We all know the Danish philosophy of hygge (pronounced hoo-gah), which conjures cosiness, calmness and contentment from the small things in life – a quality moment’s pause with those you love or some time for yourself curled up in your own hyggekrog or cosy corner. And there’s lagom, Sweden’s frugal doctrine of not doing too much of anything – of “just enough”, the foundation being, contentment in things being sufficient as they are. Now, though, there is a whole raft of lifestyle mantras exported from other cultures vying for that snuggly mantle of ultimate lifestyle contentment. Here are a few more to take in for the colder months.
In order to survive 24-hour stints of darkness in Winter and temperatures reaching -30 degrees Celsius, it is no surprise the Swedes have honed the art of cosy, snuggly contentedness and well-being. Enter Mys, the Swedish counterpart to the scented candles and steaming mug of hot cocoa-side of hygge, that is all about slowing down and relaxing while partaking in delicious food and drink. In fact there is a whole family of Mys to choose from such as Fredagsmys or “cosy Fridays” relaxing with a selection of sweets and crisps and taking in some TV together (sounds suspiciously like junkfood and Netflix); Frukostmys – spending time enjoying a leisurely breakfast with plentiful påtår or refills of coffee or tea; Sondagsmys – taking the time to enjoy a nice meal or a luxurious Fika (coffee with cakes, buns and biscuits); and Morgonmys – making the effort to create a calm and peaceful start to the day.
For something a little more vibey – Hygge with a touch more attitude plus alcohol – try Gezellig (pronounced heh-SELL-ick) hailing from the Netherlands, which does not have an English equivalent. Literally, it means “companionable” and is used to describe a relaxed, nice atmosphere and general togetherness but also celebration – everything from cozy to friendly, from comfortable to relaxing, and from enjoyable to gregarious. Though just about anything can be gezellig – your cozy, scented-candled home is gezellig; an evening spent with your gezellig friends is gezellig. You get the gezellig picture.
From the wilds of Scotland, you will find the Scottish answer to hygge in the concept of coorie (pronounced coor-e), which basically means to cuddle up or snuggle but has evolved to comprise important aspects of traditional Scottish living with a focus on spending time in nature in order to reconnect. Gabriella Bennet, author of The Art of Coorie describes a coorie way of life as practising “small, quiet, slow activities by engaging with our surroundings to feel happy” such as putting down our phones and embracing the outdoors, feeling useful and getting crafty.
Or you may choose to discover the sisu within you – a cultural construct, and another untranslatable word, which sums up perfectly what the people of Finland are all about. Sisu comes from a Finnish root word that implies “inner” or “inside” and is sometimes translated as “guts” or “inner strength”, which could explain the Finns’ penchant for swimming in water at sub-zero temperatures. It’s an action-oriented mindset encompassing stoic determination, grit, resilience and dignity in the face of adversity. At its core is the idea that in each of us, there is more strength than meets the eye; it reflects the dynamic process of pushing beyond one’s initial capacities in adapting positively to difficult times. While not a particularly warm and fuzzy concept, it has perhaps more universal relevance than ever in these uncertain times.
There are a bundle of philosophical principles out there, all of which have the potential to help us become more productive, contented, focused and cozied with the present in recalibrating away from that frenetic kaleidoscope of a world outside. At the very least, practising these principles in our everyday life – making them our mantra for self-care and taking stock – should give us an inkling as to why Scandinavians in particular are ranked as the happiest people in the world. So go on, come Fredagsmys, feel the sisu around you and coorie in with your gezellig friends.