What is Hygge? And what it’s not!

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I am waiting for the World Happiness report 2021. It usually comes out in the moth of March. I am curious to know which country stayed the happiest in the face of a pandemic.

Studies have apparently shown that people usually get happy in the face of disasters. Weird right? To think of how we are just coming out of a pandemic and we know how debilitating the economic environment has been. But the fact is that during a crisis, neighbours and communities come alive, and they harness together to help each other. A sense of belonging, togetherness and community gets developed – a feeling of pride that they were able to mitigate the effects of the crisis.

In March 2020, when the World Happiness report got created, Finland topped the list and Denmark came second, followed by Switzerland.

What I like about the Nordic and Scandinavian culture is that they are not into showmanship. They aren’t excessive in their display of wealth.  

In the recent past Hygge (pronounced as Hoo-gah) has enjoyed a lot of currency as a lifestyle.

A Danish philosophy, this way of life has been practiced in Denmark since the 18th century. Hygge is attributed to the reason why Danes are the second-most happiest people on earth.

Countries like the USA and UK have discovered it and I reckon, made it popular.  After all, these countries are undoubtedly great marketeers.

But what is Hygge?

It is separating well-being from wealth. Knowing that the real joys of life don’t come from money or promotions. It comes from being with friends and family, from enjoying the simple pleasures of life.

Hygge means to not hurry. It’s having plenty of time in your hands. Enjoying a cup of coffee ( or tea or hot chocolate), reading a good book, spending time with family and friends on board-games (instead of computer games).

It’s cosiness and comfort. It’s about doing the good things of life – the slow things of life. And it is enjoying them too.

As a Bong, a good adda can mean Hygge.

Netflixing can mean hygge too.

When you google Hygge – the one image that’ll pop up most on the feed is feet with a pair of woolen socks on, a girl holding a mug of a beverage and a fireplace- interspersed with candles and a blanket or a throw.  

These are just images which create a picture of cosiness and comfort, also hinting at the fact that hygge can be experienced only in winters. Since Denmark is a cold country for most of the year, the use of woollens is understandable. But it doesn’t mean hygee is supposed to be enjoyed only in winters.

It is a state of well-being – so ideally it can be experienced throughout the year, despite what the images suggest. A concert, a festival, brunch with friends can all be hygge. A very secure and content lifestyle.

In an Indian context, Hygge would mean drinking a chilled glass of nimbu-pani on a hot summer day. It could mean enjoying the monsoons or having a corn cob on the hills of Lonavala, kulhad ki chai, a weekend picnic, a drive on Marine Drive at midnight, having a roadside panipuri – all extremely hygge-like experiences.

It’s enjoying all the ordinary activities of life, and sometimes the most mundane. Hygge is not governed by which county you live in, the season or the right products – it can work perfectly well without socks, blankets and throws, fireplace and hot cocoa.

The essence of Hygge is contentment – a sense of abundance.

Our closest relationship is first with ourselves and Hygge encourages us to do that. Life in a mega-metro can get exceedingly hectic and we find ourselves in a rut ever so often. Slowing down life, a bit of alone time or with our favourite people – abundant in warmth and affection.

What Hygge is not?

Hygge is not about perfecting the setting with the right products. Companies in the US and the UK have made a business of it. The scented candles segment in USA is 364.9 million (source – grandviewresearch.com).

You cannot buy hygge. You’ve got to experienced it and live it.

Indiscriminate buying of candles, socks and blankets does not constitute its practice.

And neither do you wake up one day and decide, let’s hygge today. It should organically fit into your lifestyle, not force-fitted.

Authentic Danes have found a dilution of this concept by insane commercialisation and premiumisation of products under the pretext of Hygge. A superficial manifestation of this philosophy does not mean making you spend on something you don’t need.

To my mind though, it does not matter how other cultures use it. Some may believe that marketing as an unscrupulous profession or discipline. But essentially, it helps in spreading awareness.

We have not complained about how yoga is marketed more by the Americans. The worldwide yoga market is USD 37,462 million. So many people have benefited from it. The idea is to understand the essence of it.

So, next time you are out with friends for brunch, or reading a good book, or even cooking, enjoy it without feeling like it’s a compulsion. And when you do, you would’ve incorporated hygge into your life – without spending!

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Decoding Minimalism, read here ,

What is a Quiet life? read here