Like Cassie, I deal with Seasonal Affective Disorder every year when the weather starts to cool and the days grow shorter. In addition to more traditional treatments, one of the key ways I address my symptoms is by slowing down, being kind to myself, and embracing a hygge home.
Hygge is the Danish concept of coziness and finding comfort in simple indulgences. While hygge can be experienced at any time of year, it is most commonly adopted in America as a fall or winter concept. Here’s how to find a little hygge for yourself:
Step 1: Collect all the candles.
The ultimate accessory for a true hygge experience are simple candles. According to The Little Book of Hygge, “When Danes are asked what they most associate with hygge, an overwhelming 85 percent will mention candles.” Unscented candles are the ideal, but if you have scented candles you enjoy already in your house, go for it. Otherwise, you can find unscented candles in every size and shape at big box stores, craft stores, or online. While they won’t give you exactly the same effect, if you are worried about open flames around small children or pets, you can also use LED candles.
Step 2: Bring the outdoors in.
Even if you think everything looks dull and grey outside, there are still beautiful things from nature that you can incorporate into your home. Make your own fresh greenery wreath. Arrange winter greenery and branches in a vase or on your mantle. Pull your wooden cooking utensils front and center, perhaps displaying them in a jar or ceramic crock on your counter. Fill a bowl with uncracked nuts or winter squash to use as a centerpiece (and you’ve gotta love decorations that you can put to good use and cook later). Whatever you can do to bring some nature indoors, do it.
Step 3: Gather a variety of textures.
Hygge is a very sensory experience. In addition to making everything look comfortable and welcoming, you want everything to feel comfortable and welcoming. Now is the time to pull out all your coziest blankets, especially those that have different textures—chunky knits, smooth and soft cashmere or chenille, fluffy quilts. The natural elements you brought in for step two are probably of varying textures too. Take some time to appreciate and contrast the feel of the smooth branches, rough pinecones, and soft greenery.
Step 4: Get the lighting right.
During the day, let in as much natural light as you can. But come evening, you’ll want warm lighting. I don’t mean warm as in heat, but warm as in more yellow-toned than white. Basically, you want the kind of light that a fire gives off wherever you can get it. So all those candles you gathered above are a good start. But unless you want to essentially live by candlelight, you’ll want to bring in some other lighting. If you have a fireplace, by all means, light a fire in the evenings. And if you’re due for new light bulbs in your lamps or fixtures, choose lower-temperature light bulbs (often marketed as warm or soft white bulbs) for a more hygge experience.
We also like to put “warm white” twinkle lights along the top of our bookshelves to light our reading areas and in our den for chill movie nights (hint: you can often find twinkle lights for a serious discount after Christmas).
Step 5: Create a hyggekrog.
A hyggekrog is a cozy nook or corner where you can relax and unwind in the dark winter evenings. This could be a pile of cushions on the floor, an armchair, or wherever you find comfort. Wherever it is, fill and surround your hyggekrog with everything we’ve learned about hygge so far—light some candles, switch your lamps to warmer light bulbs, and pile up your blankets.
My hyggekrog is centered around the loveseat in our bedroom. I leave twinkle lights up on top of the bookshelves a few feet away year-round, and will often light a candle or two as well. We have a fluffy pillow, an afghan my mom crocheted for me years ago, and a quilt that I sewed on the couch. It is my favorite place to sit with a mug of tea or coffee and read on fall and winter evenings.
Step 6: Dress cozy.
I live in Minnesota, so this part admittedly comes pretty easy to me—our winters get cold. When it’s chilly out and you need some comfort, the coziest clothes are the way to go. Wrap a scarf around your neck, put on a cuddly sweater, and pull on some thick socks.
Step 7: Cook comfort foods.
Cold salads and smoothies have their place, but they are much better suited to the warmer months. Instead, make yourself some simple, warming foods. On weekends, I love to cook things like roast chickens, roasted vegetables, and soups or chilis. Not only are these foods comforting to eat, but the long cook times mean that the house gets an extra dose of warmth from the oven or stove. Plus, once the food is roasting or simmering away, I can sit down with a drink and play a board game with my family or read to my kids while it cooks.
Step 8: Get together with family and friends.
So far, it probably seems like creating a hygge home is solely about making your living space feel cozy and welcoming. But there’s more to it than that. Our social relationships make a big difference to our happiness levels, especially during colder weather when everyone is a little more isolated. With that in mind, another essential part of a hygge home is to bring small groups of people together to celebrate the fall or winter.
Since we are aiming for simplicity in our hygge rituals, these social gatherings don’t need to be big and lively. Perhaps you’re inviting a few friends over to enjoy a comforting meal together, or to have some drinks and chat or do a puzzle.
My sister and I are starting a regular movie night this fall. My husband and I spend many evenings cuddled up and reading our respective books in the hyggekrog. It can be as simple as that. I’m possibly the biggest introvert there is, and yet even I notice a raise in my mood and energy levels when I can connect with people in these smaller, more intimate, ways.
Step 9: Be present and unplug.
To get the most out of your hygge experience, put down the phone and turn off the TV. With screens off, you can instead focus on being grateful for the simple indulgences of a plush blanket, a good book, or calming candlelight. You can better appreciate the smell of that roasting chicken, or the pleasure of a friend’s company, or the joy of reading to your kids. The internet will be there tomorrow.
Step 10: Have fun and play!
Get outside whenever you can, no matter the weather (okay, maybe not when there’s a polar vortex). You could go for a walk, build a snowman, create a snow fort, or gather more winter greenery and branches to bring inside. When your cheeks are rosy and your nose is cold, come inside, change into warm, dry clothes, and get cozy. The contrast will help you appreciate your hygge home even more.
If you’d rather stay inside, try breaking out a board game to play with family or friends. Read a book (a physical book instead of an ebook, if you can) in your hyggekrog. Flip through photo albums or that beautiful coffee table book you never really look at. Learn to cook a new recipe with your family, or try a new ingredient. Pick up a new hobby, especially if it is one you can do while cuddled up in your cozy nook.
There you have it! Ten easy ways to make a hygge home for little to no money. Sure, you could buy some fancy candles or an especially plush blanket, but you don’t have to. You probably have everything you need to get started already in your house. So go get cozy!