Reader, if you’re like me and are wracking your brain, helplessly trying to determine the correct pronunciation of that beloved Danish word, hygge — fear not!
“Hyoo-guh” is best described as the principles of comfort and coziness conducive to well-being and contentment. But more than principles, hygge is a feeling. It is a velvety hot chocolate with a loved one, or an autumnal tea by candle light, it is a warm blanket after a cold and windy walk, or a hot bath at the end of a long day.
That being said, I am not a Dane nor a hygge expert, so I understand that putting it into practice spans beyond these comforting vignettes. To do so effectively, you must create your perfect environment. However, do not feel stifled by a small room in halls or a manky shared flat, practicing hygge will not be stunted by your flatmates’ inability to wash their dishes! This is because our environment stretches beyond our rooms. The town of St Andrews itself is a wonderful vehicle for implementing hygge into our daily lives.
Activities-wise, as those infamous St Andrews winter sunsets begin to encroach on autumn days, make it a mission to spend at least half an hour a day outdoors. This not only boosts serotonin, but can help align your circadian rhythm. To be content requires you to be present and well-rested.
We are incredibly fortunate to have a myriad of inviting nature walks at our fingertips — from Lade Braes to the Fife Coastal Path. Taking a daily opportunity to be appreciative of the world around you, even if it is just on your morning walk-into-town, will help you in achieving your hygge goals.
In approaching uni work, the dark and daunting nights of the first semester can make it easy to get lost in a sea of anxiety over assignments and exams. Yet, when practicing hygge we are encouraged to approach school in the same way we are encouraged to approach life — with comfort and pacifism.
To avoid feeling overwhelmed with uni work, make it a mission to implement cosy study spots into your routine. Whilst it is easy to default to the bright light, brutalist Main Library, spice up your studying with warm and aesthetically pleasing spaces such as King James Library or the Byre. Or take your studying to a cafe; working in Spoiled Life or Zest is a sure way to make you feel both productive and snug.
The music we listen to while studying can equally impact our well-being. Though it's easy to get lost in sad-girl autumn music, listening to ‘All Too Well (10 Minute Version)’ on repeat, these small choices can hinder us from practicing hygge. To feel completely cosy and content, consider swapping the sonorously sad ballads of Red (Taylor’s Version) and try some autumnal jazz or, my personal favorite, the Little Women soundtrack.
Considering food, cultivating a cozy lifestyle ultimately boils down to some of our most overlooked decisions. Choosing comforting and nourishing foods is one of the best ways to easily implement hygge into your daily life.
Warm soups and mugs of tea are a must. But don’t let this deter you from hot chocolates and pastries — the ‘little treat’ mentality is equally important. Stop by Taste before your morning library session, and treat yourself to a mocha and cinnamon bun. Further, use food as a way to connect with friends and family. Take the time to plan an autumnal potluck dinner party with your flatmates, cherishing the memories made amidst the stressful semester.
In introducing hygge to your home, whilst our environment spans far beyond our individual living situation, it is still important to make our bedrooms or flats as cozy as we can. This does not need to be elaborate; some candles and a warm throw blanket can make a world of difference. I suggest taking advantage of the many candle outlets within St Andrews — from the more obvious Isle of Skye to the mini candles scattered throughout Embrace Life. There are options for any budget!
Ultimately, despite all these suggestions, the secret to Danish happiness is practicing contentment. Hygge can only be achieved when we stop comparing ourselves to others. Whilst we may flock towards the aesthetically pleasing, remember that true comfort comes from within, and without having the proper mindset, hygge will never work.
Illustration by Magdalena Yiacoumi