2 Dec

Give yourself a hygge

Want to feel happier in 2017? Then take a tip from the Danes and make your life more ‘hygge’. Karen Glaser explains

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for most of the last twelve months, you’ll know that this has been the year of “hygge”, the Danish art of trying to achieve everyday happiness through living well and staying cosy.

If that sounds a bit woolly, it’s because there is no direct translation of a word which is about the feeling of wellbeing you get from, for example, blowing the froth off a couple cappuccinos by an open fire in your favourite cafe. Or from putting on clean, dry socks after a bracing walk across a rainswept Gatton Park. Or from lighting scented candles in your snug living room as you and your besties, chunky, knitted blankets thrown about your persons,  sit down to watch three episodes of ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ on your super comfy sofa.

“It’s a special atmosphere of a special moment,” explains Marie Tourell Soderberg, a Danish actress whose new book ‘Hygge’ is sure to find its way to under many a Surrey Christmas tree. “It’s where everything just falls into place. Where the company is right, where the temperature is right, where we feel comforted, safe, warm and happy.”

The craze for hygge, pronounced, roughly, hoo-ga, is also a riposte to the slew of clean-living, detox titles that have dominated lifestyle publishing for what feels like a very long time. Put another way, if you fancy a cup of molten chocolate in your favourite Guildford café, go ahead and quaff one. Living well doesn’t means cutting out treats, according to the Nordic philosophy.

Not convinced? Well, with apologies to Shakespeare, there is seemingly very little that’s rotten in the state of Denmark.  Earlier this year, the World Happiness Report declared Denmark the world’s happiest country. Might hygge play a part in that contentment? It can’t, surely, all be down to the country’s strong social security system, low income gap and strict 37-hour working week?

According to Marie, it’s precisely because Danish society functions so well that Danes have time to enjoy meaningful personal and social lives. They have time to be, not merely survive.

So, how might you Surrey folk introduce a bit of hygge into your lives this festive season and thereafter in 2017? Spend more time outdoors, for starters. The Danes believe that fresh air and long walks are central to a healthy life, and with its extensive network of footpaths, it’s easy to embrace the great outdoors in this verdant county. So, wrap up warm (that’s very hygge) and enjoy the heathland and chalk downland of the Headley Heath on Christmas Eve; try the four-mile circular walk through some of Box Hill’s glorious scenery on Boxing Day; and do a serious hike along the North Downs Way, taking in the breath-taking Surrey Hills, on New Year’s Day

Try, too, to emulate the conviviality of the Christmas dinner table every day of the week. Eating hygge-style is about kinship with friends and family, and Danes try their best to do sit-down family dinners every day. The food can be very simple: it’s being together that counts.

Finally, forget coffee’s bad press and enjoy a caffeine shot, ideally with a delicious pastry, whenever you feel like it.  Scandinavians are the world’s biggest coffee drinkers and, crucially, research has found that they are also the least stressed. That new coffee house you’ve spotted on your local Surrey high street? Go and enjoy a flat white and a squidgy chocolate brownie there, now!