LONDON You could spend a lifetime trying to keep up with the latest lifestyle trends. Each time you master one, another comes along.
This year the Scandinavian trend ‘hygge‘ invaded the UK. It was in every article we read, every shop we entered, every party we attended. It was all around us and we had a choice: we could either embrace it, or rail against it.
So what is Hygge?
Hygge (pronounced HUE-gah) is a Danish word that describes a mood or feeling that comes from taking pleasure in making everyday moments more meaningful or beautiful. That can mean making a ritual out of taking time to enjoy a cup of tea, lighting a candle with every meal and having a cosy evening with family and friends.
Oh, and it’s a pretty massive part of everyday Danish life. Given that Denmark is the happiest nation in the world, it occurred to us that there might be something to this hygge stuff.
Rachel and Gianluca from Mashable UK’s London office decided to give it a go to see what all the fuss was about. And of course to see who was better at hygge.
Day one: Rachel
My first day living the hygge life definitely took some effort. Firstly, I needed to do some research before I embarked on any large-scale endeavours. I opened Hygge: The Danish Art of Happiness and started swotting up. I learned that I needed to create a hyggelig home that is authentic to the way I live my life and I needed to surround myself with objects that reflect the life I lead.
As a person who loves nature and who is very fond of walking, I decided to bring nature into my home. I went for a walk in a forest and picked up a load of soggy leaves. I dried them off using kitchen roll and made sure there were no insects on them. Then I arranged the leaves into a display on my coffee table, complete with a candle, dried orange slices and some teasels I picked up in the forest.
This might sound lovely and cosy, but I basically spent 30 minutes turning a pile of leaves into a fire hazard. Still, my housemate Instagrammed it, so I think it must have looked pretty hyggelig.
I spent the rest of the evening writing in my cosy living room and hand-sewing some homemade Christmas decorations.
Day one: Gianluca
It was a chilly morning full of promise when I decided to try hygge.
After baking a very hyggelig (and yummy!) pancake, I laid out my plans for the day.
I had planned to go to a local Christmas market to get a tree and take a stroll among wooden huts selling vintage wool socks and crystal balls while lightly burning the tip of my tongue with a steaming hot cider. What’s more hygge than that?
Well, as it turned out, the market had no wooden huts and it had run out of cider. The local band was playing some classic, dirty blues which I love, but a far cry from a hyggelig Christmas carol. I spotted a lovely Christmas tree, which I decided to purchase and festoon in the sacred name of hygge.
Despite being a bit tired from carrying the tree all the way to my flat, I put on my best Christmas jumper and started to hang silver and blue Christmas decorations. Unfortunately, the magic of hygge was tragically interrupted when, in a clumsy attempt to straighten the leaning tree, I accidentally broke a beloved crystal ball:
After the incident, I decided to call it a day and stormed off to the pub.
Day two: Rachel
I awoke feeling emboldened after my successful first endeavours. I knew that today was going to be another hyggelig day. I had a leisurely morning, I lit a candle in the living room, made myself a coffee and a bacon sandwich before spending some time with my housemate. I poured myself a bath and lit some more candles too.
Continuing my mission to make my home more reflective of the way I live my life, I decided to make a festive wreath using materials found in my garden. I cut down some branches from a tree in my garden and used a bunch of twigs to tie the whole thing together. It was nothing short of a nightmare to create.
Nothing would stay together, and I ended up using thread to tie the thing together. Never again will I make another wreath.
Once that ordeal was over with, I started reading up on hygge again. I stumbled upon a section about pubs in the book. “The pub is an all-embracing cave, where the hygge settles in with the crackling of a candle,” read the passage. Well, I must be really, really hyggelig because I’ve been to the pub three nights in a row.
Day two: Gianluca
I woke up slightly hungover but refreshed and ready to rock my hygge challenge. That’s when things went horribly wrong.
I had read on Hygge: The Danish Art of Happiness that the best way to enjoy hygge is in small groups. A friend suggested a cozy and arty afternoon strolling through art-filled corridors of a contemporary exhibition with a coffee in our hands. So off we went to visit the Anselm Kiefer exhibition at the White Cube.
It was probably my fault for not checking what the installation was about beforehand. It turned out to be the least hygge thing ever. Entitled Walhalla the Viking paradise the main installation featured a long, poorly-illuminated and narrow room lined with oxidised steel beds draped with dark grey crumpled lead sheets and covers. Another room featured a rusted spiral staircase with dresses mounted on coat hangers.
The whole exhibition was quite depressing and claustrophobic the opposite of what hygge is supposed to be. Feeling a bit down, I dedicated my evening to cooking a soothing pumpkin soup.
Day three: Rachel
Day three of my hygge challenge shall henceforth be known as the gingerbread house fiasco. It was a disaster. I had decided to spend a day relishing in baking and kitchen-based activities. I bought a pre-baked, flat-pack gingerbread house from Danish shop Tiger Stores.
The first stumbling block came in the form of a broken wall, which I had to mend with icing. The icing refused to set, and each time I tried to proceed with another step, my work was undone.
I began to get so stressed over the infuriating gingerbread house. The roof repeatedly slid off, the wall kept crumbling, and eventually the entire thing collapsed. It was not fun. Or cosy. I ended up pouring myself a very large glass of red wine and sulking on the sofa. Maybe the wine gave me the strength I needed to persevere. When I came back to it later that evening, I somehow made the whole thing stick together.
My day of baking also proved extremely messy. Extremely. I persevered then cleaned up the mess and stress-ate four cheese scones straight from the oven. It felt good.
Day 3: Gianluca
The whole hygge enterprise was starting to make me feel rather tired and frustrated, but I wasn’t ready to give up. I scouted the internet for cinnamon roll recipes and picked a Mary Berry one straight out of Great British Bake Off.
Baking was making me feel much more confident and after a lot of flour, brown sugar and cinnamon spice I meticulously shaped the form of the rolls and put them in the oven.
Unfortunately the result wasn’t exactly as expected. Alright, they looked fairly decent on Instagram. But in reality they were more like cinnamon bread than rolls. They were impossible to unroll. And the icing glaze was nowhere to be seen. Defeated, I tried to relax by sitting on a rug and fingerpicking the rusty strings of my guitar. But I was too self-conscious and couldn’t calm down.
All in all, hygge did make me feel happier and cosier. I value quiet nights spent indoors, but living in London doesn’t allow for much of that. This challenge made me realise that I need to make time to live more slowly and to take pleasure in everyday things. Instead of eating my lunch at my desk, I should make more of a ritual about it. Usually meals feel like a race to get food into me because I’ve left it too late to eat. And, hot drinks are usually bolted down as I’m working on stories. This experience has made me think about the enjoyment I get out of everyday activities. I don’t have to create fancy gingerbread creations every day, but I could introduce more achievable changes into my lifestyle to make me feel happier and calmer.
Oh, and I think it’s safe to say that I won this challenge. Happy hygging!
I really tried to like hygge. I really did. But I felt it was just one more thing to do during our already busy lives. Having hygge in the back of my mind made me too stressed about achieving it. Hygge is all about spontaneity and cosiness. It’s a bit like meditating: when you’re too aware of the it, the soothing and healthy benefits seem to disappear. At least that’s what happens to me. One cannot just say the magic word “hygge” and expect it to show up.
This was the chronicle of a hygge-failure, or as they say in Danish, a Halvhyggeligt (half-hygge).