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Hygge: The Sudden Popularity of an Old Tradition

If you’ve been on the internet anytime since 2017 — the year that the Oxford English Dictionary officially added this word to its ranks — you’ve likely heard of hygge. Difficult to fully explain and grasp, hygge is a Danish and Norse word that simply means “coziness.” 

Hygge is about creating a warm, cozy atmosphere in life that can serve as a refuge from the outside world, which so often causes us unwarranted stress and anxiety. But it’s much more than that. 

The History of the Word

While hygge has taken on many meanings over the centuries, its modern meaning first gained usage in 1800. However, according to its etymology, it also meant “protected from the outside world” in Old Norse. These days the word literally means “coziness” and connotes a peaceful, intentional lifestyle and philosophy. 

The Truth about Hygge

Since hygge has become somewhat of a global phenomenon, dozens of companies have tried to jump on the bandwagon by creating products, publishing books, and pushing content that they claim truly capture the elusive art of hygge. 

However, it’s not that simple; and it’s as simple as can be. Hygge is a way of life that endeavors to make everyday moments feel peaceful and pleasurable. Often, hygge includes some physical aspects, such as using warm blankets, lighting candles, and enjoying warm drinks — often by fire. 

The Origins of Hygge

While there are a few theories as to what got hygge started originally, the weather likely played a crucial role in its inception. In Denmark, winter can feel extremely dreary with cold, short days and long nights. 

In these extreme conditions, things like seasonal affective disorder can take hold, and many people struggle mentally during the winter. Hygge became a way to counteract the negative effects of the season. By creating an atmosphere and a lifestyle that focuses on warmth, gratitude, and appreciation, cold winters became more bearable and seemed more surmountable. 

The Benefits of Hygge

Many people believe that the practice of hygge is one of the main reasons why Denmark consistently ranks so high in happiness. While the hygge lifestyle itself has not been tested, many aspects of hygge have been scientifically tested, and the benefits are real. 

For example, many people see warm, dimmer light — like the candles that many hygge practitioners use — as more relaxing than bright, white lights. The warmth of candles and firelight create an environment that’s undeniably homey. 

Hygge also focuses on social connections. It emphasizes the importance of getting together with family and friends to spend relaxing quality time with one another. Spending time with friends and family has been proven to improve both mental and physical health, which can be one of the benefits of adopting the hygge lifestyle. 

Additionally, adopting a more relaxed and grateful attitude can help alleviate stress and anxiety, which can in turn help improve mental, emotional, and psychological states. Hygge devotees likely commit to the philosophy because they feel all of these positive benefits. 

Reasons for the Popularity of Hygge

In this day and age, relaxing can feel like a chore. Even when people are on vacation or have a day off, they often struggle to enjoy it because they’re so focused on everything that has to be done when they get back to school, work, or everyday life. 

So, having a philosophy and lifestyle that’s so devoted to relaxation, coziness, and quality time with others can feel like a breath of fresh air. Hygge makes people feel warm and cozy when the weather is dark and gloomy. 

At its core, hygge’s core principles serve as serotonin boosters; that is, practicing hygge is proven to make people feel happier, warmer, and more at home. That’s why it’s so popular. 

Hygge Isn’t Going Anywhere

Many people think that hygge will lose its popularity in a few years, and that may be true. Publishing houses may stop releasing books about it, YouTubers will start talking about other things, and hygge-based products might decline in sales. 

But hygge’s core will remain. As a practice, it has flourished in Denmark for centuries, and it will continue to do so, no matter what the global conversation has to say about it. 

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