Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Hygge: Live simply, live well, find enjoyment in the small things.

Hygge (pronounced hue-guh, not hig) is a Danish concept of living well and living simply - and I read that other countries in that area also practice hygge.  They must be doing something right because they are consistently topping the polls as the happiest people on earth - and it's often put down to hygge.  

There's been a huge buzz in the UK and USA about hygge in the past couple of years - trying to work out how the Danes and their neighbours do it. So what does hygge mean?

There is no literal translation, but I understand it's from a Norwegian word for well-being and it broadly means an approach to living that embraces positivity and enjoyment of everyday experiences. 

Hygge is more about a feeling or mood than a thing, and about a state of mind than a physical state - a feeling of contentment and well-being gained through enjoying the simple things in life.

Hygge is essentially the art of connecting in any given moment - being present - appreciating the small joys in life - connecting with self, with family, with friends, with place, with nature. 

Hygge is about finding deeper meaning with ordinary life and establishing a meaningful, mindful connection with the world.

In my context here in subtropical Australia, some of the things that translate as hygge for me are:

  • Spending quality time with friends and family.
  • Keeping things simple in the kitchen - simple garden salad, or vegetable soup, wild greens stir-fry or perhaps vegetable omelet - all from just out our door harvested with the kids just a few moments before we prepare it together.
  • Sitting down for dinner together every night as a family - especially when the kids decorate the table with drawings and flowers from the garden.
  • Washing up together and just chatting.
  • Picking up a warm egg that has just been laid.
  • Taking my jar to my neighbour for some fresh warm jersey milk.
  • Adding a splash of this milk to freshly ground and brewed coffee, and sitting with Evan to vision our day together and share great new ideas we've had or read. 
  • Sharing a delicious homemade chocolate cake made by our 3 year old (with a bit of my help) using our friend's honey, our own bananas, fair trade cocao and plastic-wrap free local organic flour.
  • Drinking lemon myrtle, chocolate mint or rosella tea just harvested from my garden.
  • Cuddling and playing with my kids every day, laughing, telling jokes, making up stories and songs together
  • Taking a walk with my kids in the natural areas around our house and talking about what we see and hear, or actually, whatever thought or question pops into our minds.
  • Curling up with my little one with a pile of good books.
  • Watching Maia (10) and Hugh (9) swinging in their hammocks totally engrossed in their books.
  • Playing chess and other long board games with my family.
  • Watching my 3 yo smiling at the visiting king parrots on our verandah.
  • Sitting in the garden chatting with the wild kangaroos that also live here.
  • Going with our children and their friends to the river to splash, rock-hop and toast marshmallows on a little campfire.
  • De-commissioning the TV
  • Living in a place where there's no mobile reception - we are still in a pre-mobile state of being
  • Going for a ride up the country roads and talking with the cows, watching the clouds, and spotting rainbows up the valley.
  • Waving at all the neighbours as they pass
  • Having a good laugh and chatting with the ladies from my ecovillage in our aqua-aerobics class a few times a week
  • Walking down the street in my local town, Maleny, and meeting up with so many friends along the way, and sharing smiles and a friendly greeting with everyone, whether I know them or not. It usually takes much longer that I expect, but that is just fine.
  • Living in a home that we designed ourselves and built by hand with our family. Every little corner is infused with memories.
  • Embracing a livelihood that allows me to work from our home and garden doing permaculture-related work that I love, with my husband, who I love working and being with.
  • Learning with our children as we engage in fascinating homeschooling and world-schooling projects based on their curiosity and questions and meeting with passionate mentors. 

This is our living/dining room... a warm fireplace for winter using wood we collect onsite, a plate full of freshly harvested chillies, a vase of freshly picked fennel seeds, the vase is a wedding gift from my brother - it was made at the pottery where my gran used to go, the wall hanging we brought back from Turkey and reminds me of the amazing world adventures we have had with permaculture and all the amazing things people are doing around the world, the timber kitchen benches are hand crafted from a tree that fell just a few hundred metres from our home, the chairs are from the local tip shop, the walls are painted with non-toxic milk paint, the floors are from reclaimed timber, the top of the wall is made of glass to allow a gentle glow to reflect in from the external orange wall, children's artwork decorates our walls, the banana smoothies are made from our homegrown bananas and sweetened a little with our friend's honey, the bookshelf is full of interesting books for all ages, we placed the window above our kitchen bench just at the right height so we could look out to the trees and the Conondale Mountain range beyond.

Maia and Hugh chat about their homeschooling projects over a morning tea of banana smoothie they made using our own fruit. Their straws are reusable stainless steel. We usually go barefoot indoors and out - it's certainly warm enough. The couch with lots of cushions usually has someone curled up reading or thinking. The louvre windows and doors are typically open allowing fresh air to flood into the house. There is a huge indoor-outdoor connection at our place.

My nine year old son took the picture of me (at the top of this post) last Saturday while I was working - touring 75 people through our ecovillage, home and garden.  I think it captures how I feel about my hyggelig life. 


  1. What a wonderful start to the day reading this - thank you.

  2. Apart from the fact that "hygge" is Danish and not Norwegian You are very close to what it means. Only one more thing is very important: er almost can't get the feeling of hygge without candlelight. We have always candles: on the dinner table, in our windows, at the front door, eventuelt sometimes in the bathroom 😊 And thanks for nice blogposts and valuable information on YouTube from a Danish fan.

    1. Thanks for writing - my humble apologies for my anitopean ignorance about this. From the information that filtered down under, I understood Hygge to be a Danish concept, but also from other countries in your region, and that the word had originated from a Norwegian word that meant 'well-being' - I am totally happy to be corrected by someone in the know! I had read about the importance of candles. In my Australian interpretation of Hygge, where the light is so intense, I've been thinking of ways to play with light and diffuse and reflect (though small high windows, off the nearby lake..) to add a softer wavering light. Probably being a bit overconcerned, but with a 3yo in a wooden house, I am a bit afraid of lighting a candle without constant supervision.

  3. I think what you describe, Morag, is a beautiful life that is filled with simple, meaningful joys. A lovely post to read. Meg:)

  4. I understand your concern. It is probably a question of what you are used to. I never had second thoughts with two dogs, a cat and a couple of children bouncing around my christmas tree with 40 candles ������ But I would be ever so scared having kids at your place with all your snakes and spiders around ;-)

    1. Isn't that funny - it's all relative - it's what you're used to, what you grow up with!

  5. It's really amazing to have a home organic garden and it is really excellent if you have your own organic farm property. Whatever you wish, you can grow and have delicious, healthy, tasty, toxin free food products. Your farm will also keep the surrounding area pollution free and attract more birds to make their habitat. The more people will become aware of maintaining sustainable lifestyle, the more it will be possible to maintain sustainable surroundings and ultimately sustainable planet.

    Rancho Delicioso