What Is Hygge?

Cozy living room with a wood burning stove

thelittlestonecottage/ Instagram

You've definitely come across the Danish word "hygge," but it can be confusing to really understand what it is or how to embrace it. And part of the reason is that there is no real literal translation for "hygge," pronounced "hoo-gah."

What Is Hygge?

Hygge is a Danish concept that encompasses the feeling of quiet comfort. Think "treat yourself," but focusing on the simple pleasures in life.

From reading a great book to lighting a candle and sipping hot cocoa, "hygge" can be expressed in many different ways, but the premise remains the same: contentment.

Cup of tea and a candle
Getty Images / MundusImages

What Is the History of Hygge?

The earliest known use of the word hygge dates back to the early 1800s, when it first appeared in Danish writing. It was derived from a Norwegian word meaning "well-being," and while it appeared as a noun 200 years ago, it wasn't until a few years back that it really became a lifestyle.

In 2016, we started to see more and more people use the word hygge to describe a way of life, and by 2017 it was practically in everyone's vocabulary. By then, nearly every lifestyle magazine had covered the trend and offered advice on how to embrace hygge. It was even one of Pinterest's trends of the year in 2017.

Coffee table with tray on it
Instagram / cozycreations_2.5

While the meaning of the word may have shifted since 1800, it has always been associated with the idea of contentment and well being.

What Is Hygge in Home Decor?

While hygge can encompass many different elements of one's life, one of the most common uses of the word is in relation to home interiors. Because so much of what makes us comfortable and happy has to do with our homes, it makes sense that the word is so often associated with interior design.

When it comes to embracing hygge at home, think about the things that make you feel happy and calm. While everyone's idea of hygge may differ a little, there are a few general themes that you can embrace in your own space.

Comfortable Textiles

Hygge is all about being comfortable, so think lots of layers. From cozy knitted blankets to soft plush area rugs underfoot, layering up is a great way to incorporate a little more coziness at home. No matter what type of bedding you prefer, splurge on nice sheets and always make it a point to make your bed in the morning.

Candles

A scented candle is one of the best little luxuries in life. Hygge is so much about relishing the small things, and a delicious candle not only adds a calming scent to your space but, provides a hint of warmth that makes you want to cozy up and stay inside.

Cozy living room with a wood burning stove
thelittlestonecottage / Instagram

Light the Fireplace

If you're lucky enough to have a working fireplace, embrace it. While you may want to save this hygge-friendly idea for the wintertime, we think lighting a fire on a chilly summer night is a great way to relax and rejuvenate.

Common Misconceptions About Hygge

While hygge often represents staying at home and taking time to relax and restore, it doesn't necessarily mean becoming a hermit. Spending time with loved ones, either over a good meal at home or a board game, for example, definitely embodies the feeling of hygge.

Additionally, while there are many suggestions and ways to embrace hygge, there are no hard and fast rules. The textbook definition doesn't say you have to have endless blankets or a cozy fire to embrace hygge. Hygge is really about what makes you feel content and happy.

Bedroom with greenery
anotherpiasvieamw / Instagram

Another common misconception about hygge is that it forces you to stay indoors. While it is often thought of as a way for the Danish to fight long, cold winters, you can find hygge in many different places. A long walk in the park or a picnic with your partner can provide a sense of hygge no matter the season.

Whether you bring in plants to upgrade your home's air quality or you invest in a new mattress to improve your sleep, hygge is all about what makes you feel happy and content. It can be found by enjoying the little things in life, but there is no prescriptive way to embrace hygge. Start by finding things you love around your home and taking a few extra moments of mindfulness to appreciate them.