Take a few moments to think about the word hygge. What, if anything, does it mean to you?

For me, hygge brings to mind flickering candles, soft, warm blankets, a good book and a cup of hot chocolate, while outside all is wintry and dark.

So, just what is Hygge, and how do you even pronounce it? Try breaking it down into ‘Hoo’ ‘Ga’ and you’ll be just fine.

Hygge is a Danish word, which Meik Wiking defines nicely in his great book The Little Book of Hyggee – the Danish way to live well:

“Hygge is about an atmosphere and an experience, rather than about things. It is about being with the people we love. A feeling of home. A feeling we are safe, that we are shielded from the world and allow ourselves to let our guard down.”

As December comes knocking and the cold weather descends, some people may find depression and anxiety becoming more difficult to manage. We can learn a lot from the people of Denmark, because despite their limited hours of daylight and horrendous weather, statistically they are repeatedly found to be the happiest people in Europe. Could it all be to do with their hygge approach to life?

It could be argued that hygge is a form of self-care, and at this time of year with all the extra demands we face, a little time out to get cosy and focus on enjoying the simple things in life could be just what we need to calm our mind and lift our mood.

Meik Wiking’s Hygge Manifesto is a good place to begin:

Atmosphere: Create an atmosphere which you find cosy and peaceful. Perhaps get rid of any clutter and gather together your favourite cushions and blankets. Lighting is important, nothing too bright, experiment with candles and lamps.

Presence: It’s time to focus on this moment, and this moment alone. Put down the never ending to-do list and minimise any distractions. Go on, be brave and turn your mobile off for a while!

Pleasure: Hygge helps us to engage all the senses, so try having a nice hot drink or seasonal snack, maybe light a scented candle and grab your favourite book.

Equality: We’re all in this together, so take some time to focus on ‘we’ rather than ‘me’. Share both pleasure and chores with others. This could apply to the time you spend with others: rather than playing the host and waiting on everyone all evening, encourage people to muck in.

Gratitude: Practice being thankful for what you currently have – check out my blog from January for more on this.

Harmony: Put your competitive nature to one side, avoid the need to brag and just take this time to allow yourself to just be.

Comfort: Take regular breaks, and make time for things you enjoy.  Consider physical comfort too, like a nice pair of cosy socks!

Truce: This basically means letting politics, arguments, and other divisive topics rest. In today’s political climate this is surely a breath of fresh air!

Togetherness: Focus on being with smaller groups of people, those you love and feel safe with.  Reminisce about the good times you’ve had together. Hygge is all about developing meaningful, deeper connections rather than surface level chat.

Shelter: Not just physical places of peace, but also taking shelter in the company of the people who make you feel welcome and safe.

So, give yourself permission to embrace the winter. Grab that blanket, light your candles and get your hygge on!