In an article about Hygge, a picture of someone on a couch wearing warm clothing and a blanket

Hygge: The Danish Practice That Keeps You Cozy

College students can stay warm and relaxed in cold weather through this traditional lifestyle.
January 5, 2023
8 mins read

If you’ve never heard of hygge before, let’s cover the basics. First, it’s pronounced “hoo-ga” and it’s a Danish word that roughly translates to “giving comfort and joy.” It’s believed to be a spin-off word from old Norse and directly relates to the word “hug.” The Scandinavians have been perfecting this almost-indescribable state of coziness since the 1800s. You don’t need to travel to Denmark to bring this practice into your own home. However, Denmark’s tourism industry has recently capitalized on this hygge obsession and would love for you to experience it in person.

Traditionally, the season of hygge takes place around Christmas time, which is also the start of winter. The temperature of Denmark’s winter hovers around 0°C — literally freezing — which covers the country in layers of ice and frost. The sun also sets around 3:30 p.m. because the country is so far north, resulting in its citizens experiencing a lot of darkness. Cue the necessity of hygge. You don’t have to live in snowy woods to embrace hygge; even if you live in Southern California, you can still feel its loving embrace.

You don’t need many materials to set up your hygge space, but if you want to go all in, you’ll need candles, blankets, fuzzy socks and some sort of heat source like a fireplace or heater. An image search will give you plenty of ideas about how to set up your space. Hygge prioritizes the sense of wellbeing. While it’s worthwhile to set up a cozy space with a mug of hot tea or cocoa, a book you have been dying to read and the sound of a crackling fire emanating from your phone (put it on airplane mode for less distractions), the hygge lifestyle is centered on creating an experience.

Here’s how to set up a budget-friendly hygge space: First, dim your lights. Research has shown that warmer, dimmer lights are far more relaxing than brighter bulbs. If your dorm has bright, institutional lights, head to your local thrift store for a cheap lamp and add in a warm bulb to give your space a dramatic makeover.

Next, fill your space with a pleasant scent to create an easy, warm ambience. You can’t always pull out fresh-baked cookies from the oven, so try to find scents that remind you of good memories. Choose a woodsy smell if you love the forest, vanilla if you love desserts or the scent of hot tea if you want to harken back to the days when you were home sick and a loving adult doted on you.

Lastly, the easiest way to transform your space into a hygge-friendly zone is to get comfortable. Do you love blankets? Pile them on. Are you more comfortable in your oversized shorts from 8th grade gym class? Put them on. Do you need your knee socks with the penguins in bowties? Those are the ones to wear. Prioritizing your comfort is the key to hygge.

The closest North American equivalent of hygge is probably “self-care,” and the break between semesters is the perfect time to set up your new low-stress lifestyle. Nobody — and this is especially true for college students — lives without stress, but it’s always possible to lower your stress. Embracing the hygge lifestyle in your college experience is one easy way to not just survive the semester, but maybe even thrive. Most people don’t think about lowering their stress during college because the experience is often equivalated with stress from the start. Our first introduction to college is a bombardment of concepts like competitive admissions, ruthless professors and term papers longer than “War and Peace.” But once you’re in, the struggle really becomes about prioritizing your peace with physiology more than actual college.

Take a look at your spring semester schedule. Have you prioritized sleeping? If you have early dawn classes combined with late night sessions, you’re setting yourself up for a crash. Most students report that they are not getting enough sleep, which is the second most common cause of poor academic performance (stress is first, so keep reading). This is easily solved by making a weekly schedule and setting aside time to sleep. Lights off, phone off, TV off and let your body work its magic of recovering from chaos while you slumber.

Do you have time to exercise in your spring schedule? Exercise lowers stress, increases energy and elevates your ability to focus, so don’t leave it off your schedule. Many college campuses have gyms or fitness centers for students to use, provide college discounts at local gyms and even offer PE classes if you think you need additional motivation to exercise. If you moved far from home for college, find a hiking or nature group to regularly explore the outdoors and see some new sights in a new area. If you didn’t move away, consider organizing a club to show off your home state while introducing yourself to new people.

That brings us to the last and most important connection between hygge and self-care: relationships. In the hygge lifestyle, nurturing relationships is the essential key to inner peace. There is no space for chaos when it comes to hygge and self-care, so cut the drama from your life. This doesn’t mean you have to eliminate relationships, so don’t run to tell your roommate that you no longer have space for them in your cozy life just yet. What you can control is how you engage with people and how much of your time you spend with them. If your friend is constantly criticizing your penguin socks, you don’t have to spend time with that friend. If your roommate doesn’t like the place you picked for dinner, don’t go to dinner with them. If your Tinder match has a little too much to say about the shows you like, move on. Prioritize the people in your life that bring you the hygge vibes of warmth and comfort.

Megan Miller, Arizona State University

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Megan Miller

Arizona State University

Megan has lived her whole life in Southern California where she enjoys all the local attractions, especially the beaches. She enjoys reading, writing and cooking. She is obsessed with her dog, Moose.

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