The Little Book of Hygge

I recently read The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living by Meik Wiking.  I have been listening to the podcast, By the Book, where each episode is about a different self-help book.  When I listened to the hygge episode, I knew that I had to read the book.  Before that, I didn’t know anything about hygge.  But it definitely is how I prefer to live.

Hygge is a Danish word that can’t be exactly translated into English.  It is pronounced something like “hooga.” 

Wiking works at the Happiness Research Institute, which studies what makes people happy and how to improve the quality of life of people around the world.  It is based in Denmark, which often ranks as the happiest nation in the world.  The cultural concept of hygge is one aspect of why that may be so.

Reading the book reminded me of my book nook that I created several months ago.  I was focusing on hygge and didn’t even know it!  It is my very own hyggekrog!

There is even a song from the Broadway musical version of Frozen all about hygge!

In the book, Wiking lists a hygge manifesto, which boils down to the following ten concepts:

The book addresses various aspects of hygge.  The first chapter is on light.  The Danes love candles and burn them all the time everywhere.  Scented candles are not a big deal.  It is more about the light.  They are also really into hyggelig lighting, which is at a lower temperature (definitely not fluorescent).  They prefer a certain style of lamps, which “spread the light without subjecting people to a direct glare.”  To create a hygge mood, there should be a lot of candles and small lamps to create “small caves of light” around the room.  Denmark is dark and rainy, especially in the long winter.  Lighting design can help increase those feelings of coziness and intimacy.

I feel like I have always been the opposite.  When I walk into a hotel room, I always want to know why they have several lamps rather than one big overhead light.  I’ve been trying to light candles more, but usually for the scent, not the lighting aspect.  I feel weird in dimly lit restaurants.  But do I just want those bright lights just because that is what I’m used to?  I’m going to experiment with turning out the lights more and lighting the candles.  We are in the process of buying a new house.  When we move in a few weeks and I start decorating my new house, I am going to think about putting more lamps around, so that I at least have the option of hyggelig lighting when I want it.  Maybe even some fairy lights!

Most of the candles that I have owned in my life have been gifts or come in a subscription box, such as Causebox.  If I am going to be increasing my candle consumption and purchasing more candles myself, I will make sure to buy eco-friendly, all-natural candles.  The book even mentions the air pollution and negative effects of burning too many candles, but it doesn’t address that there are options out there that are better than others.  If you didn’t know that there was a difference in candles, just google non-toxic candles to find out what to look for when purchasing a candle.

Another chapter in the book is on togetherness.  Hygge mostly happens in small groups of close friends or family.  It is perfect for introverts like me who would prefer a relaxing, cozy night with a few friends to a big, loud gathering at a bar.  I could still work on having more hygge togetherness moments, as I am not as always as social as I feel that I should be.  Wiking says that the art of hygge involves “the art of expanding your comfort zone to include other people.”  We are social creatures and as most happiness research shows – “the best predictor of whether we are happy or not is our social relationships.”  It is important to have work-life balance in order to have those hygge moments with your family and friends.

Playing games together as a family.

What about hyggelig food and drink?  The book states “hygge is about being kind to yourself-giving yourself a treat, and giving yourself and each other, a break from the demands of healthy living.”  Danes eat a lot of sweets.  Sweets are hyggelig.  Comforting, slow-cooked foods are also hyggelig.  The smells that permeate your house when baking bread or cooking a hearty stew definitely increase the coziness factor.  Hot drinks are also very soothing.  I’m not a coffee drinker, but tea and hot chocolate are nice when snuggling up under a blanket with a good book.  The process of creating good food alone or with others is very hyggelig.

hot chocolate

I’m not sure that I can convert to the Danish hygge definition of clothing.  I am all for the casual and comfortable, but my style is not minimalistic, black, and full of scarves.  I rarely wear scarves, and I love color.  I like my clothes to be fun and put a smile on my face.  That is hygge clothing to me.  I will wear the comfy sweater and leggings, but they just might be bright pink instead of gray!

Danes are really into design since so much of hygge takes place at home.  Since I am about to move into a new house, I am thinking about how I can make it as hyggelig as possible.  The items in my home should be comforting.  Items should be more than just the physical object, but hopefully have a story or emotional value to go with them.  Wiking says that decorating with wooden items and simple, natural materials makes us feel closer to nature.  Maybe that is why farmhouse decor is so popular in the U.S. right now.

