exploring hygge

I ran across the word ‘hygge’ a couple of years ago, after seeing a friend’s post on Instagram about a book she had just read (The Little Book of Hygge published in 2016 by Meik Wiking, CEO of The Happiness Research Institute in Denmark) and how she was trying to bring more elements of cozy and comfortable into her home and living space.

What is hygge? It’s pronounced ‘hoo-gah’ and per Wikipedia it is a Danish word meaning ‘to give courage, comfort, joy.’ Wikipedia goes on to explain that hygge might have originated from the word hug, which comes from the word hugge (think 1560s Old Norse language), meaning ‘to embrace.’ Tracing back a little further, hugge seems to be associated with the Old Norse word hygga meaning ‘to comfort,’ and descended from the word hugr meaning ‘mood.’ Going back even further, hugr comes from hugyan, of Germanic descent and related to the Old English word hycgan, meaning ‘to think, consider.’

According to Wikipedia, hygge appeared in Danish writing in the 19th century, and has grown in popularity, use, and overall culture in Norway and Denmark. While both Norwegian and Danish languages assign the same meaning to the word, Norway treats hygge as just a word, similar to the word cozy. Denmark, on the other hand, embraces hygge as a significant part of their cultural identity.

The Collins English Dictionary uses this definition for hygge – ‘the practice of creating cosy and congenial environments that promote emotional wellbeing.’ The popularity of the word hygge can be gauged by its runner-up status as word of the year in the UK in 2016, second only to ‘Brexit‘ that year.

Since 2016, hygge has increased in popularity with the publication of several books focusing on the subject: The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking (2016), Hygge: The Danish Art of Happiness by Marie Tourell Søderberg (2016), and The Book of Hygge: The Danish Art of Living Well by Louisa Thomsen Brits.

Hygge is not restricted to just Norway and Denmark. Other countries (and languages) have words with similar meanings.

  • Dutch – gezellig and gezelligheid: similar concept to hygge, also pertaining to comfort and cosiness, but these words are more socially oriented.
  • German – Gemütlichkeit: means the state of warmth, friendliness and belonging.
  • Norwegian – koselig: adjective used to describe a feeling of warmth, intimacy and getting together in an agreeable environment.
  • Swedish – mysig (and its associated noun mys): adjective describing a pleasant and warm atmosphere of togetherness in a pleasant setting.
  • Japanese – まったり (mattari): suggests a feeling of calm relaxation.

Photo by Skyler Ewing on Pexels.com

Back to my friend’s Instagram post a few years ago. What she meant was warm blankets, hot cocoa, and candles on chilly winter nights as evidenced by her pics. It looked very cozy, a place to curl up and relax or read a book.

I think there’s more to hygge. There’s a physical hygge – the blankets, the style, candles, plants, coffee, a wool sweater on a cool day.

But, I believe there is also a mental form of hygge, as in the feeling of well-being or contentment within yourself. Hygge in your physical surroundings can certainly help with your mental hygge, but can a warm blanket and lovely candle fix everything?

The more detailed meaning for both Danish and Norwegian languages consider hygge to mean ‘a pleasant and highly valued everyday experience of safety, equality, personal wholeness and a spontaneous social flow.’ Hygge also means something nice, cozy, safe and known, and refers to a psychological state as well as the coziness of warm blankets.

In my quest for finding joy along the way, this concept of hygge really resonates with me. What if the distilled down definition of hygge is really joy? Where are you finding hygge or joy today?

Is it in washing and cutting the vegetables for your evening meal? Is it watering your flowers and seeing the new blooms? Is it the fresh smell of petrichor soon after starting to rain? Watching the hummingbird land softly on the feeder outside your kitchen window?

Whatever it is, I am wishing you clear and distinct moments that bring you joy and hygge this week.


“When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.” –Rumi

When you are ‘in the flow,’ when things feel aligned and right, you feel a joy start to rise up inside.

Find moments like that. Find Joy along the way.

words I’ve been considering

In March or April of last year (2020!), I had a lot of Instagram posts where I would take a pic of spring flowers or something I found beautiful (or pretty), and use the words ‘finding beauty’ in the caption. And it seemed like that was the start of something. The year 2020 was full of fear and lots of unknowns. Pandemic.

And I think by ‘finding beauty’ I was trying to ground myself. I paid closer attention to Spring flowers last year. I relished in outdoor walks and runs through the neighborhood. I enjoyed my time working from home and spending the days with our aging 4-legged family member, Ike, who is no longer with us in this life. I looked for joy and beauty in small things like the tag of my Yogi tea bags or the message inside the wrapper of Dove Chocolates. And also the moon and the stars, and the sunrises and sunsets. And flowers and trees, and rocks and flowing water.

Over the past month as I’ve been considering redoing and renewing my blog here, I have kept coming back to ‘finding joy and beauty.’

Finding joy and beauty in this life, in the small things, in the big moments, in the every day and mundane…

Finding Joy and Beauty Along the Way

Beauty can be so many things. It doesn’t always have to be pleasing to the eye, the way we typically describe beauty in good looks. Beauty can be worn and polished, scratched, smudged, wrinkled, mended, healed, scarred.

And Joy. My middle name, seriously. I’ve wanted or considered using my middle name in this blog for a long time. It’s one of those unique words that is a name, and also a noun (delight, gaiety, bliss) or a verb (to experience great pleasure or delight as in rejoice). And other forms of the word are adjective and adverbs – joyful, joyless, or joyfully, joylessly. And it’s me, my name. I have to admit, I don’t always act or feel joyful, full of joy. But I am becoming aware and looking for the joy and beauty with more intention than ever before.

So, in redoing and renewing this blog, I’ve also been considering words associated with the journey. The journey of life. This experience we are having during our lifetime. I landed on Joy Trekker, finding joy and beauty along the way. It rings. I’m a traveler, on the same journey as everyone else. But I have a collection of maps and souvenirs, my observations, lessons, rules, guidelines, and knowledge, that might be slightly different than someone else’s.

Just like 2 people can walk through a museum or go to a park and not notice or see the same things the other person saw.

So this blog, Kim Philpot :: Joy Trekker – Finding Joy and Beauty Along the Way is my travel journal, my collection of maps and souvenirs and trinkets. It is the central storehouse for my observations, lessons, rules, nuggets, guidelines, knowledge, and truths where I have found joy and beauty in my trek, my journey of life.

Thanks for being here. I mean that.

Other words I have considered that just didn’t seem to fit: caravan chase course crossing crusade expedition exploration hike hunt inquiry investigation jaunt odyssey passage probe pilgrimage roaming safari saunter stroll tour tramp traverse trip visit voyage walkabout wandering wayfaring soul beautiful joy joyful nature living well highest living journey quest adventure venture pursuit mission trek