Hoo-gah. Unless you’re well-versed in Danish culture, that may not sound like anything other than an old-timey car horn. But this word, spelled “hygge,” represents a mindset and lifestyle that is spreading far beyond its Danish origins. Hygge is a quality of ultimate comfort, coziness, and well-being. Imagine that feeling you get when snuggled in a blanket, sipping a hot beverage near a fireplace. Or sitting down to a candlelit dinner with your closest friends. Or, in my case, lying in a cuddle heap of puppies. Hygge is the name for that feeling.
As with many other cultural phenomena to hit the U.S., the hygge trend has worked its way into the mainstream, appearing in everything from self-help manifestos to cookbooks, even hair color trends. After stumbling upon this concept online, and going on to read Louisa Thomsen Brits’ The Book of Hygge, I thought about the other aspects of life where these teachings could apply. See, I will be the first to admit that I am one of the many nonprofit professionals that gets very emotionally invested in their work--sometimes to their own detriment. Being deeply committed can be great, but, especially for the more anxious among us, it can also mean you end up in situations where even small problems can put a huge damper on your happiness. Happening upon hygge after a particularly tough week at work, I had a very uncharacteristic thought...what would it feel like to take things just a little less seriously? What would it look like to cultivate a hygge-like sense of well-being in my professional life? Here are three learnings of hygge to help you bring emotional coziness to your cubicle.
Hygge Learning #1: “It must be emphasized that hygge entails commitment to the present moment and a readiness to set distractions aside.”
Practicing mindfulness looks different for everybody. I’ve never had much patience for the type that entails sitting in cross-legged meditation. For me, the most important (and challenging) practice of mindfulness is to stop self-critiquing the past and “what if”-ing the future. Hygge demands focus on the quality of the present moment--whether that moment contains physical aspects of coziness or a more figurative peace of mind. Set aside the voice in your head reminding you what could go wrong (or that of the co-worker reminding you what went wrong in the past) and focus on making the best of the here and now.
Hygge Learning #2: “Hygge isn’t the complete absence of the usual demands of a fully engaged human life, but it is facilitated by a willingness to put down our problems and abandon our cares for a while.”
Since offices typically don’t resemble Scandinavian cottages with wood-burning stoves and the aforementioned puppy cuddle-heaps, we are not going to be able to live “all hygge all the time.” Cultivating this philosophy does not mean casting aside your to-do lists and responsibilities for good, but it does require a commitment to setting time aside for self-care. It is so easy to let work problems overtake our lives (anyone else ever check their work email on a weekend only to be ruffled by a stressful exchange?). 99.9% of the time, those emails, that task, that conversation, can wait until Monday, so don’t let the small stresses overtake your whole life.
Hygge Learning #3: “Hygge is an experience of selfhood and communion with people and places that anchors and affirms us, gives us courage, and consolation.”
Even on the toughest of days, I try not to lose sight of how much I value my professional relationships and the community I serve. Those moments of camaraderie and purpose are quintessential aspects of a hygge mindset, which is just as much about surrounding yourselves with people you care about as it is about donning wool socks. When your inner feeling of comfort is threatened by things outside of your control, turn up the hygge by enjoying lunch with a work friend, reading a thank you note you’ve received, or reflecting on all of your achievements.
I know, all of this sounds easier said than done. And the cynic in me rolls her eyes over sentences like, “Through hygge, each of us can know a sense of deeper contentment that will radiate out from us into a global web of belonging togetherness.” Just remember that hygge is a practice, not a sudden transformation of worldview that demands perfection. Think about ways that you can light that candle of inner coziness even on the darkest of days. If anyone asks about it, just tell them that we could all stand to be a bit more Danish.
All quotes are from The Book of Hygge by Louisa Thomsen Brits, Plume, 2017
Please Note: Each blog is written by the individual author, and the views expressed may not be shared by all YNPN members.