even do that!

With a tax rate near 60%, Danes have to trust that their money is being put to good use. And they do – most Danes are happy with what they’ve got, don’t strive for the big bucks and feel like they are investing in the greater good.

EDUCATION

  • Education is free at all levels
  • In fact, those going off to college will generally receive about $900/mo to pursue such.
  • The focus in education is not to be high-performing, but to find your personally fulfilling place in society.

~

I think many Americans already practice a sort of hygge in their lifestyles without realizing it because we don’t really have a word for it. I think it is the feeling you get around the holidays when you are bundled up and drinking hot chocolate or visiting loved ones even when the weather is frightful, because that fire really is so delightful. But it’s also that feeling you go up to a cabin in the summertime, where you are enjoying the outdoors and not necessarily any of the amenities you have in own home. It is the feeling you have when you curl up with a good book and a cup of tea or glass of wine. It is having candles lit and making friends and family feel welcome and comfortable in your own home. It is snuggling with the dog and walking in nature and hanging out with friends who make you feel comfortable and included.

These are all things many of us do already, any time of year. But maybe the key to happiness is to actually make the time to do them more often.

Have you read any books on 07?
If so, what do you think hygge means to you?

Cheers~
Carrie

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One response »

  1. Pingback: 5 for Friday: What I’ve Been Reading | Season It Already!

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