He also says that we should add a variety of textures to our home.  Not just cozy blankets and cushions, but how do the other items feel to the touch?  Smooth ceramics, a wooden table, etc.  Also a good hygge home should have books.  And take the time to hand write letters.  Very hygge.

I also want to make my office more hygge.  I am a school counselor, so obviously the more comfortable and inviting my office is, the better.  I’ve also had many students over the years ask to turn out the overhead lights and just sit in the natural light in my office.

Hygge is supposed to be in all aspects of our lives.  We shouldn’t hygge just at home, but also at the office, at restaurants, out in nature, etc.

Hygge is also about experiencing and savoring the present moment.  I’ve written about my struggle to be more present before.  It’s an ongoing piece of work.

The Christmas season is the epitome of hygge.  It has all of the required elements – family and friends, traditions, food, decorations.  The book talks about some common Danish traditions.  I would love to form even more traditions in my family surrounding the holidays.

One of our Christmas traditions – Celebration in the Oaks

What about you?  Do you try to “hygge-fy” your life?  And yes, I did just make up that word.

Love Does

I just finished reading the book, Love Does, by Bob Goff.  It is a Christian book and the basic premise is that love is an action.  We show love to God and others through our actions.

Each short chapter tells a story about Bob’s often crazy and adventurous life, which he then relates to a belief or message he wants to share.  

The book is really good and an easy read.  He shows through his stories how he has chosen to live a fully engaged life.  It was inspiring, but also kind of made me feel like I could never do some of the things he does.  I’m never going to be someone who just picks up and flies across the world on a whim. It does sound cool, though.  And I’ll just have to figure out what my fully engaged life looks like.

How can I be fully present in my life?  How can I be fully present in my relationships?  These seem like big challenges to me, because they require courage.  It takes courage to be fully engaged.

“I used to think you had to be special for God to use you, but now I know you simply need to say yes.” ~Bob Goff

To me, saying yes is often scary.  It involves risk. It involves faith.  I do not view myself as a courageous risk-taker.  It is something I will probably continue working on for the rest of my life.  Taking risks, however, seems to come easily to Bob. He does it all the time.

One word that Goff uses a lot throughout the book is whimsy.  He is always talking about living a life of whimsy. I do like the idea of leading a whimsical life.  He calls it a “renewable, infinite resource that multiplies.”

This book is not just Goff’s beliefs about how we should live our lives.  It is his beliefs about how Jesus wants us to live our lives. It is about putting faith into action on a daily basis.

“I think Jesus had in mind that we would not just be ‘believers’ but ‘participants’.” ~Bob Goff

He suggests our faith should be more than just ideas.  It should matter to us. It should engage us. It should move us to change the world.  It should be a paradigm shift that changes the way we look at every thing and every person and every situation around us.

I highly recommend this book.  It’s not a how-to manual. He doesn’t tell us how to fully engage with life, because it will be different for each person.  Now only does Bob go on crazy adventures, but he saves tons of kids in Uganda through his work.

But through his example, maybe, just maybe, you will be inspired to think about how to live your life fully engaged and full of whimsy and fun and things that matter.  I’m not sure I can put myself out there in the ways that Bob does. He even puts his phone number at the end of the book to say that he is willing to talk to you about anything in it.  But maybe, in my own little ways, I can try to evaluate what “love does” looks like for me.

Becoming

I just finished reading Becoming by Michelle Obama.  Oh how I miss having good people leading our nation. The book is Michelle’s story.  Her journey and story of growth. An important thing to remember is that as long as we are alive, that journey does not end.  We should always be learning and growing and striving to improve.

Whenever I read books about politics, I am reminded of how little I know and how much I avoid the topic.  Politics overwhelm me, and I often take the easy way out by not engaging anyone in political discussions or getting involved in political activism.  I know I should do better.

As Mrs. Obama states in her book, “Becoming requires equal parts patience and rigor.  Becoming is never giving up on the idea that there’s more growing to be done.” Ultimately, this book is definitely one of optimism.  I relate to her hope and passion. I believe that each of us can help to make the world a better place.

Girl, Wash Your Face Review

I waited awhile to read the bestseller, Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis.  For awhile there, it seemed like every woman my age was reading it.  I have mixed feelings on the book. Overall, I like it and recommend it.  I agree with the fundamental statement that Rachel Hollis makes:

I preach it to my students, family, and friends.  We can’t control the things that happen around us.  We can only control us and how we react to those things.

