Throughout the fall semester, Boston College students attempt to aestheticize their lives. Instagram stories flood with images of coffee shops, red and orange hues, and cozy spaces. As soon as the first day of October was upon us, my roommate and I filled our dorm room with Halloween decorations, fake cobwebs, pumpkins, and ambient lighting. Looking back, we revamped our physical space in pursuit of a comforting feeling.
If you relate to this at all, you’re not alone. In fact, there is a whole practice of aesthetic happiness in Denmark called hygge.
There are many factors that go into a happy country: genetics, relationships, health, income, and so on. According to the World Happiness Report, Denmark has consistently ranked among the top five happiest countries in the world since the report started coming out in 2012. One of the largest factors contributing to Denmark’s happiness is practicing hygge. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, hygge (pronounced hoo-ga) is “a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.”
So, what can you do to become a more hyggelig—that is, a cozy and hygge-embracing—person? Your answers lie here.
You Are What You Eat
The Danes highly prioritize their food and drinks, especially if they’re sweet! Annually, Danes eat 18 pounds of sweets per person compared to the European average of nine pounds per person.
The cakes and pastries they eat are typically homemade rather than from packages in a grocery store. The Danes’ theory is that the longer it takes to prepare a dish, the more hyggelig it is.
This is also the case for savory foods. The Danes have many different recipes for soups and stews that serve as a warm solution to a cold day. Some examples are braised pork cheeks in dark beer with potato-celeriac mash, Boller i Karry or Danish meatballs in curry, and my personal favorite, Skibberlabskovs or Skipper Stew.
Regardless of if you are in a suite or a traditional double, you can make hygge food too! Have a cake-making party with friends or buy the Mexican Style Hot Cocoa Melts from Trader Joe’s for a cozy, sweet drink to sip on. If you prefer the savory route, have a pantry party with friends and swap yummy recipes, spices, and other ingredients with each other.
No matter which approach you take, the two most important aspects of hyggelig cooking are prolonging the process and doing it with others. The Danes emphasize the importance of being with close family and friends while practicing hygge. So, whether it be a sweet treat from the Rat that you heat up in your microwave or a bowl of soup you warm up before movie night, embracing qualities of hygge in your diet can fill you up both physically and emotionally.
Casual Is Key
Hygge is all about being comfy, and what’s comfier than a big fuzzy scarf with woolen socks (hyggesokker), a warm sweater, or fuzzy pants (hyggebukser)! Take it from me, a native Southerner. Even though 50 degrees may be average for fall weather in Boston, it’s freezing cold for me. So, I like to put on a lot of layers to stay warm throughout the day.
The Danes also take this view. There is nothing more hygge than bundling up and going on a walk around the neighborhood or curling up by the fire with the windows open just slightly.
Scarves, bulky tops, and woolen socks constitute the Danish style. Casual hair is also a sign of comfort. I’m not saying you should stroll around Main Campus with bedhead, but even wearing your hair down or in a messy bun with earmuffs and a scarf wrapped around your head is ultra hygge.
Not only do warmer clothes allow for fewer opportunities to get sick, but they also can make those breezy walks outside less uncomfortable. The Danes think of hygge as an inside and outside practice, and they prioritize three Cs with hygge outdoors: company, casualness, and closeness to nature.
Make use of the green spaces around campus whether it be the lawn outside Stu or the Gasson Quad. Take a moment or two in between classes to people-watch, take a walk, or just observe the nature around you—all within the comfort of a bundle of clothes. In other words, have a moment of hygge, also known as a hyggestund.
Home Is Where the Heart Is
Hygge would not be complete without a snuggly space to cozy up in on chilly winter days. More than 71 percent of Danes practice hygge inside—most within a small nook in the house (hyggekrog).
The one thing that most Danes swear by when it comes to hygge are candles and ambient lighting. In my dorm, my roommate and I rarely ever use our overhead light. Instead, we bought string lights to hang from our walls. We also bought light-up pumpkins and neon lights to create a glow in our dorm. Either way, having an alternative source of lighting allows for a more comforting feeling.
Another important aspect of hygge is the texture and feel of objects in the home. Many Danes scatter things made out of wood, ceramics, tactile materials, and vintage items throughout their homes. In this way, they give the house a cluttered yet homey feel. If you need an opportunity to redecorate your room, now is the time! The search for textured items such as flower pots, clocks, book ends, and more does not have to be expensive either. In fact, Danes believe that money is far from the route to happiness or hygge. Instead, thrifting and hand-made items are considered more hygge than luxury items.
You can also make an activity out of acquiring items as well. Swap parties, which are common in Denmark, are when groups of people get together and swap household objects to incorporate into their own homes. Ultimately, in the home or in the dorm, you can never go wrong in achieving hygge with a few battery-powered candles, your favorite book or notebook, a vintage blanket, and a steady beat of soft music in the background.