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HAPPINESS - The Nordic Way To Wellbeing

With the mornings getting darker and as the winter draws near it makes me think of cosy nights in. You know, mugs of hot chocolate, I am not the biggest fan of marshmallows but definitely cosy blankets on the menu. Hygge is warmth and embraces you and your comforts in an uplifting atmosphere and feeling of belonging. With lockdown and people spending more time at home, our houses have become a place of work, rest and play. There has been a rise in what some people call ‘nesting’. Apparently we have been putting more energy into a place where we now spend most of our time.

I didn’t know it was what I was looking for until…

It was about seven years ago I wanted to change my life. I was searching for a way to make my home in the Shires more homely. It was a new build so it didn't have a lot of character but a lot of space and I was trying to find a way to make it cosy, warm and characterful. I felt confident that I could do this after watching a couple of interior design YouTube videos. I found myself rushing to the nearest Homesense store (the lifestyle version of TK Maxx) and buying a truck load of cushions, crockery and rugs. I also bought a mirror for the garden and a whole heap of other stuff. It just felt very consumptionary and although the stuff looked nice, it didn't quite feel that the stuff had done what I was hoping…which, now I realise, was to create a Hygge.

According to experts, Hygge is a Danish and Norwegian word for a mood of coziness with feelings of wellness and contentment in the home.

A Pleasant Discovery

So hear what, I discovered the expensive way, that ‘stuff’ does not make your home cosy. It's actually a complex combination of energy in which those stuff, placed in your home, creates a space that is an authentic reflection of you. Seven years ago I was trying to create a space that was functional and reflective of every one in my house but that didn't work. What does work, is if everybody brings a piece of who they are to the home, that layering of loves is what works. A combination of family that can't be orchestrated, but curated. And it definitely works best when there is a person leading.

Too many captains on the ship creates chaos. Which is what I did. I gave everyone free reign and boy did it end up looking like a hot mess. What the pros do, is create a collection of everyone’s contribution, based on a common theme or style aesthetic. The contributions complement each other, with an organic sense of togetherness, as everyone's share is a part of who we are. How this is pieced together is important. Although, one overall vision works best - Ladies that is normally us! while keeping the sense of calm and joy. Otherwise interior mayhem can occur and that is very unhygge!

A SelfCare Discovery

Hygge is about creating a space that feels safe and it comes when the person behind the surroundings is completely comfortable with their choices. It's kind of like the physical version of SelfCare. It's a bit like an analogy for life - when we are truly authentic, we are completely comfortable with the choices we make because we know they are right for us.

So what is it?

It's sincerity in the things you surround yourself with everyday. If you love art, that enthusiasm will show through, if you love colour, that vibrancy will come to life. If you love vintage, that excitement will be scattered around your home. If you like a more modern flick then that will be your jam!

We thrive in a home we find beautiful. Happy really does look beautiful and the aesthetics make us feel special. One of my Twelve segments of SelfCare is surroundings. How we live and what we live with, affects how we feel. A makeover that helps things flow. The Danish way is to design things with a simple functional relaxed and down-to-earth quality to them. It could be a welcoming hallway or herbs on the kitchen shelf, pretty pictures and natural stoneware, they all give warmth. It's the lived experience of the people that creates character and hominess.

Louisa Thompson Brits, a Hygge advocate, says “it's not all about having stuff.” For her, it’s things like lighting candles, spending time with people and bedtime story rituals. It's a universal language spoken by everyone of “human action in interaction.” Brits believes it happens when we connect, as we bond. It's a fusion of our sense of self, the place we occupy and the people around us. Many believe that home is ideally the place that restores and sustains us so overall, how we spend our time at home can be a benchmark of Hygge.

“We can not all do great things, but we can do small things with great love” Mother Teresa.

How to do it ?

We all have a unique way, but the main themes are Inner, Outer Balance and Harmony. And there are 6 elements of Belonging; Comfort; Simplicity; Shelter; Well-being and Observance. It is fragile as the process is the goal. It's about being present, being in the moment and wholehearted participation.

Belonging is:

A combination of family, a circle of warmth when souls are fed by predictable rhythms of comfort and familiarity. Hygge is challenging when we are stressed or distracted but it’s time for simply being. Spontaneity and immediacy are Hygge.

Comfort is:

Memories, habits, traditions, inheritance scripts. It's paying attention to the rhythm of our daily lives and the people we choose to spend our time with. It is the things we do that give our life meaning. It's the intersection between the soulful and the practical.

Simplicity is:

Everyday mindfulness. We adjust our surroundings to guide our energy. We may not always be aware of why we want to move something or change it but, we just know it would be better and less clustered where things can breathe (as all items carry energy). If we pay attention to the concerns of the human spirit and prioritise simple pleasures, friendships and connection, we are generously remembering the importance of simple living.

Shelter is:

Making time for comfort and retreat is Hygge. Home making is Hygge itself. People often think it's laying a cosy rug, but it's not the rug, it's the fact that the rug creates a zone of coziness and closeness.

Well being is:

Gentle surroundings. Quietly confident that life is good. The art is in the small actions that make up the whole. It is a way of being with others; caring for them and for self. Not ignoring difficulty but putting it to rest for a while, as we prepare ourselves for the small pleasure in order to regain momentum to cope with life's tough times.

Observance is:

Approaching holidays and ordinary days with warmth and lightheartedness. It's fresh flowers, pine cones, openness, empathy, respect and hobbying. It's rituals, for example, with special moments like Friday night equals family night. The way we prepare a place to Hygge is important. Upholding boundaries around an experience.

How to feel it?

It's as much about what we do as how we do it. It's preparing in advance. It’s carefully arranging fresh flowers, candles and fresh food lovingly made or engaged with the lifelong task of living intimately and lovingly in relation to the world around us. Hygge is a state of being as much as state of doing. It's authentic. It's a simple way of living. It’s diverse, things are well loved, well worn and favoured. It's less about style (although if you are naturally stylish then that is a given!) and more about feeling and atmosphere and how we relate to the things around us and how these things are of value and daily importance.

Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful” William Morris.

Once you're like there....You'll know you have Hygge

It's about celebration, it's breakfast in bed, fresh bed linen, giving value to ordinary things that we do. Listening to music in traffic, it’s warm soapy water and little windows of calm in our busy day. Ultimately this is not one you can tick off the list.

It's an experience that is ongoing and a process that we go through hopefully often and always. It is about the balance of moderation in the things that we love, good or not so healthy. Of the modern and traditional, just like how a parent combines the passed down teaching of their family, while adapting to the contemporary world.

So whether you like boho chic, eccentric bold or modern minimalist, it’s equally indulgence and restraint in a way that makes us happy and values personal freedom. Once you're there you’ll know. You will feel content in your surroundings, calm and relaxed in the company of your belongings. At peace and free to express your raw self, in a way that makes life rich and enjoyable.

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