The Little Book of Hygge - Talent Folks' Book Brief

If you follow the Talent Folks' Book Brief series, then you know I like to bring you a few digestible points from leadership and business books that you can apply to your good work in Talent Development. This Book Brief, however, is not so much about concepts that you can apply to your Talent Dev work, but more about a concept that you can apply to you.

It's about a concept that calls for us to slow down and appreciate the moment. It's been a crazy, unpredictable, longer-than-we'd prefer kind of year. My call to action to you now is to take advantage of the holidays to make space for rest and down time. The coronaverse is still here. We are tired of it, but even with pandemic fatigue, we need to be wary and safe.

I finally got around to reading The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living by Meik Wiking. It's been on my TBR list for a while.


What drew me to it this season is the need for a little comforting hygge. As your non-doctor, I'm prescribing us all a hearty does of hygge these next few weeks. Work has been stressful, I'm sure. School has been stressful, and often, the holidays are stressful. After reading this Book Brief, I hope that you are empowered to set aside a few hyggelig moments for yourself and your loved ones.




Huh? Hoo-gah, what?

Hygge is fabulous concept that finds its contemporary roots in Danish culture. According to Wiking, they didn't come up with it, but they have certainly made the most of it (location 505*).

*locations because I read this book on the Kindle and it doesn't denote page numbers

The site hyggehouse.com shares that "Hygge (pronounced hue-guh not hoo-gah) is a Danish word used when acknowledging a feeling or moment, whether alone or with friends, at home or out, ordinary or extraordinary as cosy, charming or special."

Meik Wiking shares in his book,

"Hygge is about an atmosphere and an experience, rather than about things. It is about being with the people we love. A feeling of home. A feeling that we are safe, that we are shielded from the world and allow ourselves to let our guard down" (location 195).

I love the concept of hygge. I didn't realize the full meaning until after reading The Little Book of Hygge, but now - full-on hygge fan. And maybe I'll irritate you as I am now on a continual quest for hyggestund (meaning: a moment of hygge), and will encourage you to find your own hyggestund.


Holiday Hyggestund

In this Book Brief I'd like to share with you suggestions Wiking offers to support a very hyggelig holiday. You need one. You've been juggling work and in a stressful, remote environment. Likely also juggling school, care of family members, concern for those in your tribe and a myriad of other worries courtesy of COVID. Please, give yourself and us the best gift of all: take care of you. Really, I can't think of a better manner to wrap up the year than with a hyggelig holiday that creates cozy space for us to refresh before a new year is upon us.


Hygge Manifesto

In addition to the encouragement to take a hygge moment for yourself to refresh over the holiday, there are elements of hygge that we can bring to the everyday.

Here are three elements of the "Hygge Manifesto" that Wiking shares in his book. Please note: not sure all Danes would agree on the manifesto, but they are 10 neat elements to creating a feeling of hygge.

Elements #9 & 4: Hygge is about togetherness and it's wonderfully inclusive

"Nobody takes center stage or dominates the conversation for long stretches of time. Equality is an important element in hygge… everybody takes part in the chores of the hyggelig evening…. Time spent with others creates an atmosphere that is warm, relaxed, down-to-earth, close, comfortable, snug and welcoming… The art of hygge is therefore also the art of expanding your comfort zone to include other people" (location 589).

This year, you are likely making intimate holiday plans with those in your household. A perfect time for a cozy, hygge evening with those in your tribe.

Once we are back in offices or workplaces, hopefully with some level of flexibility, remember the concept of hygge and inclusion. A World Happiness Report cites that "while basic living standards are essential for happiness, after the baseline has been met, happiness varies more with quality of human relationships than income" (location 618).

  • Check in with a colleague now - we can do that with a video chat. Just the two of you without the pressure of a "meeting." Then keep it up. If you're both in the same workspace in the future, migrate to a live coffee break. If it's a colleague working remotely while you're back in an office setting, don't forget to invite them for a coffee or watercooler break, too. Don't forget the valuable lessons we've learned during the pandemic.

  • In meetings you lead, ensure everyone has a chance to weigh in and have a say. Allow for a few minutes at the beginning to hear a hello from everyone. Greet everyone warmly and ask after them. Be kind. During decision times, ensure everyone has a chance to weigh-in and provide input.

Element #3: Hygge is the pleasure of a cozy cup of cocoa or bowl of soup

There's a good bit of Wiking's book dedicated to the delight of food, especially cakes and hot drinks, under the guise of being kind to yourself…

"giving yourself a treat, and giving yourself, and each other, a break from the demands of healthy living. Sweets are hyggelige. Cake is hyggeligt. Coffee or hot chocolate are hyggelight, too. Carrot sticks, not so much" (location 714).

But be mindful, because too much cake is not hyggeligt… due to stomachaches (location 814).

I will confess to living under the state of too much hyggelig a lot. I do like to eat and especially during the holidays when sweets are warm and cozy.

Wiking goes on to explain that while delicious food is a part of the hygge emotion, it's more about enjoying the process and the joy in preparing a delicious meal that brings pleasure and value (location 818). I am not a cook, nor do I love to cook, but I get the concept. It's enjoying time with others as you fellowship during preparation and then enjoying a meal together.

Translating this to the workplace might look like brewing a delightful cup of tea or coffee with a colleague. I'm going to imagine potlucks are out the window in the future due to the cootie factor. So maybe not that, but it could be the morning pastry run or a warm box of kolaches.

Element #7: Hygge is comfortable

According to this article on Mashable, "Hygge is effortless comfort; it has no element of performance. It is absence of all pretence and worry. The word itself may defy direct translation, but you are very familiar with the concept – trust me. Had a nice dinner with a loved one in a cosy setting? Congratulations, you just had hygge. Enjoying yourself relaxing with a good book? Hygge!"

Wiking describes hygge as being inside and cozy when a storm is raging outside. I like that, and can remember feeling that. Snuggling up with a good book or movie in the safety of the house while a Texas-sized storm rages outside. It's a comfy sweater on the back of a desk chair to throw on when the office gets chilly or defying the cubicle police and bringing in a plant, cactus or bamboo plant. If you have influence on office configuration, bring in a couch or two. There's no reason we can't get comfy for the hour to work on a project or two. Or what about a lovely rich chocolate to pair with afternoon coffee to share with office buddies?

Why not comfy-up the space where we spend more than eight-hours a day? If you are working in a remote location, I bet you've made that workspace your own. No reason why you can't bring some of that comfort and personality to the workplace.

Final Thought

The final thing that I'll leave you with is that experts who write about hygge share that it is not a commercial concept - you don't go out and by it - you create it. It's an afternoon on the couch watching favorite shows with favorite people. It's a cozy nook and a good book. It's a cup of coffee in the morning. One article shares that, "if you’re even thinking too much about it – if you’re forcing it – you’re missing the point."

Let's apply that to holiday planning. At this point, if you're forcing it, relax. Make the most of the moment and enjoy it - the holidays are about each other.

And if I can leave you with one thought from Meik Wiking, it's this:

"Hygge is about giving your stressed-out achiever adult a break. Relax. Just for a little while. It is about experiencing happiness in simple pleasures and knowing that everything is going to be okay" (location 1179).

Please. Take time to refresh and refuel over the holiday. You'll feel ready to take on 2021, and your tribe will be grateful that you are well and taking on situations with your emotional intelligence intact.

Wishing you a hygge-ful** holiday.

**Made that one up.


mug, candle, pillow set by a window
courtesy of Alisa Anton on Unsplash

Endnote:

Wiking, Meik. The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living. Harper Collins. 2017.