The hygge philosophy emphasizes cozy spaces, time spent reading and relaxing, and valuing nature.
My sister gifted me a copy of Meik Wiking’s The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well after her recent trip to Denmark. As I was reading it, it struck me how many aspects of the hygge philosophy are relevant to introverts, such as reading nooks for cozy insulation and a desire to be in deep harmony with nature.
In short, hygge (pronounced hue-guh or hoo-gah) is a feeling of contentment more so than a lifestyle; it’s probably no accident that Denmark is ranked one of the top three happiest countries in the world.
As an introvert, I’ve come to the realization that the hygge philosophy is well-suited to our temperament. Here’s how.
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How the Hygge Philosophy Is Right for Introverts
1. Cozy nooks to relax and decompress in
For introverts, our environments are very important to us. We do best in calming, clutter-free areas. That said, we’re prone to creating introvert sanctuaries and “zen zones” in our homes, places that soothe us and eliminate distractions. (Our bedrooms are great for this, too!)
Danes refer to these cozy spaces as hyggerkogs. As a kid, my hyggerkogs took the form of forts beneath my family’s dining room table or basement foosball set. These days, my swinging chair functions as my hyggerkog. It’s coziest with my two cats in my lap, all of us lightly swinging next to the window with a view of the neighbor’s fluffy feline staring up at us from the balcony below.
As an introvert, what are your cozy spaces? And what sorts of hyggerkogs does your mind dream up?
Where I live, one of mine is the TreeHouse Cafe, where the smell of espresso mixes with the scent of eucalyptus inside rooms with sanded-down tree stumps for tables. A swinging bridge connects the “social room” in one tree to the “quiet room” (filled with books and hammocks) in another.
Another is the Bungalow Cafe, where patrons can sink back into teal hammocks while drinking from large mugs wrapped in seaweed. Dogs are free to roam and fans replicate the feel of a sea breeze while a soundtrack plays calming ocean waves.
According to thehyggeplanner.com, “You can live hygge in a Moroccan house, a contemporary penthouse, a cottage close to the sea, a tiny house, a small apartment that looks like a boudoir, or a fancy super modern house. Hygge is what you made out of it.”
2. Time spent in nature
As an introvert, I frequently spend time in nature. It helps rid my head of mental clutter and it returns me to my purest form. For example, here’s something I wrote while at the woods one day:
The pure and unadorned trees stretch tall and serene toward the cloud-speckled sky. Out here, I’m not comparing myself to others, nor am I anxiously wracked with FOMO — because I can’t think of a more nourishing place to be.
Cati Vanden Breul, who wrote a piece for Introvert, Dear on how nature is the perfect elixir for introverts, spoke about a study that involved dividing students between a forest and city setting. Both groups spent two nights in their respective locations. When they returned, the students sent to the woods had lower levels of cortisol — the hormone often used as a marker for stress — than those who stayed in the city. Vanden Breul writes, “Introverts can be more prone to stress, overwhelm, and mental health issues than extroverts, [for which reason] it’s even more important for us to get a healthy dose of sunshine and fresh air.”
And fellow introvert Emily Shawn wrote all about gardening for Introvert, Dear, saying, “Caring for a plant is a really wonderful way to get to feel like I’m making a difference in the world by nurturing something. It’s also relaxing just to take time to look, really look, at plants — they’re so beautiful and intricate! The succulents I keep on my desk make my work space special: I could stare at them for hours. Gardening is a fun way to recharge, and I’m always surprised and intrigued by what plants can tell me.”
3. Surrounding yourself with items made of wood
Wood creates a homey vibe. Places like Urban Acres recommend incorporating wood and other items found in nature, as “an essential part of creating a hygge environment” in an introvert’s home. They go on to say: “The simple aura of these natural elements can make us feel closer to nature and bring a calming feeling to any room. Consider incorporating wood — such as wood in a fireplace, timber flooring, or a wooden chair — into your living quarters. Plants, leaves, nuts, and twigs are also commonly found in Danish homes.”
Wooden hygge spots ideal for introverts abound across my state of California. On the way up to Eureka, a town in northern California’s Humboldt County, a gargantuan tree lays toppled off to the side of the road. A closer look will show you that it’s been carved out and converted into a mini museum. Once inside, the wooden floor creaks as you walk past wooden tables and forest-green comforters tucked into twin beds. Books with names like Mind Siege and Building Better English line the shelves.
