At the end of the weekend, the Sunday blues always hit me. One recent Sunday night, I was struggling to keep my spirits up when I found a Pinterest post on "hygge," a Danish word that loosely translates to a cozy ambience accompanied by close friends and family.
In his book, "The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living," (William Morrow, 2017) Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute, defines hygge (pronounced "hoo-gah") in various ways: "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 [we] allow ourselves to let our guard down."
Even the Oxford English Dictionary defines hygge as "a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being." This Danish word was just added to the dictionary this year, said Alexandra Gove and Koen van Renswoude, creators of Hygge Life.
Hygge seemed befitting in that moment, as I felt a breeze blowing in through my cracked windows and smelled the refreshing scent of my burning "Storm Watch" candle. My dad was grilling outside while my mom planted her window boxes in the front yard, and I knew then that this is what hygge is about – the little things that make your heart full. Suddenly, Monday didn't seem so daunting. If anything, it was a chance for adventure. All it takes is a positive mindset and some perspective.
It's easy to maintain this attitude of comfort, well-being and security when you're home, surrounded by fresh coffee and laughter, fuzzy socks and Netflix, homemade cookies and bright flowers. But the workplace is often where one needs hygge the most. You don't want to show up to a nine-hour shift moping and feeling drowsy from lack of passion; you want to greet your co-workers with kindness and excitement for the day ahead.
Work is the perfect place to practice this piece of Danish attitude. Here are seven ways to embrace hygge at work:
1. Bring a mug from home
Having a warm beverage to sip, even on summer days, is comforting, and caffeine is a surefire way to boost your energy and keep focused on your assignments.
"Take time to enjoy a cup of coffee with a colleague and talk about non-work-related topics," said Gove and van Renswoude. "Use a coffee mug that you love in the office."
Drinking out of your favorite mug is like having a piece of home with you. Don't be afraid to get up from time to time for a refill, giving your brain a break from mundane tasks.
2. Make a relaxing work playlist
Music does wonders for the mind. Make a playlist of upbeat yet calming tunes, like acoustic songs, to get you through the workday. In his book, Wiking said, "Services like iTunes and Spotify allow you to create a hygge playlist that's up and running. I would go for something slow."
3. Spend lunch outside or take that time to unwind
When you take your lunch break, actually take a break. Don't check email, plan your next assignment or stare at your computer while eating the PB and J you packed.
If it's nice outside, get some fresh air. Depending on where you work, walk around the block to the nearest deli or enjoy your packed lunch on a bench at the park. Whatever the case, getting outdoors will help you unwind for a while, and exploring the area may lift your spirits.
4. Decorate your desk or workspace
Always have some sort of personal item decorating your space, from pictures of your family to a bouquet of tulips you bought at the farmer's market. Bring string lights to drape around your cubicle or keep plenty of tea on hand and vintage books stacked around your desk. Don't be afraid to stray from the norm (within your company's policies, of course).
"Instead of thinking of your office space as a practical, mundane space, make it a comfortable, special haven where you are inspired and productive," said Gove and van Renswoude. "If candles are allowed, light a small unscented candle at your desk just for the glow and ambience."
They also recommend making your office feel more like home with a cozy chair, artwork and sentimental items from your personal life.
5. Host a potluck with co-workers
Comfort food is the source of all things hygge, and what better way to savor home-cooked meals than with your work friends by your side taste-testing each other's dishes?
According to Jessica Joelle Alexander, co-author of "The Danish Way of Parenting" (TarcherPerigree, 2016) and co-creator of "The Danish Way" blog, friendly gatherings involving food are a Danish phenomenon.
"The idea is that eating together promotes time to hygge with your employees," Alexander said. "[It's] a place where you can connect and be in the moment and enjoy being together."
Wiking advises workers to organize a potluck day rather than bringing lunch for yourself.
"When everybody shares, everybody gets hygge," he said.
6. Do random acts of kindness for your co-workers
Whether it's bringing a box of donuts to the office or simply lending a compliment to a co-worker, you can turn someone's entire day (and your own) around just by being kind.
"Social support does help manage stress," said Iben Sandahl, Alexander's co-author and co-creator of "The Danish Way." According to Sandahl, knowing we have people who care about us makes us more resilient.
"Being vulnerable with someone [allows for] a huge distribution of the stress we carry, helping to get it off our backs," Sandahl said.
7. Embrace teamwork
Sandahl said team spirit is part of the Danish culture. From childhood, Danes work in groups and are taught to seek and/or give help in the face of adversity. They are encouraged to remain confident despite their weaknesses and humble despite their strengths.
"This spirit of teamwork and cooperation is seen in all aspects of Danish life – from the classroom to the workplace to family life," said Sandahl. "Seeing the family as a team fosters a deep sense of belonging. The same spirit [is something] you can take into the boardroom as well."
Sandahl suggests organizing more team-building activities to encourage working together, from scavenger hunts to tournaments.
Gove and van Renswoude noted that once people are aware of hygge, they suddenly realize all the small, special moments in their lives.
"Being conscious of these moments allows you to create more of them," they said. "A hygge lifestyle is not about perfection but about slowing down to truly enjoy and be content in even the smallest of moments."