What is Hygge?

What is the popular Hygge Danish craze and can it help you sleep & feel better?

Hygge is the Danish concept of coziness and contentment that has caught on big time. In Denmark, where winters are long, days are short, and living space compact, hygge (pronounced somewhere between hoo-guh and hue-guh) has become almost a national philosophy. And thanks to Denmark’s perpetual ranking as one of the happiest countries in the world, hygge has been making its way around the globe, from The New York Times to a spate of books aimed at helping everyone live the hygge life, no matter where they live.

The elements of hygge, according to Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute and author of The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living, focus on the everyday things—spending time with family and friends, enjoying the outdoors (even in winter), taking pleasure in quiet time, and spoiling yourself (well, just a little).

Here are several tips that can help you make your own life hyggelig — cozy and comfortable. An added bonus: You may just sleep better too.

  1. Head outdoors

    Whether Danes are hunkered down for the long, dark winters, or celebrating the nearly round-the-clock sunshine of their short summers, spending time outdoors is central to the concept of hygge. As little as five minutes a day in a natural setting, whether walking in a park or gardening in the backyard, can improve your mood, according to an article published in the journal of Environmental Science & Technology. And research from Harvard University has shown that a better mood also means better sleep.

  2. Get moving

    Most Danes embrace exercise as part of their daily routine. Cycle to work, go for a walk, or skip the elevator in favor of taking the stairs, and you’ll find that having a regular activity routine should improve your sleep, according to the journal of Mental Health and Physical Activity.

  3. Take the chill off

    Cozy woolen socks, hand-knit sweaters, flannel pajamas and hot-water bottles play an important role in helping the Danes stay toasty through their long winters. Don’t overlook a soak in a warm tub either, which Health magazine says will relax you and help you fall asleep faster. Just make sure your bath isn’t too hot. If it’s too hot it’ll actually take you longer to fall asleep because the hot water will heat up your internal organs which your body then works to cool down before falling asleep. So, rule of thumb before bed, according to Sleep Number experts, is WARM not HOT bath before bed, so you can relax AND slumber blissfully.

  4. Set the mood

    Flickering candles and a crackling fire are an important part of a hyggelig home. In “The Little Book of Hygge,” author Wiking notes that Danes burn more candles per person than any other country in Europe. Don’t have a fireplace, or worry about the flames? Download a video, complete with the snap, crackle, pop of burning logs. It’s almost as good as the real thing.

  5. Enjoy a snack

    Hygge is all about indulgence, in moderation. What can be more comforting than a mug of hot chocolate or cup of tea on a cold winter’s day? To truly get into the hygge spirit, do like the Danes, who love their candy (as The Local Danish newspaper notes) and nibble something sweet, like a small piece of dark chocolate.

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