By Kim Ryan
Owner, Kim Ryan Makes
With long, cold winters and rain most of the rest of the year, you’d expect the people of Denmark and Norway to be a right gloomy bunch, but you’d be wrong. In fact, Danes and Norwegians consistently place at or near the top in rankings of the world’s happiest people.
What’s their secret to happiness? According to our Scandinavian friends it all comes down to Hygge (pronouned Hoo-Gah)…basically a quality of coziness that makes one feel content and comfortable. Here’s a few ways to achieve greater Hygge in your life…
1. Slow Down
Slowing down, unplugging from social media and being mindful of the moment is a key tenet to Hygge. Definitely, going slow has it’s benefits. Recent studies suggest eating slower may actually help you lose weight, while reading slower has been shown to benefit your brain and reduce stress.
TIP: You can even practice hyyge while watching TV. Check out Norway’s Slow TV series available on Netflix Canada. I especially liked their 3.5 hour National Knitting Evening…hubby preferred the full 7.5 hour Slow Salmon Fishing episode.
2. Cook a Simple Dinner for Friends
Staying in by yourself is not Hygge. Hygge is all about sharing and togetherness.
Cooking for a large group can be stressful (Basically the opposite of Hygge) so forget about lots of courses and fancy place settings. Instead, consider a rustic meal with simple flavours.
A slow cooked meal is a good choice since it allows you to pop the food in the oven early so you can relax and enjoy the company of your guests when they arrive.
TIP: This recipe for slow cooked beef shanks is a family favourite at our place. It’s delicious, super cheap and so easy to make. You do most of the prep work before your guests arrive. When it’s cooked just serve it family style at the table. What could be more Hygge?
3. Candles, Candles and More Candles
Here’s a weird Hygge fact. Danes are the biggest consumers of Candles in Europe. At 13 lbs of candles wax burned per person annually, their candle usage is almost double that of the second place country.
Anthropologists say the calming effects of candles may harken back to our caveman days when sitting around a fire made our ancestors feel safe and facilitated social gatherings. Whatever the reason, looking at candles has been shown in studies to lower blood pressure and bring on a sense of calm…so light up.
TIP: I love the handmade soy candles made by Toronto based The Eco Candle Shop. Not only do their candles smell great, but they have natural wood wicks that give off a faint crackling sound…you’d swear you were sitting in front of a cozy fire.
4. Learn a Craft
Knitting is very much Hygge. The slow and rhythmic movement of the needles helps you enter into a state of relaxtion. One recent study found that knitting reduces blood pressure and can slow your heart rate by up to 11 beats per minute. If knitting is not your thing, pretty much any craft (painting, pottery, etc.) would qualify as Hygge. The simple act of handmaking something connects you in a way that staring at an Iphone screen cannot.
TIP: Join a knitting club or take some knitting classes. Where I live in Toronto, Canada knitting meet-ups are available through our local library system and at many area yarn stores like The Purple Purl
5. Keep it Soft
Hygge is all about warmth, coziness and calm. This means lots of lots of neutral colors, natural materials (wood, wool, leather, etc.), plants and soft furnishings (rugs, pillows, blankets,etc.).
TIP: I’ve been making these handsewn/handknit throw cushions shown above. I use natural, chunky wool on the front for extra warmth and natural cotton canvas on the back for added texture. I intentionally use muted colors so the pillows can be used as accessories in any color scheme. These Hygge-style pillows are available for $45 at The Nooks , 2038 Danforth Ave., Toronto or The Arts Market, 846 College St., Toronto
There’s an old saying; “Mess causes stress”. A home full of clutter signals to our brain that our work is never done. It distracts us away from the people and experiences that Hyyge says we should be focusing on.
TIP: New Year’s is a time of fresh starts. Get the whole family involved in identifying items they no longer love or need. Take whatever items you collect and donate them to a worthy cause that helps others make a fresh start, like the Salvation Army. Need more inspiration? Check out the Netflix Show “Tidying Up” with cleaning guru Marie Kondo