The Art of Living Life Less Dramatically

(Also published on Thrive Global

Come join the Hygge revolution! Cosy and warm living from a place of stepping back, simplicity and a great work life balance. In short, living life a lot less dramatically. Now this, in a nutshell, is what Hygge looks like. And in my head, it also sounds like an adaptation of Will Smith’s famous song which I’m convinced now goes like this “na na na na na na, getting hyyge with it”!

Make yourself cosy

As I write this from my ‘hyggelig’ or hygge-like lounge, I invite you to make yourself a hot drink, put on some slippers, warm lighting and make yourself cosy. Now, let me tell you all about Hygge and why you might want some!

Let’s start with the happiest place in the world

The Happiness Institute reports Denmark as one of the happiest places in the world. But is it just another award or do the Danes know a thing or two about happiness that we could all learn from?

Meik Wiking, author of The Little Book of Hygge, describes the Danish workplace as “something like the opening credits of The Flinstones. Come five o’clock, everyone has left before you can say ‘yabba dabba doo!’

And yet, if this happened in some other parts of the world, we’d think it was the start of an apocalypse. Leaving on time from work? We thought this only happened in a situation of emergency! It might be more acceptable to go into work wearing your pyjamas and not wash for a week than to leave on time and have a life!

Denmark responds to our work obsessions and self-afflicted stress with a single and most curious word. HYGGE.

So what on earth is Hygge?

Hygge, pronounced Hooga, translates loosely as ‘cosiness’. However, it’s less about the word and more about the concept. The concept of making time to enjoy life’s little things with the people that matter. Being present has been described as an element of the ‘Hyggelig Manifesto’ by Wiking. The concept draws parallels with the wider known teachings of mindfulness or emotional intelligence to pay attention to the present moment, giving us practical ways of slowing down, being present and showing up to our own lives.

What do Hygge and mindfulness teach us?

We’ve heard many times that a constant connection to social media or work emails on our smart phones can leave us stressed and disconnected in a connected world. But mindfulness takes it a step further and reminds us that we can often spend so much time in our heads worrying about what happened or is going to happen that we rarely experience the world as it is, in the present. Authors of Mindfulness in a Frantic World, Mark Williams and Danny Penman suggest that we’re often too busy being taken away by believing the ‘rumour mill’ or continuously running stories that our thoughts create. It’s no wonder our lives seem to be running away from us as we desperately try to keep up, breathlessly trying to stay in control.

Hygge and mindfulness teach us to set boundaries with our online and ‘in-head’ interactions. They teach us to be more present, notice more, experience more and appreciate more.

Making time for what matters every day

Many of us live in a world of work where we are taught to strive, achieve and work our way up the hierarchical ladder. Working late or out of hours is often commended. The lack of which is frowned upon, becoming a self-made trap that we struggle to be free from. Often this competitive rat race leaves us feeling stressed, disconnected and alone.

Hygge and mindfulness are concepts that have begun to come to the forefront as helpful ways out of this disconnected-ness. The idea of stepping back, being present and increasing the ‘cosiness’ factor in our lives. An idea reminding us that a work-life balance isn’t about working constantly in a stressful environment. Then burning out and going on holiday to recover because you feel your hard work and stress had now earned you a break.

But to live slightly less dramatically. To live mindfully, with defined boundaries and to enjoy life every day. It is to make time for what matters in the normal, the usual, the every-day. It is to live life in a more balanced way.

So how do we make life more Hygge-like?

Wiking suggests describing hygge is more helpful than defining it.

Think candles, lamps, comfort, a contentment-filled silence. Think togetherness, being present in the moment, people that matter to you. Think slippers, popcorn, tea, atmospheric lighting, fireplaces. Think going home on time, having a balanced life, making time for those people and things that matter.

All of these may be described as hyggelig, or hygge-like but the list is endless. Add mindfulness and we have a route to being more and more present in our lives. Noticing and making time for the little gifts we often miss in every moment.

Hygge is a heart-warming concept said to be used by the Danes for years, showing us that they’re onto something and surely it might be worth experimenting. It may also throw some light on helping us to feel happier during the cold and darker months of the year as the hygge factor is even higher ‘when there’s a storm outside’.

The Happiness Institute says that the Danes are some of the happiest people in the world. And that, in my opinion, surely can’t be mere coincidence.

We could all do with making time for a bit more Hygge!

And on that note, I’m off to read in my hyggelig lounge. Cosily snug in an indoor garden swing under the warm light of a lamp. Whilst it’s dark and cold outside.

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