The problem I have with the book is not what she’s saying, but how she says it.  She makes statements as if they are declared facts. I know that is supposed to be motivational, and it obviously is to many women who want or need to hear it.  But sometimes the world is gray. It isn’t black and white, and that’s okay. I think it also may have something to do with the fact that I Iistened to the audiobook.  She is so emphatic in her statements. Each chapter starts with a lie that women tell themselves or that Rachel believed at some point. She then tells stories about her life that show how she was able to move past that particular lie.

There are a lot of ways that I’m so different from Rachel.  I am not a workaholic. I am not an extrovert. I prefer downtime laying in bed reading a book to many things.  Unlike many women, I prioritize sleep over almost everything. Sometimes I feel like I miss out on things in life due to sleep, but we’re also told that we need more of it.  Conflicting messages! Her love story between her and her husband is interesting in that it is not typical or what you’d identify as normal or healthy. But we do each have our own story, and we are not perfect.  I can relate to that.

When she talked about not accepting no as an answer and working for your dreams, at first, I could not relate.  I do not dream of creating some successful business or being a famous author. But that’s okay. Part of taking ownership of our dreams is that they can be as big or small as we would like them to be.  My dream is to travel. I think about vacation all the time. I think about going to new places and experiencing new things. I think about fun. So Rachel inspired me to create an online vision board to remind me of what I’m reaching for.  The world! When I was young, I created a poster that said I would have travelled around the world by the time I was 40. That isn’t going to happen, but I can keep shooting for the stars! My husband (the practical one in our marriage) is always talking about budgets.  I do need a practical person to balance me out sometimes. But I also need to remember to live my dream. We only live once! So I made myself a travel vision board and put it as the background on my laptop.

Goals are great, but it is important to give ourselves grace.  Rachel acknowledges that sometimes life does not go as we planned, and we need to sit back and think about the things that we have accomplished.  Celebrate the small moments.

She does talk about being healthy and taking care of our bodies in a way that could potentially be construed as judgmental.  I know she wants us to love our bodies and treat them with respect, but this can be another mixed message because I also want to enjoy life and therefore food.  Another example of how the world is not black and white.

At the end of each chapter, she lists the things that helped her in her quest to stop believing that chapter’s lie.  Here are a few of them that speak to me and that I can get behind:

Present Over Perfect – Book Review

Over one month ago, I randomly chose an audiobook to listen to on a solo drive.  I chose Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist.  I wasn’t sure what to expect as I am not familiar with the author, but it was amazing!  It spoke to me on so many levels. Shauna narrated the audiobook, and every sentence she spoke was full of insight, poetry, and inspiration.  With each thing she said, I would think about how I needed to remember this quote for later. I decided to buy a hardcover copy of the book just so that I could read through it again and underline my favorite lines.

The foreword was written by Brené Brown.  If you are not familiar with her work on self-compassion, it is a very important reminder to be compassionate towards oneself.  The full title of this work is Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living.  Shauna chronicles her journey from overworked and stressed to a life concentrating on the things that are most important to her – family, God, friends, and fun.  I always strive to live a balanced life, and I’m no stranger to the idea of self-care. So I was primed to like this book, but Shauna’s voice and language were so inspirational to me.

Life is short. Life is about balance. It is about spending time on the things that are important to you and that you enjoy. It does not need to be about accomplishing great things. The things we accomplish are already great in God’s eyes. This is definitely a Christian book, and she talks a great deal about her relationship with Jesus.

Prayer and silence are an important component of living a present life. I am always wishing for more opportunities for silence. I am definitely an introvert and need quiet times of reflection. I can feel overwhelmed by too many people and even family life at times. Shauna writes about nature and how it can provide us that silence and connect us to God through His creation. I am trying to spend more time outdoors, even if it is just in my backyard, looking up at the sky.

Another popular theme in the book is how we have authority over our own lives. As a school counselor, I am constantly reminding my students to focus on the things that they can control, rather than the things they cannot. Shauna states, “We decide where the time goes. There’s so much freedom in that, and so much responsibility.” We don’t have to do the things that society expects of us, as long as we are doing the things that God expects of us.

This book also relates to my personal quest for minimalism. I am on a personal quest to own less stuff, so that I can spend my time and money on experiences that bring me joy. This is quite a challenging road to go down, but I’m taking small steps. I try to Marie Kondo my house, with some success, to pare it down to the things that “spark joy.”

So if you couldn’t already tell, I highly recommend this book. I came across it by chance, but was drawn in by the author’s voice. I will be checking out her other works soon. If you are drawn to the idea of a simple life, I highly recommend that you read Present Over Perfect.