Recently, I hopped aboard the Hygge train. Actually, I realized that I’ve been on this train all along; but, there exists a name for it.
Hygge – a word describing the Danish art of comfort, contentment, and connection.
A little hygge handbook I picked up (The Book of Hygge: the Danish Art of Comfort, Coziness, and Connection by Louisa Thomsen Brits) defines hygge (pronounced “hoo-gah”) in this way, “a quality of presence and an experience of belonging and togetherness. It is a feeling of being warm, safe, comforted, and sheltered.” Furthermore, it’s about enjoying the present moment in all its small pleasures. “It’s a way of acknowledging the sacred in the secular, of giving something ordinary a special context, spirit, and warmth, and taking the time to make it extraordinary.”
This is not a mind-blowing concept and it’s nothing new. I’d argue it’s something that everyone is on board with. But the fact that this concept (that can be hard to articulate) actually has a name and definition has given me a way to be intentional about it in my daily life.
Obviously, hygge looks different for everyone. The definition of it is so subjective and vague. To officially embrace hygge is to accept an invitation to make small shifts of practice and perception into everyday life. A common demonstration of this is to light candles in the house and enjoy a favorite food and beverage while you wrap yourself up in a fluffy blanket. It is not about doing something extraordinary to improve your life – it’s about taking what you already do and finding little ways to make it more enjoyable. It’s also an expression of selfhood that anchors and affirms us.
The discovery of this word entered my life at the right time.
After my first two years of motherhood, I knew I had lost myself. I focused on everything I HAD to do – for my family, my home, and my business. Not only had I left behind the little things that used to bring me joy, but I viewed them as ridiculous. Even when I made time for myself, I didn’t have an interest in doing the things that used to bring me satisfaction and affirmation. They seemed as though they should be attributed to someone I left behind – someone who I no longer was.
Then one day, that old self took over for about 30 seconds. Out of nowhere, I started to dance. I was in the middle of getting something for my daughter and it just came over me. A long, long time ago, I used to dance ballet. Then, after I stopped lessons, I used to make up routines and dance ballet until I was panting for breath. Not only have I not done that since becoming a parent – I haven’t done that in over 10 years. Whatever came over me in that moment caused me to dance my heart out with moves I didn’t know I could still do. When I stopped, panting for breath and realizing what had just happened, I felt alive in a renewed way. That former self was present in the room, and I felt exhilarated.
I carried on with my tasks; but carried the past with me. I thought that if that little moment of reconnecting to who I used to be was that energizing, then I really needed to pay attention. I needed to stop dismissing what used to invigorate me as silly. It is all still alive inside of me. It is still who I am.
To bring such things into everyday life that make you feel comforted, confident, and anchored in who you are is hygge.
For me, it’s dancing, playing piano, playing video games, exploring, and writing. Each time I engage in one of these little activities, I feel so alive. Just because I’m now a mother doesn’t mean that those things are not valid.
But by not partaking in those hygge activities, I’ve been missing out on feeling fully alive. Even admitting this feels silly – how can these acts make me feel alive? They are all so trivial and much less important than family. But truly, even the most important things aren’t always enough to complete your life. You still need those hygge moments, whatever that may look like for you.
Hygge is about much more than just creating a cozy environment (which I am also focused on doing). It is about achieving the freedom of feeling that we belong to ourselves.
“It’s not just about lighting the candles in our home, but lighting the candles in our soul. We need to be deliberate about finding a balance between personal liberty and awareness of the needs of others.” (Brits 43)
“The most common form of despair is not being who you are.” Soren Kierkegaard
We’ve heard it time and time again – we mothers always put ourselves and our needs on the backburner. Tale as old as time and easier said than done to do differently. But I truly believe that motherhood has been so hard over the past couple of years, not because of my slightly high-maintenance child, but because I have not been at peace with myself. The hygge theory is not that you have to make dramatic changes in your life to achieve that peace – it’s that all you have to do, sometimes, is tweak it.