The last few years have seen the Danish concept of hygge take the UK by storm but, to be honest, sometimes I wonder what all the fuss is about.
I suppose the joy of being able to put a name to the calm cosy appreciation of enjoying life’s simple pleasures makes the Danish concept so appealing, but as a way of life I think it’s something us Brits have always been pretty darn good at. Wrapping up warm for long woodland walks with the dog – check. Enjoying long leisurely pub lunches by a roaring fire – check. Playing board games by candlelight, long into the night. check. Being in touch with our feelings and willing to put labels on them.. hmm, maybe not so much!
Of course, it’s not all drinking cocoa by candlelight in alpaca wool socks with a Scandi box set on the telly. As Simon Sinclair notes in A Very British Hygge, there are no hard and fast rules; we’ve been doing it for centuries, we just haven’t given it a name, and the truth is the British adoption of the Danish notion in recent years has seen the true essence of hygge become eroded to fit marketing campaigns and sell a ‘lifestyle’, rather than the psychological wellbeing to which the term is more closely tied.
The more I read about hygge, the more I come to understand that its all about taking the time to not only enjoy things but also care about them, which includes taking good care of yourself. I suppose a huge part of the allure of hygge comes from the fact that the Danes are frequently ranked the ‘happiest people on Earth’, but could you imagine the outcry if the tables were turned and suddenly (somehow) the Brits came out on top? Having a good ol’ moan is a part of the national psyche, and has been proven to actually help you feel better in the long-run.
But of course, there are plenty of hygge-ish pastimes and activities we can – and should – take pleasure in, especially as Autumn creeps in and all-of-a-sudden turns to winter; all of them decidedly British and yet extremely hyggeligt too…
aka. a coffee break, where you don’t simply grab coffee on-the-go but instead take time to actually sit down with your colleagues or friends, and have a few minutes of real life conversation over a large mug of strong filter or sweet milky coffee. Or, if you’re a freelancer working in your office alone; time spent away from the desk with a book, magazine, or simply your thoughts. Scandinavians would pair their coffee with baked goods – namely cinnamon buns – but us brits might partake in a chocolate digestive or two instead, or – more appropriately up here in the North – an Eccles cake. You might even like to switch out the coffee for tea – it’s allowed! – but not me. I’m far more Scandi than British in that respect..
Is there anything more satisfyingly Autumnal than fresh-from-the-oven apple crumble? The humble crumble must be one of our national treasures and the moment the leaves start to turn, I begin craving this sweet buttery classic. And it’s not just savouring the taste of the crumble, the whole process is satisfyingly hyggeligt – especially if you’ve picked the apples from your own garden! The recipe for concocting such a delightful dessert is pleasingly simple – I mean, who doesn’t enjoy rubbing flour, sugar and butter between their fingers to make the crumbled topping? The smell that wafts through the house as a crumble cooks is heavenly enough, but sitting down to enjoy a piping hot bowlful with your loved ones round the table is the cherry on the top – just don’t ruin your crumble with custard!! (again, I’m being decidedly not British!)
I know candles look magical lighting up an alfresco dining space on long summer evenings, but its in the Autumn and Winter months that candlelight really comes into its own. Never mind the fact that we all instantly look better in the soft glow of a flickering flame, there is something naturally restorative about turning down the harshness of an artificial bulb and letting a more natural light source illuminate our surroundings. For me, a very simplified interpretation of Danish hygge is simply snuggling up on the sofa, under a pile of heavy blankets, basking in the soft scented glow of candlelight, letting my mind empty of everyday worries and simply ‘being’. I’m not someone who finds meditation easy, but concentrating on the soft gentle flickr of a lit candle is often a great way for me to find calmness and clarity after a stressful day of work.
4. Get outdoors
Of course, hygge’s not all about staying indoors. In fact, heading out into the great outdoors during the cold, blustery Autumn and Winter months can be the most enjoyable pastime of them all. There’s something incredibly comforting about bundling yourself up in layers of soft woollen fabric, leaving only your face partially exposed to the elements, and heading out into the wild – be it the rambling countryside, crisp leaf-laden woodland or (my fave) a vast expanse of empty beach, the waves crashing angrily on the shore. Whether you choose to head out and brave the cold alone, with your dog, or a group of friends, a brisk walk and the bracing cold can help get your heart racing and ‘blow away the cobwebs’ – and there’s nothing more British than that!
5. Guy Fawkes
Wrapping up to enjoy the November 5th fireworks with your nearest and dearest is perhaps the most hyggeligt evening of the year! Bonfire Night is not only a perfect opportunity to spend quality time outdoors with friends and family, enjoying the amazing choreography and bright lights of the fireworks, but also to indulge in all the festive comfort foods associated with the celebration: hot dogs (with real English bangers), fluffy jacket potatoes cooked in the embers of a bonfire, marshmallows toasted on the ends of long sticks in the flames (or over candles in the fireplace à la our uni days), and lashings of piping hot apple cider. Plus, what could be more
hyggeligt magical than spelling out your name in a trail of sparkler light, eh?
6. Duvet Day
Perhaps the most hyggeligt thing of all though is a good ol’ fashioned duvet day, don’t you agree? Fresh laundered linen and piles of cushions to ensure your bed is extra comfy, then your laptop – paired up with a projector if you’re feeling extra lavish – and a good stock of your favourite films and tv shows on Netflix. What are your go-to’s for a day spent lounging under the covers? An X Files marathon is my natural inclination (especially on dark winter days!) but if I’m looking for something a little lighter then Gilmore Girls, The West Wing or the incredible second season of Master of None are all great options. Perfect duvet day food is often tied to the show I’m watching – I mean, pop tarts for a Gilmore Girls marathon, right? But hot buttered popcorn and a good bar of chocolate are also an absolute must, for sure!
Tell me friends, what are your favourite ways to embrace (a very British take on) hygge?
This post is a Paid Partnership with Everest however all thoughts and views expressed are, as always, my own. All photography © Kate Baxter.