On a Friday afternoon in early October, I explored the downtown square of Grand Rapids alongside my partner Beth. We were enjoying the autumn adventure when I was captivated by The Lake + Co. Shop, with its welcoming lighting and Northwoods vibe. Walking in felt like coming home. Lighting, vibe, home - these nourishing feelings are summed up by one word, which the shop sold printed on a sweatshirt in bold font: HYGGE.
Hygge is a Danish concept which roughly describes that warm and fuzzy feeling when you're surrounded by good food and good company.
Now, I am part Dane - fifty percent if you ask my mom, but with shifting territories and permeable borders, it's impossible to know with any certainty. That said, you do not need to be Danish to practice hygge-living.
By call, I serve as a pastor here in Minnesota. While work in the church can be draining at times, it is also fulfilling to provide comfort to those in need, and model compassionate living to a wide community. A major reason I'm able to be an effective and healthy pastor is the intentional practice of hygge, which (like any practice) has taken time to grow.
I started practicing hygge when Beth and I moved to our current house, November of 2013. Our new place had amazing natural lighting, an open kitchen, a color palette to please the soul, space for my pottery studio, and room enough to build a sauna for my beloved Beth, whose
enthusiasm for the magic of steam-basking is just one dimension of her steadfast Finnish-ness.
Surrounded by three happy Goldendoodle dogs, we have arranged warmly lit areas for playing together, filling our house with yips, laughter, and the blessing of music. Cedar, eucalyptus, and other scents of essential oils waft around. We focus on making food from whole ingredients, chopping garlic and vegetables into savory stew, avoiding pre-processed culprits of sluggishness and indigestion. We try cooking feel-good dishes, often in the company of feel-good friends. The house that we've made our home says: Welcome, stay for a spell. Rest, renew. Eat good food, drink good wine. Listen to bright music. You are here. Be here, now.
Hygge also grows from the company we keep. We have created new friendships, forged new bonds with people different from us, and allowed everyone to be themselves while our wholehearted selves grow in the light of love and gratitude. These things have brought us deep and abiding peace. Hygge, for me, is living each moment fully, striving for an integrated life that balances physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, and social needs.
Hygge-living did not happen overnight. It started by identifying what brought us comfort and joy, and integrating those features into our daily patterns and structures. We also read "The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living" by Meik Wiking. I facilitated a congregational book-club on the piece, and we put it into practice. While the group met in the church, we lit candles, sat on sofas, listened to music, and shared stories - which revealed the power of feeling hygge in our bones. In a society where there seems to be a competition for the "busy" award, we carved out time to slow down, be present, and live "all in."
Hygge is a practice. Whether you hike mountains, knit scarves, fix cars, teach kids, throw pots, workout, or cook food - all that we grow from in life takes practice. My invitation to you is to create hygge somewhere in your life. When we are kind to ourselves, we can be more present with those around us. We inhabit a polarized and hyper-critical world; let's transform more places into communities that say, "welcome home."