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Hygge and Happiness in the Home

Hygge and Happiness in the Home by TV psychologist Emma Kenny

Hygge and Happiness in the Home by TV psychologist Emma Kenny


Date: 09/05/2017

The phrase “home is where the heart is” epitomises the way that the majority of us feel about where we live. Our homes are not simply bricks and mortar; they are the foundation and embodiment of personal sanctuary, a space where we truly feel ourselves.

Making our homes a little piece of personal perfection is actually really good for improving wellbeing and there are numerous studies that have evidenced how the way we organise and look after our homes can make us feel really positive about our personal worlds. In fact, taking time to add those extra special features can really enhance the way we feel about the spaces we inhabit, and in return enhance our lives.

The Danes have a word that embodies this sense of comfort and wellbeing, the term Hygge (pronounced ‘hooga’). This acknowledges a feeling or moment that involves taking pleasure from the presence of gentle, soothing things. When we think about the home, this sense of Hygge can be broken into four main categories: security, warmth, aesthetics and environment.

One of the things that I really connect with emotionally is my sense of security at home. In fact, in a recent survey by Everest, almost all of the 1,000 homeowners questioned said that feeling secure in their homes was important or very important to them, proving this to be our most fundamental need. Personally, I trust that my home is safe and I believe that I have taken enough measures to support this, from having an alarm fitted, to owning a huge dog and simply making sure on a daily basis that I am in control by checking that my windows and doors are locked. This ensures that I feel my home is protected, providing a secure foundation, and that really matters as it enables me to feel comfortable, even when I am away from home for periods of time.

Feeling a sense of warmth is important to me as well, and that isn’t just about having energy-efficient windows or putting the central heating on full (although my husband tends to), it’s about the emotional experience that takes place when walking into a warm, cosy room, smelling the scented candles burning and inhaling that sense of comfort that seems to coexist within such settings. It’s about curling up on my sofa and listening to the calming tones of my husband playing his piano whilst I read my books. It is that sense that in that moment, everything is exactly as it is meant to be and it feels not only physically but also emotionally warm.

Years ago, I read a piece that discussed the importance of keeping a tidy and organised home. The author estimated that people who looked after the place they lived in by keeping it clean and removing the clutter, saved around 270 hours of precious time every year. When you think about it, this makes sense; think about all those wasted minutes we spend searching for those misplaced keys. Also, when we are disorganised, we tend to feel more stressed as we feel less in control of our worlds, so creating a home that feels tranquil and clean encourages that sense of Hygge.

Whenever I consider my home, I always consider my senses, because our environment really does impact upon them. The way my couch is soft and the way my fluffy rug feels beneath my feet is pleasing on a touch level. The scents that burn from my candles mean my sense of smell is aroused and the comfy pyjamas I change into the moment I walk in from my busy day of work wraps me in a sense of physical comfort. These are all simple; little additions that make my home have that added feeling of bliss.

The best thing about this sense of Hygge is that it doesn't have to cost a huge amount of money to create it. Simply clearing the clutter from your home and investing in some scented candles, cosy cushions and comfortable clothes goes a very long way. Making sure that your home is secure so your family, possessions and sanctuary are all safe is another way of maintaining this sense of Hygge.

Finally, in our busy lives it can be really easy to take for granted all the amazing things and people that we have in our worlds. One of the ways I personally ensure that this doesn't happen involves cultivating an attitude of gratitude. I do this by ‘noticing’ constantly the simple pleasures going on around me. From the laughter that rings out from my children’s bedrooms, to the delight I feel when my dog greets me at my door, through to simply enjoying the view from my window or lying in my comfortable bed with my husband beside me. Hygge isn’t just about the environment we live in, it is about how we cultivate and appreciate the here and now, and the people who inhabit it with us.