Between shoveling the driveway, shivering in the cold, and shorter days, winter can be a real bummer. For many, the colder months amount to low energy, fatigue, even a decline in mood (SAD lights anyone?).

But winter doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. In fact, if we take a lesson from other parts of the world, we might even learn how to make it a season of warmth and happiness.

Hygge

“Hygge” is a Danish word and a defining feature of Denmark’s culture. Pronounced “hoo-gah”, hygge has no direct English translation. However, “coziness” comes pretty close. Recently added to the Oxford English Dictionary, hygge is defined as “a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.”

So What Exactly is Hygge?

Hygge is sipping hot coco in warm socks. It’s sitting down with your family to enjoy a nice hot stew. It’s lighting some candles, pulling out your favorite book, and cuddling up with your sweetheart.

But hygge isn’t just lounging, it’s a mindset. It’s about embracing small, simple pleasures and being mindful of the warmth that these things bring us. Creating hygge means creating a sense of atmosphere and community with those around us, making sure to appreciate the kinship and safety we feel in those special moments. In other words, hygge is something that you do, but it’s not necessarily something you do alone.

A Cold-Country Tradition

It’s no surprise that hygge comes from a country that experiences long cold winters with little sunlight (in the colder seasons, Denmark sees about 17 hours of darkness a day with temperatures of 32 degrees and lower). While Danes practice hygge all year round, it’s particularly conducive to those times when the world seems a little extra dreary.

Hygge is a way to find pleasure in drudgery. Interestingly enough, while Denmark is famous for its dark winters, it also ranks as one of the happiest countries in the world. Perhaps hygge is part of that happiness equation.    

This winter, see how you can bring a little more hygge into your life. Bake a cake and invite friends to share. Pull on your warmest sweater and cuddle up with the dog. Light a fire and write a letter to a distant relative. By actively creating occasions to be cozy and imbuing them with gratitude, you might find that winter suddenly doesn’t feel so awful anymore.