Hi! I'm Marie — and I love all things cozy.
Which is why I've recently become slightly obsessed with hygge, the ~lifestyle trend~ that's snuck into every corner of the internet.
But WTF is hygge — and why is everyone obsessed with it?
It's basically a Danish word (pronounced hoo-guh) that describes an ultimate feeling of coziness and relaxation. Since Denmark has been named happiest country in the world several times over, the rest of the world has been left wondering what makes the Scandinavian country so special. The answer? Hygge! (Along with, you know, free health care, education, and other social benefits.)
Hygge is also really a form of escapism. It’s about giving yourself a break, and retreating into a familiar, comforting bubble — and that's anything from small gestures like lighting candles or drinking tea, to bigger ones like having a leisurely dinner with friends. With the world being particularly insane right now, it seems only natural that people would like the idea of a safe space away from all of that.
That all sounded really nice, but I wondered: How could *I* work more hygge into my life? To answer this question, I read The Little Book of Hygge and reached out to its author, Meik Wiking, for guidance.
Wiking is Danish, a hygge champion, and the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute. According to him, "hygge is humble and slow."
"Hygge is about an atmosphere and an experience, rather than about things," he wrote in his book. "It is about being with the people we love. A feeling of home."
There are no rules to hygge, but Wiking wrote a manifesto in his book that can serve as a guideline for anyone who wants to get more hygge in their life.
With the manifesto in mind, I decided to get my hygge on for a week.
I already knew I'd like parts of it, to be honest. Cozy is basically my middle name: I always dress for comfort; I'm partial to throw pillows, blankets, and big cups of tea; and I'm French with a Danish grandfather so taking time to appreciate life is in my DNA. Plus, I'm always open to new self-care tips and ways to make my life better in general.
That said, I'm also a very anxious person who lives in a stressful city, so the thought of actually relaxing for a minute seemed challenging. I was also afraid I'd become so obsessed with the idea of being hygge that it would make me even more anxious.
On Sunday I got ready for my week of hygge-ing. I cleaned my apartment, brought out all the candles I owned, and set up some fairy lights around my place.
I live with my boyfriend who is annoyingly practical and thought that "for our situation and set up" it didn't "seem like we'd use those lights very often." I could tell he wasn't receptive to the concept of hygge. I'd have to convert him.
On day one, I wanted to take an actual lunch break, work cozily from a couch, and leave work early while it was still light out. But I failed at all three.
From the get go, I knew the hardest part of my challenge would be to make my work life more hyggelig (the adjective form). But I wanted to take a page from the Danes — who are pros at work-life balance, and who typically leave work around 4 or 5 p.m.
I decided to get to work an hour early so I could leave by 5. Changing my morning routine wasn't too hard: Instead of snoozing my alarm for 45 minutes and then spending 30 minutes in bed going through my Facebook feed, I just snoozed my alarm once and got up.
But I wasn't very good at getting my hygge on during my work day. I ate lunch at my desk like a sad, busy person.
In the afternoon, I tried to work from a very comfy couch, but quickly felt so sleepy and unfocused that I had to move back to my desk. On top of all this, I ended up leaving work at 7 p.m., instead of 5, because I wanted to finish a project.
The subway ride back home was definitely not hygge. (If anyone manages to make their New York subway ride cozy, let me know!)
My train got delayed and then stuck underground for a while. I had to listen to a weird dude yelling about worldwide conspiracies for 20 minutes before I made it to my stop.
But back home, I finally got my hygge on. After dinner, I read Harry Potter in bed with some "sleepy time" tea (which was kinda gross) and some chocolate covered marshmallows (which were A+).
Biggest takeaway? Hygge is harder than it looks! Especially when you have to deal with the MTA.
Level of hygge: ☕️ / ☕️ ☕️ ☕️ ☕️ ☕️
On day two, I wanted to leave work early (for real this time), wear hygge socks at the office, and take a walk through "nature." And it all went pretty smoothly.
Tuesday was more successful. I got to work early, ate a delicious broccoli melt for lunch which I'm gonna say was very hygge because it made me feel happy and comforted.
In his book, Wiking advised bringing thick, comfy socks to the office to really get cozy. I'm always here for comfy footwear, so I brought my best pair of socks to work and awkwardly put them on in the afternoon.
I won't lie, it was cozy as fuck. At least until I got dragged from my desk for a quick convo, didn't have time to put my shoes on, and ended up walking on the office's slightly sticky floor in my socks. I feel like to be really comfy and efficient, I'd need a socks + slippers combo. Since I'm not ready to invest in work slippers quite yet, I'll just keep my shoes on.
I managed to leave at 5 p.m. and felt like a rebel with no fucks to give.
On my way home, I decided to walk through Central Park because nature can also be hygge — many things can, as you'll quickly figure out. Central Park isn't really nature but it's the closest I had. I got myself an ice cream (pistachio-chocolate, in case you were wondering). It was lovely.
Later, my boyfriend and I had dinner with a friend at a Szechuan place. It was both cozy and delicious. I commented on how hygge this all was. By then, my boyfriend made it known he was getting pretty sick of my constant hygge references. (I've said the word hygge many times since then, and he's still around, FYI.)
Biggest takeaway? Hygge rules and so does leaving work early!
Level of hygge: ☕️ ☕️ ☕️ ☕️ / ☕️ ☕️ ☕️ ☕️ ☕️
On day three, I wanted to focus on making my work space more hygge.
