Westerly Sun Column | Find Your Happy Place by Practicing ‘Hygge’

February 20, 2024

The library is closed today for Presidents Day, and I’m dreaming of spending all day bundled under a comfy blanket with a hot mug of coffee and new book. I say “dreaming,” because I live in a house with two small kids, so one of them would undoubtedly steal the blanket, the other would gleefully knock over my coffee, and neither would settle for anything less than my full attention. This week, I’ll actually have better luck finding that calm and content feeling at the library, where we’re spending the week celebrating “Hygge”!

If you’re not familiar with Hygge (pronounced “hyu-guh”, though I’ll always say “hig-ee” in my head), it’s a Danish term that has become something of a lifestyle for folks over the last few years. While it doesn’t have a direct English translation, it’s described as a quiet feeling of coziness and contentment that promotes general well-being. In “Hygge: The Danish Art of Happiness” by Marie Tourell Søderberg, the author notes that hygge can be experienced both alone and with others, and that it looks different for everyone. While I may find it curled up on the couch with a fire gently flickering, you may feel it when you’re enjoying a night with close friends, or cooking with a loved one.

Whatever hygge means to you, I have no doubt that you’ll find it at the library this week. Since schools are on winter recess, we have no shortage of activities to keep them content and engaged throughout the week. Stop by the Kids Room, where we’ll have a new hygge-themed craft project each day, or join the teens on Friday for drop-in tabletop games. Tweens and teens can stay busy learning how to create their own stop-motion videos, or make calming candles using herbs grown in our hydroponic garden. For my fellow parents, and other adults seeking a bit of contentment, we’ll have hot chocolate and a variety of puzzles in the Old Main Reading Room on Wednesday. If that’s not for you, perhaps wandering through the art gallery, or enjoying a book whilst sitting by the windows overlooking the park is more your style.

If you’re looking for hygge inspiration, or just want to learn more about it, we have books for you! “How to Hygge: The Nordic Secrets to a Happy Life” by Signe Johansen shows you how you can incorporate hygge into your everyday life, with recipes for comfort foods like muesli or “Ultimate Grilled Cheese,” as well as ideas for finding this feeling of warmth outdoors, even in the dead of winter. For a deeper guide to the concept, try “The Book of Hygge” by Louisa Thomsen Brits, in which she breaks down the principles of hygge, such as “comfort,” “simplicity” and “observance”. There’s much to learn, and, considering Denmark is consistently ranked as one of the “happiest” countries on earth, they may be worth learning from!

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