“Being with other people is a key part of hygge but, as a happiness researcher I can also testify that it might be the most important ingredient to happiness.”
Sorry introverts but it sounds like it is time to start socialising. It’s time for chapter three on our ‘hygge’ journey and today we are talking about togetherness. That’s the title of the chapter, and this one comes with a warning. There is or can be at least a dark side to hygge. But we will look at that later.
But first, togetherness. It’s time to get together with all those we love; winter nights are cold and bitter, and the sun disappears from the sky before we have even left the building after a day of work. The sky no longer offers natural sunlight, we can take our joy from the warmth of the sun on our faces after a long day of work. Lazy days spent walking through parks on our own, become less common.
And so, it’s time to bring some emotional sunlight into our souls, since we can no longer rely on the sky to do that for us.
According to chapter three of ‘The Little Book of Hygge’, the way to do this is to socialise with friends, which makes sense. Apparently, 78% of Danes gather together with friends at least once a week to socialise, this is why they are so happy.
Of course, it’s not just any kind of socialising, this is hygge so it’s a little bit more specific. While getting together with a group of friends to go rock climbing is fun, it’s not cosy and comfortable so it doesn’t really count as hygge. Unless of course you dim the lights and cover the climbing floor in candles. But that sounds like a pretty dangerous fire and safety hazard…
No hygge is about relaxing get-togethers. While we might not be heading to the local gym to do this, it doesn’t have to be limited purely to someone's home. It could be a warm local pub, somewhere with dark wooden beams, rustic charm and live music playing in a corner. Not dead but with just enough of a calm buzz to fill your soul with joy.
Or perhaps it’s a cafe or restaurant. Low lighting is important again we learnt that last week, but it shouldn’t be busy. It needs to be the kind of place where no waiter is going to try rush you out of the door the moment you have finished eating in order to free up a table. If you have to queue to get in, then the restaurant is not hygge, it’s probably an excellent restaurant but not right for the theme of the night. Hygge is for finding the hidden gems, the quiet moments on busy streets.
How you interact is also important. Author Meik Wiking is adamant that in hygge gatherings everyone must be equal. No one should dominate the conversation, instead it is a place for gentle conversation, laughter and stillness. What’s the optimum number of people? Two to four, though up to ten isn’t too bad.
But it seems to be true, the fewer people the better. I threw a party last year (I know so exciting) and while the party was a lot of fun the best moment came once the crowds had departed. We were left with just eight of us, and after having a quick clean-up, we took the sofas, pulling them together.
With just the light of a few candles we sat and slowly and sleepily talked. Soft music played in the background, a little bit of Birdy and Hozier to add to the mood. And on that freezing January night the room seemed to be lit by the warmth of our souls.
But what is this dark side that I mentioned earlier. Well according to Meik Wiking it is that hygge is more easily achieved with people you know. Which means that it can be hard for new people to break into friendship circles. Apparently, the upside of this is that once ‘you are in, you’re in.” But that doesn’t mean it’s not very lonely trying to get ‘in’. So, I suppose there is always room for improvement.
Personally, I have found hygge like moments have helped me grow friendships. So, I might break the hygge rules and invite some new acquaintances over because winter is depressing enough without feeling lonely too.
And what about introverts? With small friendship groups rather than big crowds this is the preferred way to socialise. Between the books, candles and cosiness it sounds like introverts are probably the perfect candidates for hygge.