Hygge: More Than a Lifestyle Trend
Winter is the most hygge time of year. It is the warmth from candles, and thick wool socks, softer bodies, toasted pastries, rugs underfoot, mint tea, and if you're lucky, the unmistakable smell of burning wood. 'Hygge has been translated as everything from the art of creating intimacy to cosiness of the soul to taking pleasure from the presence of soothing things. My personal favorite is cocoa by candlelight...' states Anna Altman's article "The Year of Hygge".
Hygge is a distinct feeling that is magically bestowed in both the most solitary of moments and when surrounded by close souls. We see every retailer try to market to it, "it's winter cuddle up" urges a social media campaign. The truth is, the accessories to Hygge are more than just a category opportunity, they are a true moment of human connection. Where we all recognize the feeling we are seeking and when the product serves an invaluable purpose.
Meik Wiking is the CEO of the Copenhagen based Happiness Research Institute , a magical think tank that exists and whose great work we'll dive into it in our next post. Meik has spent years studying the magic of Danish life. In his beautiful, inspiring new text The little Book of Hygge he offers a manifesto to hygge: from picking the right lighting and planning a dinner party through to creating an emergency hygge kit and even how to dress. He is relentlessly committed to finding out what makes people happy and has concluded that hygge is the magic ingredient that makes Danes the happiest nation in the world.
This past December The New Yorker defined this fluid term in Anna Altman's article "The Year of Hygge", stating "Hygge can be used as a noun, adjective, verb, or compound noun, like hyggebukser, otherwise known as that shlubby pair of pants you would never wear in public but secretly treasure. Hygge can be found in a bakery and in the dry heat of a sauna in winter, surrounded by your naked neighbors. It’s wholesome and nourishing, like porridge; Danish doctors recommend “tea and hygge” as a cure for the common cold. It’s possible to hygge alone, wrapped in a flannel blanket with a cup of tea, but the true expression of hygge is joining with loved ones in a relaxed and intimate atmosphere.
She accurately points out that Americans are late to table when it comes to hygge, as we are with many Scandinavian pursuits including but not limited to; free university education, social security, universal health care, efficient infrastructure, paid family leave, and at least a month of vacation a year.
With Meik's hygge manifesto we have an open toolkit for developing not only a deeper bond with ourselves, our friends and our families but also our customers. Are there ways we can use his thoughtful observations to create intimate retail environments that invoke a sense of comfort and familiarity ?
One of the most relevant Hygge tips he offers to our line of work is How to Buy?
"Link purchases with good experiences. I had saved money for a new favorite chair but waited until i had published my new book to get it. That way the chair reminded me of something that was an important accomplishment for me. We can apply that same concept to a special sweater or that pair of nice woolen socks. Save for them - but wait until you have that hyggelig experience : you want to be reminded of it when you pull them on."
Is there a way the retail experience itself can become the "good experience" he's speaking of? A joyful memory in and of in itself.
Here are Meik's top tools to invoking a sense of Hygge
1. Atmosphere (turn down the lights)
2. Presence (the infamous "be here now", turn off the phones)
3. Pleasure (a sense of delight, of discovery and permission to enjoy)
4. Equality (we over me, share the tasks and the airtime)
5. Gratitude (take it in, this might be as good as it gets)
6. Harmony (our sense of peace is inextricably intertwined)
7. Comfort ( get comfy, take a break, its all about relaxation)
8. Truce (no drama, let's shelf the politics)
9. Togetherness ( build relationships and narratives, ask questions)
10. Shelter ( this is your tribe, this is a place of safety and security)