‘Hygge is a Danish word for a way of being that’s actually common to us all’ – Louisa Thomsen Brits
Hygge is a feeling known well by the Danes. It’s a moment of contentment that they seem to have perfected. Perhaps it’s why Denmark has been voted the happiest country in the world, again. Louisa Thomsen Brits‘ new book ‘The book of Hygge: The Danish art of living well’ is a practical guide on how we can all achieve the elusive hygge. We had a chat with Luisa to find out more about her philosophies and the book.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m half Danish, half English, a writer and mother of four. I was born in Africa and brought up in the UK but spent every summer with my mother’s big family in Denmark. Hygge is the language of comfort and care that I inherited from them all.
What made you decide to write this book?
I was fortunate enough to be approached by Ebury. Commissioning editor Laura Higginson had come across a blog that I created in 2012 – the red thread that ran through all the posts was hygge. We recognised that our book would have to share shelf space with many other books that have been released on the subject but I wanted to offer an understanding of hygge that is more about being than having. In these uncertain times, I think that it’s valuable to explore ways of living that increase our capacity to identify with each other, enhance our common life and bring us together. A portion of any royalties that I receive goes to a charity in support of the homeless – that feels like an important contribution to make – we can’t hygge unless our most basic needs to be safe, sheltered and fed have been met.
What does Hygge mean?
Hygge is a Danish word for a way of being that’s actually common to us all – it’s that feeling of belonging, and ease that comes when we feel most at home, connected and safe. It’s an experience of dwelling, of engagement and relatedness; a moment of contentment, a brief, restorative pause.
Can you set the scene of your ideal Hyggekrog (cosy corner)?
Somewhere calm, warm and safe – probably our bed. Well, our almost-bed – three mattresses on wooden palettes, layered with duvets, linen and woollen blankets – a place to read, to watch a film or just lie quietly together in the half-light. There is always a candle lit on the bedside table and the comfort of warmth and proximity. Or outside, tucked into the corner of the garden, settled around an open fire, beneath two huge Scots pines.
How do Nordic notions of Hygge and wellbeing differ from Eastern philosophies of meditation and spirituality? Are there similarities?
Hygge is a quality of presence, a feeling of belonging to the moment. It is often compared to mindfulness but hygge is more akin to noticing and paying attention than deep contemplation or reaching a meditative state. It’s about sensual pleasure and wholehearted participation. When we hygger, we put down our cares for a while, let go and pay attention to the particulars of the moment – to our surroundings and to each other. We recognise that the moment will soon pass and chose to celebrate it in an uncomplicated, easily accessible way. Hygge is a moment of respite in the middle of our busy lives.
What do you Khoollect?
The things around us contain our stories, and invite connection and conversation. I suppose the things that I Khoollect are ephemera and scraps of the ordinary world – my pockets and our home are lined with natural objects that I have picked up from the fields, the riverbank, beach or woods – shells, twigs, dried seed pods, bones, leaves and fossils that I find when I walk, move slowly, and stay curious. They feel totemic and remind me of particular moments, of the passage of time and the beauty and fragility of our collective existence. And books – they’re friends that bring new perspective, expand my understanding and vocabulary, and invite new ways to consider and frame the world. Of course, books are the beginning of many hyggelige conversations.
How do you hygge? Let us know in the comments…
Wondering how to hygge?
Read Louisa Thomsen Brits’ tips for how to hygge for space-limited urban dwellers.