Similarly, stepping inside Arcata’s Finnish Hot Tubs Cafe — where all the walls, tables, and floors are made from wood — feels like entering the inside of a spacious tree. Wooden train tracks circle the ceilings above your head while a ukulele hangs from the ceiling. Out back, a garden blooms and Jacuzzis bubble, steam rising from within the little wooden cabin each is contained to.
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4. Time spent with animals
The Danes love their hand-carved animals. My sister brought me a wooden cat from Denmark, and I tear up whenever I look at it. The obvious heart and care that went into making it move me. She got my parents two charming wooden birds (“soulmates”).
Many introverts I’ve talked to recall a bond with a stuffed animal from their childhood, too. Mine was Pipo, a small grey monkey with red-and-white-striped overalls. From the age of five, I took Pipo everywhere. He was a constant in my childhood; he was my bestie and adventure buddy. He’d sit docile at my side on the wooden bench while I read books at recess, he’d come with me for spins on the tire swing, and I’d throw him into the air and let the tree branches catch him, so as to reunite him with his natural habitat (at times).
Over time, Pipo grew worn and endearingly shabby, and my love for him stayed strong. The day I lost him, I felt like a body part had been ripped from me. Do you have your own Pipo?
If you don’t have a Pipo from childhood, you may have a pet, as animals are often an introvert’s best friend. They’re there for us unconditionally, and even spending quiet time in their presence has a soothing, magical effect on us.
5. Reading, which increases calm
In his hygge book, Wiking writes, “Taking a break with a good book is a cornerstone in the concept of Hygge. The genre does not matter — romance, sci-fi, cookbooks, or even horror stories are welcome on the shelves.”
You’d be hard-pressed to find an introvert who doesn’t encounter comfort through books. In her Introvert, Dear article on reading, Sarah-Mae McCullough writes about how she always carries around whatever novel she is reading — and pulls it out quietly whenever she has a spare moment. She writes, “Waiting for the bus, between classes, even in the bathroom. I probably heard the question, ‘What are you reading?’ even more than the dreaded, ‘Why are you so quiet?’”
As a kid, I left the library with a book stack so tall it covered my face. I relished my school’s “reading zones,” showing up to class in my grey-and-red airplane PJs and a giant bag of popcorn. Other times, I spent all morning reading books in bed.
I’ve found you don’t get that same, “You’re real, I can hold you” experience with TV. It may be a treat for the eyes, or a vacation for the mind and senses, but it doesn’t let you play around with different words. Reading gives your mind a chance to feel the book’s texture the way you hold onto pebbles at the beach, your hands awake to different textures and sensations.
According to McCullough (and research), “Reading increases empathy and lowers stress levels, among other benefits. Subjects reading passages describing smells or textures engaged their sensory cortex, while those reading about physical movements activated their motor cortex. Emotions can also be transplanted from the pages of a book into our brains. When we enter a character’s perspective and identify with their desires and struggles, we’re practicing empathy and gaining greater insight into human nature.”
6. Play, which is not just for kids
It’s part of hygge to embrace fun for fun’s sake. So play! This is increasingly important in a world where productivity and career advancement seem to take center-stage over other aspects of life that are equally important.
Jillian Rae-Picco, in an article for Introvert, Dear on how introverts can reconnect with their inner child, writes, “When we ignore our inner child, we reject the parts of ourselves that represent our core identity and innate strengths. Our child self is who we were before we were prone to overthink about how we could fit in with society’s (and other’s) expectations — or at least what we perceived those expectations to be.”
Ways I do this are by seeking places that coax a childlike-wonder from me. One such place is The Lighthouse Bar & Grill in the California River Delta, where kids bounce on a water trampoline, others shoot down a slide on a waterslide, and bar-goers jump from the orange-red roof of the restaurant-bar into the marshy water.
Ask yourself: How do you embrace play in your day-to-day life?
Remember, however you embrace the hygge philosophy, comfort is the name of the game (especially as the overstimulating holidays come our way).
You might like:
- 4 Ways Embracing Hygge All Year Round Has Changed My Life
- How to Create an ‘Introvert Zen Zone’ in Your Home
- Why Introverts Retreat to Their Bedrooms
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