Embrace the hygge at U.Va.

How a Danish way of life will help get you through the end of the semester


Winter has well and truly hit. Shorts have been replaced with leggings, and the days of getting sweaty on the way to class have been replaced with having hot flashes when you come into the heated classrooms from the freezing cold. At a time when the days are suddenly shorter and when 6 p.m. feels like midnight, the mountain of work and proximity to finals can all seem too much. A solution to this can be found in the Danish lifestyle trend of hygge — a therapeutic and gentle way of life that will make this winter immeasurably more bearable.  

Hygge is a Danish word used to describe a feeling of cosiness, contentment and well-being. Embracing a hygge lifestyle means indulging in things that make you feel happy, content and calm. Sounding appealing? Well yes, it is. And what’s more, it’s not expensive, time-consuming or isolating. 

So are you feeling tired, stressed, run down or generally fed-up? If so, read on and take a few tips from the Scandinavians, who are supposedly the “happiest people in the world.” For a minute, ignore the people telling you to become more organized, get up earlier, stay in the library later, eat less and worker harder. Instead, take a breath — even if it is only long enough to read just a few tips on how to hygge at your own house.

First, invest in candles. Lots of them. It doesn’t matter whether they are scented or unscented, make an effort to buy some candles and set them up when you are reading, working or just sitting around chatting. They make the perfect hygge setting, and will make you feel warmer, cozier and more relaxed in whatever it is that you’re doing.

Second, put on some sweatpants. Yes, really! Soft and comfy clothes are essential to a hygge lifestyle. After a day of class and sitting uncomfortably in the library, going home and changing into your softest, cosiest clothes is crucial to fully relaxing and switching off. Everything from cashmere sweaters to fluffy socks will help your mind and body to fully switch off.

The next thing is easy to do and equally as easy to take for granted — appreciate and spend time with your friends. Organize a dinner party for you and your friends to laugh, drink and soak in each other’s company — without your phones. Friends are very important for hygge, and taking advantage of social occasions without being on your phone is a core element of embracing and making the most of the company that you value.

Relaxing “properly” is a big part of this Danish lifestyle. One evening, swap Netflix for an evening on your couch with a soft blanket, warm socks, some herbal tea and a novel. All of these will make your relaxation more mindful and effective.

Finally, take the time to cook something simple and delicious. Warming and comforting foods are a key part of hygge. Organize a time with your roommates to exclusively devote to cooking a meal and take comfort in the time and effort that goes into it, rather than thinking about everything that you need to do. To practice hygge properly, think about making something warm and indulgent — like a stew or a lasagne — for you and your friends to share and eat together.

You don’t have to be on a year abroad in Copenhagen to embrace hygge — you can do it right here. So, if you, like me, are feeling a bit worse-for-wear, put on your cosiest sweatpants, sit with a friend with some candles lit and drink a cup of tea or a hot chocolate. You’re practicing hygge. I told you it was easy.

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