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Embrace This Danish Trend for a Happier Life This Winter

Here's a question to ponder while you're shivering at the bus stop: How does a frost-bound country like Denmark endure long, dark winters at the edge of the Arctic Circle and still manage to top the annual World Happiness Report? It's down to a cozy concept the Danes call hygge (pronounced , with the "h" sound emphasized as though you're easing yourself into a hot tub after a long slog in the snow). Here's what it is and how to feed a happy hygge lifestyle.

Hot Mulled Wine by the Fire

Hot Mulled Wine by the Fire | Photo by Meredith

What is hygge?

You might as well get acquainted with it, because "hygge" just made the shortlist for the Oxford English Dictionary's 2016 Word of the Year. And although there's no literal Danish to English translation, hygge is about creating a deep sense of emotional well-being, happiness, warmth, and welcome. It's finding pleasure in everyday moments and practicing healthy hedonism. Perhaps most importantly, sharing food and drink with your friends is a key component of hygge.

The word itself can be used as a noun when you create hygge, a verb when you get with your friends to hygge, and an adjective when you describe something as hygge or hyggeligt.

How do you hygge?

As you might guess, wintertime—and especially Christmas—is peak season for hygge (Julehygge).  Gathering around a fire, sharing a meal, sipping hot drinks, cozying up with candles and Christmas lights...these are all essential elements of hygge.

I'll bet you're doing a lot of that already this winter. But the difference seems to be mindfulness. Slow down and pay attention to small pleasures. Let them sink in and soothe you. Treat yourself and your friends with kindness and care. Eat favorite foods without punishing yourself with guilt. Basically, cut yourself some slack already.

How about simply snuggling under a blanket and watching that show you like while snacking on something indulgent? Yes, that's hygge.

Eat, drink, and be hygge.

Candlelight Dinner with Friends

Candlelight Dinner with Friends | Photo by Meredith

Eating cozy comfort food is an ideal way to feed your hygge state of mind all day long. You can start the morning with indulgent Danish pastries or healthy hot oatmeal porridge, and wind up the day with steaming mugs of hot chocolate or spicy mulled wine, ideally by candlelight.

Danish Cinnamon Snails

Cinnamon Rolls

Cinnamon Rolls | Photo by Meredith

Cherry Almond Oatmeal

Cherry Almond Oatmeal

Cherry Almond Oatmeal | Photo by CC

Hot Chocolate

Hot Chocolate

Hot Chocolate | Photo by Meredith

Cozy Mulled Wine

Mulled Wine

Mulled Wine | Photo by Meredith

But even everyday comfort food from all over the world deserves a place on your hyggeligt-worthy menu. Share a pan of lasagna, a bowl of slow cooker stew, macaroni and cheese hot from the oven and end the night with a rich chocolate's all good and it's all hygge.

You Might Also Like

• Listen to a perfect hyggeligt moment as described on NPR by Meik Wiking, CEO of The Happiness Research Institute in Denmark and author of "The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well."

• Get a taste of Danish recipes.

• Sip the best hot cocktails for winter weather.

Follow me to more cooking tips and recipe inspiration.

Vanessa Greaves

About Vanessa Greaves

Good food, friends, and fun are always on the menu. Check out things that make me go yum: foodelicious On Instagram On Twitter @vanessa_greaves