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How the Danish Art of Hygge Can Help Us Survive . . . Better

You’ve probably heard the term Hygge in the last year as it has surged in American popularity. Hygge (pronounced “HUE-gah”) cannot be translated using a single word. Instead, it combines many of the everyday pleasures we think of when simply enjoying life. It’s relaxing with friends, enjoying good, homemade food and feeling warmth and coziness from things like candles and crackling fireplaces. You know that feeling you love when sipping coffee in your favorite socks whilst reading your favorite book as the rain comes down, tapping outside your window? That’s hygge.

Thankfully we don’t need to learn “how to” Hygge. We already know how! And it doesn’t require you to buy anything you don’t already have – although there are plenty of books you can buy on the topic, you probably already have everything it takes right at your fingertips.


When surviving the dark hours of our life, whether the actual winter or the proverbial one, Hygge can help us tackle it. The underbelly of life with, and after, cancer can be cold, dark and mundane. We often live in a cycle of scan, treat, repeat – wait and worry. Even those who are NED (no evidence of disease) live from appointment to appointment wondering if they are still safe from cancer’s reach. Surviving is hard, yes, but if we can find ways to break up the monotony and isolation of these cold winter periods of the year and our lives – then we CAN and DO feel better. If we can harness sensations of comfort, connectedness and joy – even in moments – we can improve the way we live. We can cultivate and embrace safety and wellbeing. We can survive …better.

Cozy. Happiness. Contentment. Familiar. Kinship. Comfort. Simplicity. Contentedness. Charming. Security. Wellness.

Honestly, don’t these words make you feel good? Just the sound, and sensation you get when you read them is essentially – goodness and comfort.

What if we made cancer treatment centers more Hygge (I called it – just saying)? Consider taking things with you to your treatment to create your own Hygge atmosphere. Soft socks, slippers, comfy blanket, your favorite coffee or tea drink. You can even use headphones and listen to fire, rain or whichever comforting sound you like via apps on your phone like Rain Sounds. If you’re home, recovering – even better. Home is automatically likely to support Hygge. Invite your friends/family to come over and cook something yummy and sit and share it with you. Watch a movie. Curl up with your cat or dog. Grab your yoga pants, oversized sweater, and submerge yourself in all things Hygge and pave your way to a feeling of wellbeing.

I’m not saying we can will away (Hygge away) pain, challenging (downright shitty) bad days, side-effects, or even our cancer itself by wearing socks and drinking hot cocoa. I’m saying we have the tools to help us cope, live better lives, to recover better, to escape our difficult realities for a moment or several moments, by creating an environment that FEELS GOOD. Even temporary escapes provide relief and who doesn’t want to feel relief, comfort, joy and safe? Who doesn’t want to feel well?

The Basics


Effortless rituals encourage us subconsciously to slow down, live in the moment, take it all in, enjoy the little things and connect. They support a psychological state of wellbeing. Rituals like brewing tea, drawing a bath, knitting, sitting in your favorite chair and reading or journaling. Even just making the same weekly trip to the same bakery supports an atmosphere of comfort (safety).


Illuminate your space (candles, fire). Literally shine a light in the dark. Local and low light provides warmth vs. harsh, bright overhead light. Candle light also has a way of representing simplicity, hope, mysticism and peace. They are very symbolic of ritual. We equate fire with warmth, safety and protection and even food. Fire was a critical part of our evolution and remains hard wired in our being. Flames from both candles and fire captivate us, helping us remain present as we watch, mesmerized by their dancing movements and unpredictability.


Think homemade. Think warm. Think comfort. Soup, baked goods, and hot drinks are all excellent at creating a feeling of Hygge. Fast food will not cut it. Eating in a restaurant will not cut it. We’re talking your grandmother’s chicken and dumpling recipe, apple crisp and your favorite brewed coffee or tea. Hygge is also about simple – yet not limiting. So if you want the extra slice of cake, enjoy it!

People & Pets

Isolation takes a toll on us. Gathering is part of Hygge. Being together allows for connection, sharing, commonness. Familiar is safe and good. Invite your friends/family over to share in a homemade meal, work on a puzzle, watch a movie together, play, commune and connect to your most favorite people. Don’t forget that our biggest supporters and often most comforting pals are our furry friends. Spend time cuddling, petting, talking to and bonding with them is known to improve our quality of life.


Nature provides limitless distraction and commands focus. Tuning into the sights and sounds of your surroundings helps to shift and redirect your focus from thoughts, worries, fears, stresses to what is immediately happening around you. Being in nature demands that we remain present and suddenly all of our senses are activated and we are literally lost in the process (our minds are free).


Sorry, your phone is not conducive to Hygge. But technology can help you create a sense of Hygge. Netflix it up in your favorite flannel pjs. Ask Alexa to play rain sounds or roaring fires while you prep your favorite cold weather soup. Don’t have an actual fireplace but you want more than just the sound?  Amazon Fire TV has plenty of living fireplace screensavers you can activate. Consider inviting friends to watch movies with you since one of the themes of Hygge is togetherness (kinship).


  • A creative introvert who mistakenly thought she was an extrovert. A seeker of sorts and purveyor of "me toos". When she's not writing - she's loving on her peeps and furbabies. Friendship, nature and a good antidepressant are her lifesavers.

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