How do you like to spend a snowy day? Residents of Nordic countries have had a lot of time to think about that, and one common answer is hygge, which comes from an old Norse word meaning “to think”. This Danish and Norwegian word, pronounced HUE-gah or HOO-gah, isn’t just about thinking; it’s about a contented lifestyle. It’s the way that these cultures embrace comfort, coziness, and a sense of wellbeing and safety.
Reading can be part of a hygge experience or lifestyle. Here are seven steps you can take to have a hygge experience with your books:
1. Clear Your Schedule
To have the best experience possible, set aside some time for yourself. Get away from work and chores and give yourself permission to enjoy a guilt-free break. If you have kids, you can arrange a separate hygge experience for them like a coloring area or books of their own before you settle into yours.
2. Get in Nature
Cold air and nice scenery provide a contrast for your upcoming reading session, and you’ll feel that much better when you come inside, especially if you tire yourself out. Hiking, skiing, building snowmen, and other outdoor activities are all hygge by themselves. If you’re not up for a long walk or sledding session, you could step outside to fill up a bird feeder (maybe outside your reading chair). You can even bring a little nature into your house with some plants or spend some time appreciating the winter scene outside your window before you begin.
3. Pick Your Reading Material
The key is to choose whatever books will make you feel best, but here are a few types of books to consider:
- Books About Hygge: You can start your hygge journey learning more about it. There are lots of books that can help you, like The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking or Hygge by Marie Tourell Søderberg.
- Winter Reading: As long as you feel warm and safe inside, a chilly book can make you feel even warmer. You can pick books for any age in any genre. (Mysteries and thrillers are especially popular in Nordic countries.) Some winter books include The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis or Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie.
- Nostalgic Picks: Bring back happy memories with a childhood favorite or something that you haven’t read in a while.
- TBR: It feels great to get things accomplished, so this might be the time to knock something off your “To Be Read” list.
- Short Works: If you don’t want to commit to a whole novel, you can pick up some short stories or magazine articles.
- Audiobooks: There are lots of reasons to turn on an audiobook. Staring at text might hurt your eyes; you might want to dim the lights in your hygge corner; you might get more out of books when you listen instead of look at the words. Depending on the reader, they can come with an extra layer of entertainment. As a bonus, since you’ll have your hands free, you can do a gentle activity like knitting or puzzling while you listen to your book. Or you can just settle down and let someone read to you.
4. Arrange Your Seat
This part might be as simple as picking your favorite comfy chair or couch or window nook and adding some pillows. (A hygge nook is called a hyggekrog.) You might want to pull a chair near a window. Ideally, you should sit in an area that’s not too cluttered, so you can straighten up as you’re arranging your seat.
5. Turn up the Heat
You want to feel warm when you settle down with your book, and here are some things you can use in your reading area:
- Throw Blankets: No matter what else you use for heat, snuggling up with one or more blankets is one of the easiest things you can do to get in the spirit.
- Fireplace: If you have a fireplace, this old-school option has a lot of benefits. It’s a natural source of heat and light, and the sounds and smells can carry powerful nostalgia.
- Pets: If your pet is a couch potato, he or she might want to be part of your experience and snuggle with you.
6. Adjust the Light
Reduce or remove glaring any artificial lights you can, but make sure you have enough light to read without straining your eyes. Try to rely on windows or a fireplace, if you have one. You can also add some atmosphere lighting. For example:
- Candles: Candles (regular, scented, or battery-powered) can provide a gentle twinkle that cheers up your reading space.
- Fairy Lights or Christmas Lights: Just like the candles, a sparkling string of lights can add some extra atmosphere (though they usually take longer to set up).
- Salt Lamp: Wellness sites and makers of Himalayan salt lamps claim that these lamps produce negatively charged ions to purify the air. The science is inconclusive so far, but whether or not salt lamps come with added health benefits, you can use one as an accent.
7. Use Your Five Senses
In order to experience as much hygge as possible, prepare to use all of your senses! Try not to over-crowd your space, but it’s nice to introduce at least one element for each of your senses to enjoy. You have lots of options, but here are a few per category:
- Hearing: fire, soft music, a water feature, or ambience tracks (from albums or YouTube)
- Sight: lighting (see above), house plants (or other greenery), or art
- Smell: candles, food, incense, an oil diffuser or burner, or flowers
- Taste: baked goods, soup, or a warm drink
- Touch: comfy clothes (like PJ’s, sweats, fuzzy socks, or yoga pants), blankets, or pets
After you finish reading, then it’s time to plan your next hygge activities. Do you have any favorites? Comment below, and then enjoy your book time!