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Danish lifestyle promotes winter-time comfort and connection

A girl cuddles up with a book in embrace of the hygge lifestyle. Hygge is about relaxation and the simple pleasures in life. Photo by Aly Khan

A girl cuddles up with a book in embrace of the hygge lifestyle. Hygge is about relaxation and the simple pleasures in life.
Photo by Aly Khan

Wearing a favourite sweater, sitting by a cosy fireplace and drinking hot chocolate can increase happiness. 

That may not sound like rocket science, but Meik Wiking, the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, Denmark, says that these elements, also known as hygge, are the key to happiness.

Hygge, pronounced somewhat like “hoog-uh” according to Wiking, is a Danish word that is starting to make waves outside of Denmark. 

Wiking’s new book, The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well aims to define hygge, which is not easily translated into other languages. 

“Hygge is about an atmosphere and an experience, rather than about things,” Wiking says in the book’s introduction.

Shortlisted for the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2016, hygge is defined as, “A quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being [regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture].”

Wiking’s book goes well beyond a one-line definition of the word, offering many examples of hyggelig experiences as well as how-to guides to achieve hygge in one’s daily life.

When visiting the Danish Canadian Club (DCC) in Calgary, “Its almost like walking into someone’s living room in Denmark,” said assistant manager Eva Mamchur. “It is very much hygge.”

Mamchur moved to Canada 50 years ago and has been working at the DCC for 21 years.

Hygge is so much a way of life in Denmark, said Mamchur, that people will say to each other, “Lets go home and hygge.” This usually means lighting candles and sitting and chatting over a hot drink or a glass of wine.

In his book, Wiking emphasises that no amount of money can buy the hyggelig feeling.

“Hygge is about appreciating the simple pleasures in life and can be achieved on a shoestring budget,” he says. 

Wiking’s identifies certain inexpensive things that may help achieve hygge, such as candles, hot chocolate or other warm drinks, old cozy socks and sweet treats.

According to Mamchur, if there is one material thing you must have in order to help create hygge, it’s candles. 

But it is about more than just candles and lighting she says. “Danes have a good attitude.”

Wiking says that hygge is about making memories with loved ones and being able to reminisce about them later. 

The idea of being present in the moment is a key element of hygge.

 “No phones,” said Mamchur. “Put them away and have a conversation instead. If you have your phones out, you might as well sit alone.”

Katie Coyes, a first-year student in the legal assistant program at SAIT, is interested in the concept of hygge.

“It sounds like a great way to build closer relationships with your friends,” said Coyes.

“I think as students, we could benefit mentally too.”

 “Its good for your brain to relax once in a while.”

Although the idea of hygge is new to Coyes, she is looking forward to telling her friends about it and inviting them over for some quality social time.

“Hygge session,” she joked. “Bring your candles!”

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