Hygge, Koselig and Fika are not moons of Jupiter — they are the simple and effective Scandinavian philosophies used to battle the winter blahs. Here’s how they work (and how to pronounce them).
With winter in full swing, we can look to Scandinavians for inspiration. Many of these northern folks seem to be experts on how to stay buoyed during a colder time of year when sunlight is limited and days can feel blink-and-you’ll-miss-it brief. While the Danish have long lived out “hygge” (HUE-guh or HOO-guh, take your pick) — described as a mood of “comfortable conviviality” with feelings of wellness and contentment, this concept arrived here with gusto several years ago, thanks to widely circulated books, articles and podcasts that ignited a curious craze. Hygge was even on the shortlist for the Oxford Dictionaries’ 2016 word of the year.
And at this time of year, when many struggle with the adverse effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), it’s empowering to learn the motivating techniques and mindsets used by others to survive — and even cherish — the winter season. Whether you use tricks like waking up to a light-producing sunrise alarm clock, filling your commute’s backdrop with happy tunes, or packing a fuzzy blanket, hot cocoa and wooly socks for the workplace, we’ve gathered some small ways to find big comfort. It makes sense that cultivating a hygge-like vibe at work can help boost a team’s morale, productivity, mental health and overall happiness. (Here are some other pointers for those who suffer from SAD, best diagnosed by a medial professional.)
We explored the topic of hygge (and beyond) with Leslie Anne Anderson, Director of Collections, Exhibitions and Programs at the National Nordic Museum. Inside this sleek Seattle venue, she’s responsible for the creative direction of the museum’s content, overseeing its collections, education programs and exhibitions. Anderson explains that “koselig” (KOOSH-lee) is a Norwegian term that captures the feeling of contentedness from a combination of warmth and intimacy. “It is a response that is both physical and psychological,” she says, “Enjoying a hot drink, comfort food, a roaring fire or lit candles, and good conversation with family or friends would naturally lend itself to this feeling.”
And while Danish hygge is quite similar, koselig might have a stronger association with the creation of a soothing environment — outdoors or indoors — following an outdoor activity. Then there’s Swedish “fika” (fee-ka), which refers to the enjoyment of a hot beverage (typically coffee) and baked goods (like a princess cake, cinnamon roll or strawberry cake), savored among friendly company. “I have enjoyed fika with friends while hiking outdoors — we stopped to rest and chat over a thermos of coffee and some cookies, as well as indoors in the comfort of a friend’s living room,” says Anderson. (The museum even offers an afternoon series called Film & Fika, which features documentary screenings followed by coffee, cakes, cookies and conversation.)
Though these concepts can be experienced throughout the year, Anderson says, these positive mindsets can be especially important amid the perceived challenges of the winter season. “Candles or a bonfire invite people to come together for light, warmth and conversation, and it fosters an appreciation of shorter, colder days. Enjoying these activities outdoors is even more beneficial for the body and mind. The Swedish fika custom is certainly not limited to a season. However, this healthful pause for social interaction combats feelings of isolation during the winter months.”
One can certainly create a cozy atmosphere indoors that translates to the office, too. It’s of note that these philosophies all share the understanding that embracing the present environment through companionship is beneficial. At work, this can be achieved by turning lunchtime into a potluck-style group gathering, or by taking an afternoon stroll — no matter the weather — with a steaming cup of coffee in hand. “One can easily introduce fika into their workday,” she says. “Set aside some time for an afternoon coffee-and-pastry break with a colleague.”
And how does Anderson practice these concepts in her own life after the workday is done? “My favorite way to bring hygge into my daily winter routine is to gather with my family in the candlelit living room, enjoy a warm beverage, and talk about everything and nothing.”
This is very helpful advice and very well written. B
Thanks! Stay cozy out there!