Find the Hygge in your life

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It’s all over the internet and everyone is talking about it. Finally, the ‘secret to happiness’ has been revealed, and it’s all thanks to our Danish neighbours. ‘Hygge’ – pronounced ‘hue-gah’ –seems to be the secret that the small Scandinavian nation has been keeping for centuries, and that we, in Britain, have been searching for. Now the secret is out.

Hygge, which translates roughly as ‘cosiness’ sits well with me. Autumn is here and winter is indeed coming, (no Game of Thrones reference intended). Thanks to the Danes, we now have the perfect plan for combating the winter blues that are sure to follow after the glory of autumn.

Focused on togetherness, being present in the moment and general contentment, hygge is about finding pleasure in ordinary things and being kind to yourself. Surely, these are all things we should embrace throughout both our working and retired lives. This attitude towards life could well be the antidote to modern day stress, and the secret to happy lives.

Although it can’t be forced or called into action, hygge has a lot to do with taking life a bit slower than usual and prioritising face-to-face interaction over email and social media are central to the way of fulfilling a hygge life.

Although connected historically to Denmark, it seems that all the Scandinavian nations have variants of the word. “Koselig”, in Norway, translates in a similar way, as a general feeling of cosiness. It defines an atmosphere that evokes a feeling of happiness and warmth.

According to the 2016 United Nation’s World Happiness Report, Denmark is the happiest nation on earth. Why? Many credit their contented nature to hygge. (Others might attribute it to the fact that it has a narrower wealth gap than almost anywhere else in the world, their flexible labour market, the social welfare system or their approach to education, but, in the spirit of hygge, let’s put that to one side.) 

Cynicism aside, perhaps the UK’s search for happiness should encourage our population to take a leaf out of the Scandinavian’s book. When we talk about life after work and retirement, we all too often focus on the negatives. And, while the prospect of retirement does present challenges through the years (namely, savings income and health), the good news is that retirement is made for hygge.

Now, we must be clear – hygge doesn’t mean laziness and uninspired vegetation in front of the television. In essence, it means enjoying life’s simple pleasures, enjoying the familiar and making the most of the friends and family. Taking a brisk walk, reading a novel you’ve been putting off, gathering family round for Sunday lunch and enjoying a lie in surrounded by the weekend papers are all ‘hygge-able’ activities. (Think wood burning stoves, cosy socks and, perhaps, an indulgent glass of red wine.)

However you define it, and whenever you feel it, hygge really comes into its own as the temperature drops and the night’s draw in. Regardless of where you find yourself in life, and whether you are working or retired, try and embrace the hygge.

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Here are some Scandinavian words that, although hard to translate, you will simply love the meaning of:

Lagom

Although there is no English equivalent, it roughly translates as ‘not too much, not too little – just right.’ It conveys a sense of balance between meeting needs and excess and is applied to daily life in Sweden.

Fredagsmys

Directly translated, Fredagsmys means ‘Friday Cosiness’. In essence, it’s a modern day ritual that involves celebrating the arrival of the weekend and congratulating each other on the completion of another week. It comprises quiet indulgence, delicious food, being comfortable and good company.  Imagine, tacos, Netflix, pyjamas and wine with friends. It sounds like our ideal Friday!

Fika

Literally means ‘to meet up for a cup of coffee and a bun/cake’. Is there a better combination? Used both as a noun and a verb, you can fika with family, friends, and colleagues or on a date. It’s social, so you can’t do it alone. After all, cake really is better when paired with company.

Gökotta

This Swedish word means ‘to wake up in the morning with the purpose of going out to hear the birds sing.’ Doesn’t that sound like a wonderful way to spend your retirement? We certainly think so, but for now, we fika!