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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 December 2018

How to practice the Danish concept Hygge in a hot country 

The Danish concept of pursuing ‘everyday happiness’ can be recreated whatever the weather, writes Rin Hamburgh

Surround yourselfe with photos of loved ones and treasures picke dup on your travels. Courtesy Lights4fun
Surround yourselfe with photos of loved ones and treasures picke dup on your travels. Courtesy Lights4fun

The Danish concept of hygge is usually associated with a cosy autumnal vibe – candles, fluffy cushions, cashmere blankets and comfort food. So does that mean that it is only suitable for cold countries? Not at all.

As much about the heart as the home, hygge is a way of creating happiness through your environment. The Oxford Dictionary defines it as “a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being”. More simply, Meik Wiking, chief executive of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen and author of The Little Book of Hygge, says it is “the pursuit of everyday happiness”.

Hygge is about being kind to yourself, giving yourself a treat and really relishing in your surroundings. Which means that no matter what the temperature is, it is definitely possible to add a little hygge to your life and your home.

Comfort

In order to indulge in the feeling, you need to start by being comfortable. Begin with yourself. What are you wearing? Loungewear or leggings are ideal, as are oversized T-shirts and loose-fitting cotton shirts. Get rid of anything that restricts or pinches, or that you can’t properly sit down or curl up in. Forget fashion as well – this is about treating yourself with care and comfort.

Next, tackle your surroundings. While traditional hygge images may be all about cosy knits and flickering flames, in a warm climate, comfort is all about staying cool. Think light, floaty curtains and squishy scatter cushions in breathable silks and cottons. Stick a fan on to keep the air moving and add some relaxing or uplifting music to create atmosphere.

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Now it’s time to bring in the personal touches that make your heart sing. This is where you throw the rulebook out of the window and look inside yourself for answers. Do you love to be surrounded by calming neutral tones? If so, keep your base palette gentle in shades of chalk, dove, sand and slate. Or maybe you prefer a riot of rainbow brights? Give raspberry and buttercup, or lime and aquamarine a try.

Add accessories that make you smile, like beautiful artwork and plenty of photos, and treasures picked up on your travels. Don’t forget your sense of smell – lighting candles and burning oil aren’t always ideal in the heat, so choose scented reeds and diffusers instead. Or why not use fresh flowers? Self-care doesn’t get much more indulgent than buying yourself a big bunch of delicious blooms.

Treat yourself to an enormous bouquet of blooms. Courtesy Forever Rose
Treat yourself to an enormous bouquet of blooms. Courtesy Forever Rose

Friendship

Hygge can be enjoyed solo, but it’s so much better if you can add loved ones to the mix. Studies show that relationships play a vital part in our well-being, not to mention our physical health, and even help us to live longer.

Instead of huddling around a roaring fire like people might do in Denmark, how about inviting your friends round for a barbecue or picnic? Courtesy Monsterzeug
Gathering around a roaring fire might be out of the question, but how about inviting your friends round for a barbecue? Courtesy Monsterzeug

Instead of huddling around a roaring fire like people might do in Denmark, how about inviting your friends round for a barbecue or picnic? Eating outdoors is such a relaxing pastime when the weather is right. If you’re thinking of giving your outdoor space an upgrade, you could invest in outdoor seating and serving areas that make entertaining easy and fun, plus plenty of shade, cooling water features and maybe some fans.

Indoors, there are so many ways to make your home more welcoming. Add a seating area to your kitchen so that whoever is doing the kitchen is not isolated, but can be a part of the festivities. Host dinner parties, brunch parties, book clubs – it doesn’t matter what the excuse or occasion is, so long as it involves the people you love.

Arrange your sofas so that they face each other rather than the television to encourage conversation, or hide the TV away in a unit with doors that can be shut when it’s not being used. You can even consider banning screens altogether for at least part of the day, to encourage the family to talk more, especially over dinner time. And add photos of loved ones so you’re surrounded with them even when no one is around.

A guest bedroom or sofa bed means you can have people to stay more often, both friends and family from nearby and those visiting from further afield. Remember guest accessories too, such as towels, individual soaps, tissues, spare hangers and so on.

Food

Finally, whenever you have comfortable surroundings and people enjoying themselves, you should also have food. As we’ve already mentioned, eating outdoors in a cool, shady spot is a great way to bring people together to relax.

Inside, don’t let your dining space become the last thought in your home. Invest in making it welcoming and comfortable, with chairs that support you and a table big enough for a feast. Create attractive centrepieces and put out sharing plates to encourage interactive eating. Think through your lighting scheme so you can switch between bright and lively, and soft and intimate.

Hygge might naturally be associated with warming soups and stews, but in a hot country you can substitute these for grilled meats and fish, sumptuous salads with luxurious ingredients like pomegranate seeds and figs. Choose intense flavours and eye-catching colours. Think about the effect the food will have on your well-being before it even gets to your tongue and taste buds.

And when you’re cooking, inject hygge into the process itself. Take your time browsing recipe books, choose fresh ingredients with careful attention – touch them, smell them, taste them – and enjoy the mindful focus of chopping and blending and creating. Slow down, take in your surroundings and enjoy the pure contentment of cooking a delicious meal.

Bring the "hygge" of food into your decor with a fruit bowl spilling over with colourful apples and pears. Courtesy Annabel James
Bring the "hygge" of food into your decor with a fruit bowl spilling over with colourful apples and pears. Courtesy Annabel James

You can even bring the hygge of food into your decor. Bowls of fruit spilling over with shiny green apples, glossy black grapes and waxy yellow bananas. Fresh eggs perched in a ceramic dish. Kilner jars of pasta and rice lining the shelves.

Hygge is a mindset not a set of rules; it’s a philosophy that can be adopted and enjoyed wherever you are in the world and whatever the local climate. If life is a bit too frenetic for you right now, if you need to slow down time and indulge your sense and your soul in beauty and comfort, then it’s time to apply some hygge to your life and to your home. And ideally, bring a few relatives and friends along for the journey.