Could a little hygge make you happier and healthier?

It’s a Danish concept that’s been spreading all over the world, but what – exactly – is hygge? Should you try it, and what are the health perks, if you do?

In Denmark, people are happy.

In fact, according to the latest World Happiness Report, Denmark is the second happiest country on the globe, a spot it has retained for much of the report’s decade-long history.

One explanation for all that happiness is something called hygge.

Pronounced “hoo-gah”, it’s been described as everything from a sense of “comfort, cosiness and warmth” to being “protected from the outside world”.

But according to official sources, hygge is consciously taking time out from the daily hustle and bustle to relax and enjoy life’s quieter pleasures with the people you care about or by yourself.

In a nutshell, it’s an opportunity to unwind and take things slow.

Is hygge good for you?

The happiness hygge has been credited with delivering certainly is, with research showing that happy people enjoy everything from better wellbeing to some protection against dementia.

They tend to live longer, too.

The sense of slow living that hygge encourages also acts as an antidote to “busy”, a way of life that research confirms negatively affects mood and sleep quality, and bumps up the risk of a range of health problems.

And the activities and behaviours that can help you hygge also come with their own health benefits.

Best ways to hygge

While the Danes don’t abandon hygge during summer, winter is the concept’s prime time.

Australia’s coldest season isn’t as dark or frosty as a typical Northern-hemisphere winter, but there’s plenty of opportunity to hygge over the next few months, starting with these suggestions, which can be used all year ‘round.

Enjoy home-cooked meals with loved ones.

Sharing meals is a hallmark of hygge for good reason – research confirms that the more people eat with others, the more likely they are to feel happy and satisfied with their lives.

Plus, according to the results of a recent Spanish study, meals that encourage conversation are also one of the reasons the Mediterranean diet has been identified as being so healthy.

“A healthy diet is not just what we eat, but also how we eat it,” the study’s author Professor Anna Bach-Faig says.

“It’s a cultural model which includes how these foods are selected, produced, processed and consumed.”

Start doing everyday things mindfully.

In an ideal hygge world, time would only be spent doing relaxing, enjoyable things in pursuit of that taking-time-out feeling.

But the good news is you can turn everyday chores into hygge opportunities, by doing them mindfully.

A US study found that when people give even the most mundane household tasks their full attention by noticing details rather than letting their mind wander, their stress levels benefit.

Spend time in nature.

Danish winters might be cold but it’s still considered hygge to take a winter nature walk.

It makes sense when you consider that just sitting somewhere you feel connected to the great outdoors has a positive effect on mood.

Embrace the joy of missing out.

Also known as JOMO, it’s about being present and content with where you’re at in life, which is very hygge.

By committing to the other hygge-inducing things listed here, you’ll be well on your way to welcoming JOMO into your life, but it’s also important to do what you can to farewell FOMO.

A fear of missing out, FOMO has been linked to everything from difficulty sleeping to feeling constantly stressed and distracted.

Make time for meditation.

Which can be as simple as downloading an app, like Smiling Mind, finding a quiet space and getting started.

Meditation is good for you for all kinds of reasons, including the fact that as a solo pursuit, it enhances your social-emotional health, which can make those hygge-promoting dinners with friends and family even more enjoyable.

Written by Karen Fittall.