At 23 years of age, I had never been more than a few states away from home. I sat there drinking tea with my husband, of only a few weeks, and the sweetest old lady who lived in the darwf (darwfs are what they call little towns) Telfs, a half hour outside of Innsbruck, Austria. We were 5,372 miles from home. We sat there at her dining table, chatting and drinking tea after dinner. Tea was a common occurrence in Europe. Tea with breakfast, tea with your book before lunch, tea with lunch, tea after dinner, tea before bed. “Thank heavens I like tea”, I thought to myself. As the conversation lulled, Meg, the lady we were staying with, muttered a phrase in German, “der weg ist das ziel.” I looked to Corey to translate. He was used to this look by now. He looked back at me and said, “It means ‘the journey is the destination.’” I sat there, letting them chat between themselves, mentally checking out of the conversation. As I sat there thinking about it, I fell in love with this german phrase. Although it had been lightly tossed around in conversation between friends, had become an underlining theme in my life.
Now if you really knew me, you would understand when I say that this german phrase, “der weg ist das ziel” is slightly ironic. My whole life, I’ve struggled ‘living in the now.’ I’ve always been the type of person who looks forward to the weekend, or the next planned vacation. I look forward to when a certain homework assignment is over or when I get all my chores done for the day. I love my checklist, because every scratch of the pen on that paper makes me one step closer to happiness. “I’ll be happy when.” Oh geez, just writing this makes me realize how ridiculous it is! But it’s who I am; call it hardwiring. I’m not sure what happened in my childhood to produce this thinking, but I will forever be psychoanalyzing myself for it.
I started to realize this “I’ll be happy when” way of thinking, became more frequent while serving my mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “I’ll be happy after my training is over” or “I’ll be happier with my next companion” or “Some missionary once said I’ll know what I”m doing at 6 months, so I’ll wait till then.” I wish I could remember who told me that last one, because I sure would have a lot to say to them now. I got to a certain point in my mission when I realized I was wishing for certain things in the future when I should have been content and happily living in the present. How much sweet time I had been wasting!
Being married, I’ve had to forcefully push myself out of that thinking! No, I will not suddenly be happy once he starts doing the dishes without me asking. No, I will still not be happy once he stops leaving his clothes all over the apartment. I will not be happy once he can read my mind and know what I want. I will be happy now! No matter what situation presents itself, I will not leave happiness for a later time. No more wasting time.
So these last few months, I’ve been on the search for things that help me to enjoy the journey and not just getting to the destination.
I remember the day I came across this new idea or way of life. I follow these videographers and the wife’s roots are Norwegian. They posted on their social media about how they have been trying to enjoy the most of Utah’s long winters by practicing hygge. It was like someone was listening from above when I came across hygge. It practically landed right in my lap.
Hygee (pronounced hoo-ga), is originally a Norwegian word that loosely translates as a sense of well-being, togetherness, or sense of comfort. Between 1397 and 1814, Denmark and Norway were one kingdom. Hygge showed up in Denmark in the early 1800’s. Danes today, are known as the happiest people in the world, according to European Social Surveys. This may be quite a shock to some considering that Denmark has the highest tax rates in the world and also the worst known winters. If you were to peer into any Danish home, you would see hygge there. You may be asking, how on earth can you see a sense of well-being and togetherness? Well Danes have certain things that qualify as “hygge.”
The Danish have a “hygge manifesto.” Which includes:
- Atmosphere – Turn down the lights.
- Presence – Be here now. Turn off the phones.
- Pleasure – Coffee, cakes, cookies, candy. Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!
- Equality – “We” over “me.” Share the tasks and airtime.
- Gratitude – Take it in. This might be as good as it gets.
- Harmony – It’s not a competition. We already like you. There is no need to brag about your achievements.
- Comfort – Get comfy. Take a break. It’s all about relaxation.
- Truce – No drama. Let’s discuss politics another day.
- Togetherness – Build relationships and narratives. “Do you remember the time we…?”
- Shelter – This is your tribe. This is a place of peace and security.
Honestly, they take hygge very seriously. There have been studies done at the Research of Happiness. The type of light you put into a room can add to it’s “hygge-ness.” Want instant hygge, use candles! Meik Wiking, author of The Little Book of Hygge – Danish Secrets to a Happy Living says “No recipe for hygge is complete without candles. When Danes are asked what they most associate with hygge, an overwhelming 85 percent will mention candles. Candles aren’t the only thing that add to a hygge atmosphere. Other things on the list Wiking mentions in his book are: a small group of close friends or family, sweets and cake, hot drinks, casual and comfy clothing, nature, a good book, some nice wool socks and maybe a blanket or two. Wiking calls hygge “a hug without touching.” He calls upon research done of the study of the body and oxytocin. Things such as physical touch, warmth, and fullness produce a hormone called oxytocin. This hormone helps us to feel happy, and reduces fear, stress, and pain. So things that are connected with hygge are proven to chemically make us feel happy.
Now, I have this fear. A fear of reaching my “destination,” whatever that may be, clean dishes or the end of my life, and realize I didn’t live those in between moments to the fullest because I was too concerned about the next step or next destination. What about making the most of those steps that get us to the destination? Hygge has helped me realization how I can make the most of those little moments. Me and my husband have made an effort to live the “journey, not destination” life and hygge has been a monumental change in our effort. Now you don’t have to do any big changes to fill your life with a little hygge. We merely took a few aspects from the hygge manifesto and have been slowly fitting these new, or even old forgotten, principles into our lives. Our home has suddenly acquired a lot more candles. We turn off electronic devices when together, it gives us a whole lot more time uninterrupted to have more meaningful conversations! We eat home cooked meals under candle light. You could call our evenings our “comfort shelter.” Even if it’s a short time, those few hours that me and my husband have together at night have become more about togetherness and that sense of well-being. We’ve actually made time to create those moments that bond and creating feelings of love and friendship. We still have more hygge to try in our lives, so we will have to keep you posted on the triumphs and the never try again’s! We’d love to hear what hygge things you’ve tried and your thoughts!
Hygge is native to the Danish, but hygge is for everyone. The Netherlands call it gezelligheid. Norwegian call it koselig. Canadians call it hominess. Germanys call it gemutlichkeit. Wherever you live, what kind of life you live, who you live with, all of these things can attribute to you creating hygge in your life. So what do you say? Let’s get our hygge on!