The 2023 United Nations World Happiness Report ranks Finland as the happiest country globally—its fifth year as number one—with Denmark a close second. The top 5 happiest countries in the world are all Nordic countries. Where does the United States rank? Sadly, at 19.
Perhaps, we could learn to be happier if we incorporated a little more hygge—a philosophy central to the Danish culture—into our lives. Hygge, pronounced hoo-guh, is a Danish word that infers “a mood of coziness and comfortable conviviality with feelings of wellness and contentment.” The hygge lifestyle is all about enjoying the simple pleasures of life and relishing small comforts in a cozy and relaxing way, either by ourselves, or in the company of a few friends or family. “Hygge is about having less, enjoying more; the pleasure of simply being. It is generous and celebratory, a way to remember the importance of the simple act of living itself,” says Louisa Thomsen Brits in her book, The Book of Hygge: The Danish Art of Contentment, Comfort, and Connection.
Hygge is often considered a way to cozy up for winter, but we can also enjoy hygge in summer months as a way to nourish our soul. Think of favorite warm weather moments such as picnics, bike rides, outdoor concerts, farmers markets, and warm nights on the porch. Hygge is the feeling we get when we are comfortable, happy, and utterly content in the moment. Summer is also the time to travel, go on vacation, spend time with our families, and slow down our everyday lives. Here are some suggestions for a hygge summer:
Doing anything outside in nature is a great way to create an atmosphere of hygge. Take a hike, explore a forest, walk around parks, ride a bike, go bird watching, or visit the beach. Discover something you love doing outdoors and you will feel amazing.
Locate a sunny spot and enjoy a good book
The essence of hygge is to remain in the present, finding joy in simple things. In summer, embrace hygge by finding a sunny spot in your garden, on the porch, or in nature. Adding a hammock and gently swinging while enjoying a good book is the ultimate summer hygge activity. Turn off the mobile phone and enjoy the afternoon with a book, tasty snacks, and homemade lemonade. As a bonus, remember that being outside is excellent for our mental health, too.
Have a picnic
Good food and great company outdoors are staples of a hygge life. A few ideas are a picnic in our backyard, on the front porch, or in our favorite park. Picnics do not have to occur just at lunch or dinner time. How about a sunrise breakfast? You can make this a fun adventure by discovering new places for summertime picnics. Hygge food ideas include comfort food such as pasta salads and fresh fruit.
Go for a walk
One of the simplest and most hygge activities is just going for a walk, alone or with friends. We are fortunate to have numerous parks and trails to stroll. Italian actress Eleonora Duse said, “If the sight of the blue skies fills you with joy, if a blade of grass springing up in the fields has power to move you, if the simple things in nature have a message you understand, rejoice, for your soul is alive.”
Shop at the local farmers markets
Shopping at farmers markets is hygge because it is all about the experience as we enjoy our surroundings and choose the ripest, juiciest, seasonal produce available. After shopping and gathering fresh fruit and veggies, our family can enjoy the seasonal bounties and taste these fruits and veggies in yummy desserts, sauces, and salads.
Celebrate this summer season by trying new recipes featuring vegetables at the peak of their flavor. These include bell peppers, Swiss chard, corn, tomatoes, and zucchini. And don’t miss out on delicious summer fruit such as berries, peaches, and watermelon.
Is there anything better on a hot summer’s day than an ice cool glass of homemade lemonade? It is easy to make, and it is the perfect beverage to share with friends, making it even more hygge.
Making homemade jam is one of the best hygge ideas as it is a great way to use up those summer berries. It is a healthy choice as many store-bought jams contain artificial ingredients. Homemade food is quintessentially hygge, and homemade jam is even more so because it makes the perfect gift. Hygge is all about strengthening relationships and nurturing bonds with loved ones.
The essence of hygge is to be present and appreciate the simple things that come into our life. In the summer months we can enjoy extended daylight, be outdoors more, and be aware of life’s simple pleasures. It is a lifestyle that celebrates living in the moment, finding beauty in simplicity, and nurturing ourselves and others with coziness.
In The Little Book of Hygge, Meik Wiking reminds us that, “Hygge is about an atmosphere and an experience, rather than about things. It is about being with the people we love.”
Enjoy a hygge summer!
Nancy J. Schaaf, RN, BSN, MEd, is a retired registered nurse and educator. Her articles have been published in numerous national, regional, and Canadian magazines. Nancy enjoys writing, reading, traveling, exercise classes, and playing with her toy poodle, Lettie.