Bringing hygge to Wisconsin

Winter in Wisconsin can be cold and gray, the bleakness of UW-Madison’s campus making it difficult to jump back into classes after returning from winter break. Something that can help with this transition, and with the rest of your winter experience, is a little bit of hygge.

Hygge (roughly pronounced hoo-gah, but Youtube videos do a better job of explaining the exact pronunciation) is an Danish term that loosely means “coziness of the soul” or “a feeling of well-being.” Hygge is all about creating a feeling of comfort and home, being surrounded by loved ones or experiencing a quiet afternoon with a cup of tea and a good book.

Despite long, dark winters and high taxes, Denmark is frequently ranked as the happiest country in the world. The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living by Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, highlights the ways Danes maintain high levels of happiness, specifically with hygge.

So how can you incorporate hygge in your daily life in Wisconsin (basically channeling the most aesthetic accounts on Instagram), while struggling with the stress of classes and frigid days head? To combat the winter blues, here are ten Danish secrets for happy living from.

1. Lighting 

With the right kind of lighting, it’s easy to make a warm and cozy atmosphere. According to Wiking, eighty-five percent of Danes associate candles with hygge. Anytime you use candles, twinkle lights or softly glowing lamps, you create a calming environment that’s far more comforting than the harsh fluorescent lights of your lecture hall.


2. “Live today like there is no coffee tomorrow” 

A warm drink is good for the soul, and hygge is all about hot drinks-tea, coffee, cocoa. But I don’t mean that cup of coffee you gulp down as you pull an all-nighter, or the hasty Starbucks order you grab while running to class – that’s not quite hygge. A hygge hot drink is an excuse to slow down your busy schedule and appreciate the warm mug in your hands.

3. Hyggekrog

Having your own hyggekrog, meaning “a nook” is hugely popular in Denmark. Often a hyggekrog is next to a window or looks out of one, but your hyggekrog can be any spot in your home where you’ve created a designated space for relaxing, which means it’s a smart idea to save doing homework for your desk or the library, not your hyggekrog.

4. Blankets and pillows 

This one is pretty self-explanatory. Fuzzy blankets and cute pillows make us feel cozy, and they’re essential to a hygge decor and making a comfy hyggekrog.

blankets and pillows

5. Nature

Since rushing to class might be the only dose of sunshine you’re getting in these temperatures, any way you can incorporate nature into your living space will help with the winter blues. My roommate, a horticulture major, has made sure that our living room is filled with plants. It’s like living in a small jungle, and each day I get plenty of hygge vibes from it!

6. Sweets and slow foods

If you found yourself munching on a lot of sweet treats during the holiday season, blame it on hygge. Annually, Danes consume as much eighteen pounds of sweets per person, which is twice the European average. The sweet aspect of hygge is a reminder to be kind to yourself and indulge once in a while. Slow foods are also a major component of hygge. Wiking reminds his readers that “the longer a meal takes to cook, the more hygge it is.” Hearty meals that take a while to cook – like stews and soups – are considered to be more hygge than a salad or a grab-and-go from Gordon’s. Extra points if you cook and enjoy a meal with friends or pick up some donuts from Greenbush.

7. Books 

When was the last time you picked up a book just for fun? Over winter break, I realized that it had been weeks since I’d read a book for my own enjoyment because I’d been too busy reading textbooks to even consider making the time to read a fun book (okay, I also may have been a little too busy with Netflix). Hygge emphasizes the importance of taking a break from screens and finding peace in the pages of a good book.

booksREAD: 5 books you should read to inspire your wanderlust

8. The right clothes

To achieve peak hygge fashion, dress as snugly and as comfortably as you please. The perfect hygge outfit: a blanket scarf, wool socks, and a bulky sweaters with black leggings. When I was in Denmark (alas, it was only for two days), one of the first things I noticed was how Danes tend to wear dark colors and are skilled at finding the right balance of comfy and stylish.

9. Board games

Call your friends over for a game night! Get out Monopoly and invite your friends over for a night of good food, wine and board games, which leads into the next hygge secret….

10. Togetherness

Hygge emphasizes close relationships with your family and friends. The word can also be used as a verb, so you might hear Danes asking each other, “Want to come hygge with us tonight?” Wintertime makes it all too easy to isolate yourself – it’s dark and cold, and you don’t really feel like leaving your dorm or apartment to trek across campus in freezing temperatures. Being around close friends (according to a Danish survey, three to four people is a good number to hygge with) can help boost your mood and and make the winter months a little brighter.