I have discovered my new favorite word and the word of the year for 2017. Hygge. A Danish word, pronounced “heurgha” (as you make a sound like you are clearing your throat), is actually derived from a Norwegian word meaning “wellbeing.” Establishing the meaning for this Danish word can be confusing, as it can be used as a noun, verb or adjective. That in itself makes me love it — it is flexible and easy going! Its closest counterpart in English seems to be coziness; however, it can mean so much more than that. For the Danes, it is a way of life. Perhaps this is why they often vie for top billing as the happiest country in the world!
While it is often associated with the notion of snuggling by a warm fire in the winter, and other cold weather fun, hygge basically means “taking pleasure from gentle and soothing things.” Gazing into a candle can be hygge. watching a sunset or the smell of fresh bread can be hygge. Dinner with friends is hygge. Yoga is definitely hygge! The thing to remember when trying to define your own hygge is that hygge is something that is accessible and available to everyone. It does not discriminate by class, gender, race, age or anything else. Hygge sounds a lot like our word “hug,” and the meanings are close as well: a feeling of comfort and security.
I love this quote from translator Tove Maren Stakkestad: ”Hygge was never meant to be translated; it was meant to be felt.” So if you are reading this blog, I encourage you to pause for just one moment and try this hygge practice. Close your eyes or gaze outside a window at something in nature. Notice your breath moving in and out of your nose. Watch the breath until the very end of the exhale, feeling your body relax and your eyes soften. Imagine being enveloped by your breath like a big, plush blanket of warmth. Notice what you feel. A sense of peace, calm, safety, stillness. Whatever it is, just notice it for this moment, staying with it for as long as you can maintain your focus on that image and that sensation. Then, before returning to your activities, state this affirmation: “I am grateful for this moment.” Let a smile spread across your lips as you open your eyes or turn your gaze back to your work.
Do you feel as though you just received a kind-hearted hug? It’s no wonder the two words are so similar, just as the experiences are. I look forward to sharing some hygge-ly times together in 2017. Yes, I am planning many great events to keep our bodies feeling hygge, and I will post about them soon enough. Meanwhile, keep calm and hygge on!