Hygge: The excuse you needed to cozy up for your well-being

The past couple of years have been rough on us all. Sickness, isolation, lockdowns and uncertainty about the future have all been a recipe for skyrocketing stress and anxiety levels.

This is where the Danish have an edge over other countries. As residents of one of the happiest nations in the world, they are experts at addressing stress and anxiety. And they do it by using a specific method for creating a calm, cozy space — both in their homes and their minds…

The power of hygge

The concept of hygge (pronounced HOO-gah) involves creating a warm, cozy, peaceful atmosphere within which to enjoy the good things and people in life.

Lauren Garvey, a counselor and facilitator at Cancer Wellness at Piedmont, describes hygge as “mindfulness wrapped in a blanket,” with a focus on being present and comfortable in your body, mind and space.

“In our culture, we are often hustling and striving, moving forward at a fast pace,” Garvey says. “If you are practicing hygge, you are embracing presence over productivity.”

Hygge can do wonders for both your physical and mental health. It can decrease the adrenal stress response, resulting in fewer spikes in cortisol and a more relaxed body and mind. This leads to better sleep and weight management and less need to use alcohol or drugs as a coping mechanism.

Mentally, hygge helps increase feelings of happiness and contentment and allows you to be present in and enjoy the moment. Through hygge, you can embrace self-care as a natural part of life rather than an indulgence you don’t have time for.

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Bring a little hygge to your home

If you’re looking to adopt the practice of hygge, your home is a great place to start. Try adding natural elements such as plants or wooden furniture and decorating with objects found in nature like twigs, stones or leaves. By doing this, you’ll feel more connected with nature and the outdoors even while inside your house.

Also, make sure you include cozy objects like a comfortable chair or couch, fluffy pillows and warm blankets. If you can find furniture and textiles made with natural wood or fibers, so much the better — adding texture to your home helps enhance that warm, sheltered feeling.

Bring your sense of smell into the mix by lighting your favorite scented candle, making a fragrant cup of tea or putting some baked goods in the oven. And soothe your ears with a hygge-friendly playlist.

If you can, forego harsh 5000K fluorescent lighting in favor of lower-watt bulbs or incandescent lighting. You can also simply turn off the lights and use candles for a soft, inviting atmosphere. Whenever possible during the day, keep your curtains open and let the natural light in.

One of the centerpieces of a hygge home is the “hyggekrog,” an area of your home set aside for you to curl up with a blanket, book and cup of your favorite hot beverage. It doesn’t have to be an entire room; it can be as small and simple as a cozy chair set by a window. This nook is something you mindfully set aside for yourself as a space for pure relaxation. Make sure your hyggekrog includes some natural elements and lighting to help enhance its comforting feel.

Turning hygge inward

To cultivate a hygge mindset, embrace self-care and practice self-compassion. Set aside time specifically for cozying up in your nook with a good book or your journal without judging yourself for not being productive. If you want to treat yourself to something sweet, do it without feeling guilty for indulging.

In the hygge lifestyle, spending time outdoors in nature is just as important as bringing nature into your home. Take a long walk at least once a week in a forest or some other natural setting if you can. Even walking around your neighborhood can help relieve stress and make you feel more connected to nature.

Try to slow down and be present in the moment. Instead of constantly focusing on an end goal, be aware of life as an ongoing process and immerse yourself in that feeling. By doing so, you’ll be able to relax both physically and psychologically.

Finally, make time to connect with the people you care about and enjoy their company. Even if you can’t be together physically because of distance or the pandemic, you can always set up a virtual meeting to chat or play games. Spending quality time with others helps boost your levels of oxytocin, the so-called “love hormone” associated with empathy, trust and relationship-building.

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1. Being cozy is good for your health — Piedmont

2. 5 Ways to Make Your Home Hygge — Tomorrow’s World Today

3. Benefits of the Cozy Wellness Trend Hygge — Verywell Health

4. Danes are the second happiest people in the world — Copenhagen Capacity

5. What is the link between love and oxytocin? — Medical News Today

6. Eight Hygge Ideas for Your Mental Health — Restored Hope Counseling Services

Carolyn Gretton

By Carolyn Gretton

Carolyn Gretton is a freelance writer based in New Haven, CT who specializes in all aspects of health and wellness and is passionate about discovering the latest health breakthroughs and sharing them with others. She has worked with a wide range of companies in the alternative health space and has written for online and print publications like Dow Jones Newswires and the Philadelphia Inquirer.