It may look like slacking off but read on because the surprising truth is that adding a little ‘hygge’ to your day could supercharge your work. In this post, I show you how.
This might seem like a small, insignificant, perhaps even superficial topic, but following quite a bit of research I’m convinced that great wisdom underpins the quest for hygge, and that building in more hygge-inducing moments into our day is one of the smartest things we can do for ourselves and our business.
Given the media attention it’s had for the past couple of years, it’s likely this isn’t the first time you’ve heard of the concept, but the idea of introducing hygge into your workday specifically may be new to you.
Let me break it down for you so we’re all on the same page:
There’s no direct translation for the Danish cultural phenomenon ‘hygge’ (pronounced ‘hoo-gah’), but it’s commonly understood to broadly mean a feeling along the lines of cosy or content. How lovely is this: Meik Wiking, Chief Executive Officer of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen defines hygge as ‘cosiness of the soul’.
The quest for hygge is centrally focused on an experience and atmosphere, rather than tangible things. For example, the way it feels to have a midsummer night’s picnic as the sun sets at the beach with your besties, or enjoying the sound of a fire crackling by candlelight while drinking hot choccies and watching the snow falling outside with your favourite person are great examples of hygge-inducing experiences.
My Danish mate, Hans, tells me that many Danes are kind of obsessed with hygge, with people often rating which cafes are the most hygge inducing’ to visit, and how many candles are needed to create the most hygge vibe when friends are coming over for dinner, and why shouldn’t they be?
In the World Happiness Report, Denmark and neighbouring Nordic countries often come up trumps as the happiest country in the world – even though they have to suffer through long, harsh winters. Along with social equality and universal health care, the country’s philosophy of hygge is often cited as a major contributing factor to their impressive level of contentment.
So… why am I intentionally trying to introduce more hygge specifically into my workdays? Primarily because it feels damn good. After experiencing burn out earlier this year, I’m done with working myself to the bone, letting myself become a shell of the woman I want to be. I’m trying to retrain myself that feeling shitty/wrecked by work ISN’T more powerful or worthy than work that feels like play. The only person I’m racing against is myself – and the race I really want to win is the one where 1) I’m better than yesterday and 2) I have a life that feels wildly fulfilling.
Killing yourself at work doesn’t make the quality or outputs of your efforts any better, more effective, or more likely to garner results. Also – and this is a big one for me – taking a little time to make your workday more pleasurable doesn’t make you less productive. In fact, numerous studies suggest that there’s a strong link between happiness and productivity.
Importantly, I’m wising up more and more to the truth that you can’t bring forth your life’s work when you’re not taking care of yourself, valuing yourself or having fun… and even if you could, why would you want to?
The link between happiness and success/productivity at work is now supported by a mountain of empirical research, like this one from the University of Warwick’s Centre for Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy, which concluded that happier people were on average 12% more productive at work.
And of course, it just makes sense that contented, good vibes naturally impact your sense of positivity.
Shawn Achor, best selling author and today’s most pre-imminent positive psychologist with one of the most popular TED talks of all time called ‘The Happy Secret To Better Work’ (you can watch it here), describes why what he calls ‘The Happiness Advantage’ matters:
“Your brain works significantly better at positive than at negative, neutral or stressed. Every single business and educational outcome improves when we start at positive rather than waiting for a future success. Sales improve 37% cross-industry, productivity by 31%, you’re 40% more likely to receive a promotion, nearly 10 times more engaged at work, live longer, get better grades, your symptoms are less acute, and much more.” [You can read the interview here]
I mean, seriously!
It’s clear that there are real, practical, quantifiable benefits to making a little effort to keeping yourself happy at work. And for me, setting up my day and workspace so I can experience more of those hygge vibes is a fast track to feeling happier as I’m working away at kicking goals.
Here’s how I’m adding more hygge to my work days and how you can too:
It’s all about pleasure
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learnt through my experience with chronic pain is that pleasure is the antidote to pain. I’ll talk more about this soon, but for now, the key takeaway is that intentionally doing little things throughout the day that bring you pleasure IS ACTUALLY GOOD FOR YOU.
Setting the mood
Like I mentioned before, hygge is an experience. So, these days I like to take a few moments to set up my workspace for maximum cosy/comfort vibes. To do this I have:
- Thought about the lighting, and especially natural light
- Added more cosy/comfy textures – woven/velvet/leather/wool/sheepskin etc – into my office decor
- Added 5 beautiful indoor plants and have also added other nods to nature, like a few stones and petrified wood I’ve collected, into my workspace.
- A diffuser set up to waft some of my fave essential oils
- A few Spotify playlists on the ready to help me get through certain types of tasks more joyfully
Create a sanctuary
For me, experiencing hygge at work is all about creating a sanctuary workspace. I’ve set up a ‘hyggelig krog’ (that’s Danish for cosy nook!) in my office, and use this special area for reading, Zoom calls and Lives.
BTW I classify a ‘hyggelig krog’ as anything involving at least one pillow, a throw blanket and ugg boots. And I’m pretty sure my spoilt pups, Stan and Olive, classify it is any spot involving sheepskin and a sunbeam.
A big lesson for me (one I’m still learning TBH) is that it’s ok, important even, to treat yourself. Of course, treating yourself could mean something really big or expensive…. but introducing more hygge into your workday doesn’t need to be either of those things. For example, one of my favourite treats is to close the laptop for 20 minutes at about 3 pm and enjoy some fresh peppermint tea in a special mug I bought a few years ago in Japan along with a couple squares of chocolate. So reviving!
Take a fucking break
Just on that, I’m making more of an effort to take breaks throughout the day. Giving myself permission to take a few minutes to myself every hour or so definitely helps me feel the hygge vibes. I think it’s something to do with allowing myself the freedom to fully experience the timeout (rather than feeling guilty for procrastinating) AND valuing myself enough to recognise that I’m not a machine (no matter how much I enjoy my work) and am worthy of breaks.
What kind of breaks am I talking about? Lunch breaks. Time outside (even if it’s cold and windy or boiling hot). Getting away from my MacBook Pro and spending a few moments stretching. You know, easy stuff.
I’ve noticed that the more in-the-moment I am, the more well, content and fulfilled I feel. For me, I find working in line with my master schedule, working offline when I’m creating, and keeping my phone out of sight and out of reach really help me focus and generally bring more presence to my days.
Connecting with real live humans
I’m pretty introverted and can easily work all day long without talking with another human face to face. Even so, I’ve noticed that my motivation, positive vibes, clarity and happiness spikes when I connect with other people live. That’s why these days, I’m making more of an effort than ever to get together with people live.
Here are some ideas to bring this to life in your own workday: Ask for help. Organise coffee dates with cool people. Chat on the phone with a friend if you can’t catch up in real life. Stay in touch with friends and family OUTSIDE of work. Start a tradition of catching up regularly – for example, set up a standing monthly coffee date with your business besties.
Imagine if your workday incorporated all these elements. I bet just the idea makes you smile! I hope this post inspires you to think about how you can up the hygge in your work days. Like I mentioned at the top of this article, there are so many ways that being happier at work can utterly transform your life and results. This is your permission slip to give it a go!