In the book, Wiking suggests setting up an office garden as a way to make work cozier. I went for the easier option and bought a few succulents at the farmer's market — I don't have a green thumb, so I needed plants that could survive months of neglect.
I potted them in an old tea box that had been lying on my desk for a while. The whole experience was fun and relaxing and I think my succulents have made my desk more welcoming.
To cozy up my desk even more, I bought a cute mug at Flying Tiger (a cool and cheap Danish design store). I had brought some hot cocoa mix from home and drank a cup of hot chocolate in my new mug later that day. It was nice for a few minutes but all that sugar made me feel sick for the rest of the day. So, there is such a thing as too much hygge.
Back home, I lit a bunch of candles, because as Wiking puts it, "no recipe for hygge is complete without candles." When it was time for bed, I started freaking out about the candles not being really out — how ironic would it be if my apartment burned down because of hygge? I went back to the living room and checked on the candles a couple of times, eventually pouring a bit of water on each of them, just to really make sure.
Biggest takeaway? Hot cocoa mix is kinda gross and candles are dangerous. Plants are cool, though.
Level of hygge: ☕️ ☕️ ☕️ / ☕️ ☕️ ☕️ ☕️ ☕️
On day four, I wanted to bike to work and have a chill hygge evening. (And I did both of these things even though I barely survived my bike ride.)
Even if hygge is associated with winter coziness (Denmark gets pretty dark and cold for half of the year), you can also seek hygge in the summer. Biking around, gardening, having a picnic or a barbecue with friends are all examples of summer hygge activities.
In his email, Wiking also told me that "bike riding and hygge go hand in hand." Since Thursday was weirdly warm for March, I decided to get a Citi Bike and bike to work.
Now, I'm not a bike newbie — I used to live in Sweden where I biked every day. But biking in New York, Manhattan especially, is a whole other deal and I've never had the courage to actually do it.
I didn't do anything specifically cozy the rest of the day. On my way home, I actually got catcalled, which was definitely not hygge. Fun fact: the antonym of hygge (uhyggeligt) means "scary" or "creepy," according to Wiking. So getting catcalled by some idiot is definitely uhyggeligt.
On day five, I wanted to organize a potluck at work and have a nice cozy evening. It turned out to be an A+ day.
Friday, the weather was truly shit. The good news is shit weather exponentially increases the level of hygge once you're indoors: A cozy night under a blanket by a fireplace is hygge but a cozy night under a blanket by a fireplace while a snow storm is raging outside is UBER HYGGE.
In the book, Wiking says a good way to make your office cozier is to organize a potluck Friday.
"Instead of bringing lunch just for yourself, why not organize potlucks for lunch one day of the week? When everybody shares, everybody gets hygge."
This was perhaps the best idea I got from the book. I ended up organizing it with a bunch of coworkers and everyone seemed really pumped. We ended up with a real feast, with several delicious mains and desserts. It was really nice to take actual time in the middle of our day to socialize and eat. It also hit three things from the manifesto: Treat yourself, share, and build relationships.
The rest of my day was also very hyggelig. I spent the evening hanging out at home with some friends (who were only slightly weirded out by all the candles in the living room.)
Biggest takeaway? Work potlucks are a truly brilliant idea. I was seriously starting to love this whole hygge deal.
Level of hygge: ☕️ ☕️ ☕️ ☕️ ☕️ / ☕️ ☕️ ☕️ ☕️ ☕️
Saturday, I wanted to chill and host a game night with my friends. I excelled at both.
Sunday, I wanted to chill some more (you can never chill too much) and bake some cinnamon rolls. The rolls were delicious, and the chilling excellent.
Sunday is naturally the most hygge day of the week (there is actually a word for it: Sondaghygge). What else is there to do but relax and take a break? I usually just read, watch shows, and bake, which are all hyggelig activities.
In the book, Wiking suggested creating a cooking club with your friends, but most of my friends don't cook and my kitchen is so small it can't handle two people in there at the same time. So, I just baked on my own, which was really nice too. I made some really good cinnamon rolls and watched some more Buffy.
SO THE BIG QUESTION: WAS IT WORTH IT?
Overall, yes. It didn't revolutionize my life, but honestly I had a really lovely week. It was nice to make a conscious effort to be cozy and comfortable.
One of my biggest worries was that I would become so obsessed with the idea of being cozy that it would make me even more anxious. But I found that having a purpose — to be hygge — was actually soothing. I spent so much time seeking coziness and trying to achieve it that I stopped worrying about other aspects of my life that usually make me anxious — and that was both unexpected and eye-opening.
I also didn't really spend much money to make my life more hygge. (In total, about $30 — for my mug, chocolates, succulents, and Citi Bike pass.) Hygge isn't about fancy blankets or designer Danish chairs. It's about living in the present, creating an atmosphere that you enjoy, and taking in life's little pleasures.
In the end, I really loved several ideas suggested by Wiking and I've adopted a few of them, such as:
* 💡Dim the lights and light candles because it does set a nice mood.
* 🍝 Organize a monthly Friday potluck at work, because socializing around good food is always a good idea.
* ⏰ Get to work early and leave at 5 p.m. from time to time.
* 🎲 Host game nights 'cause they're always fun.
* 🚲 Bike to work when it's warm, but make sure to buy a helmet.
* 🍪 Bake more.
* 🌿 And add more plants to my life.