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With endless gray days and perpetual piles of snow, making the best of winter can seem a monumental task. But Scandinavians seem to have it figured out. They live in line with the idea of “hygge,” a Danish/Norwegian word that loosely translates to a feeling of coziness.
The first things that comes to mind when Americans think of “cozy” typically include soft blankets, warm slippers, and a roaring fire (or scented candles, in a pinch). But while all of those items play a role in the concept of “hygge,” that’s not all it’s about.
What typically gets lost in translation is the fact that hygge also revolves around kinship, nature and simplicity. “In essence, the world of Nordic hygge is about getting back to basics, prioritizing what’s important, and simplifying your life,” explains Signe Johansen, author of "How to Hygge: Nordic Secrets to a Happy Life."
In Nordic culture, hygge has just as much to do with getting out into nature as it does with getting cozy on the couch. “What is distinctively Nordic is the freedom to roam in nature at any time of year, a right that is considered sacrosanct across the region,” Johansen writes. In their philosophy, there’s no such thing as bad weather — only bad clothing. (Learn more about how to dress for winter weather here.)
They consider time spent outdoors to have profound therapeutic benefits. In fact, it’s one of three keys to the Norwegian way of life, along with “cabin porn” and an addiction to coffee, Johansen explains. The hygge lifestyle also centers on conviviality. Spending time with family, friends and loved ones (preferably around a fire or a candlelit dinner table, of course) is another crucial element of hygge that often gets overlooked.
Finally, Scandinavian design didn’t gain its worldwide reputation (hej, Ikea!) by accident. Their simplistic, minimalist yet comfortable style is another tenet of the hygge philosophy. First step is simplifying. Get rid of what’s not working, Johansen suggests. Try the “Konmari” method, popularized by Marie Kondo’s book, "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up": If it doesn’t “spark joy,” get rid of, sell, or donate it.
Next, bring in home design pieces that enhance the “hygge-ness” of your home. Think: soft furnishings and textiles — cozy throws, sheepskins and cushions in unusual or graphic prints; plants that bring nature’s hygge indoors; and of course, plenty of candles. “You can never have too many candles,” Johansen writes.
Bearing all of this in mind, we created a list of wonderful products that can help you build a true hygge lifestyle of your own, no matter where you live.
BETTER editors, writers and experts take care to recommend items we really like and hope you’ll enjoy! Just so you know, BETTER does have affiliate relationships. So, while every product is independently selected, if you buy something through our links, we may get a small share of the revenue.
Sorel Joan of Arctic Boots
Price: Starting at $99, Amazon
A key to actually enjoying winter — and not cursing the cold — is to invest in sturdy, comfortable boots, Johansen says. These fit the bill: With a rubber sole and waterproof construction, they’ll keep your feet warm in any weather.
Holstee Reflection Cards
Price: $20, Amazon
Looking for something more stimulating to do while sitting by a fire than watch mindless TV? With more than 100 thought-provoking questions, from ice-breakers such as “What’s your superpower?” to deeper inquiries (think: “What are two things still on your bucket list?”), this beautiful reflection card deck is sure to enhance feelings of kinship among friends and family.
IKEA Faux Sheepskin
Price: $22, Amazon
Drape this faux-sheepskin throw across a chair or couch to instantly step up the hygge factor in your home. Plus, it’s from Swedish-born IKEA — so, bonus points.
Enchanted Forest Round Candle
Price: $7.49, Target
No fireplace? A three-wick candle will do the trick. Offering fragrances of mint, lemon, fir, floral, vanilla, cedar, amber and musk, this candle is a wonderful way to cozy up any atmosphere.
Tea Forté Warming Joy Sampler Set
Price: $26, Amazon
“Fika” is an essential part of the Nordic lifestyle, which basically means taking time out of your day to drink a cup of coffee or tea with a friend or colleague. This sampler set offers a wonderful assortment of winter spiced tea varieties to warm you up, like ginger snap and winter chai.
Spy Optic Ace Goggle
Price: $130, Zappos
If you’re hitting the slopes in true Norwegian style, these stylish goggles protect your eyes from harmful short-wave blue light, while harnessing the beneficial long-wave blue light. Plus, the “Happy Lens” technology enhances the vibrancy of colors, potentially boosting your mood on the dreariest winter days.
Fair Isle Sweater
Price: $30, Target
Pull on this classic crewneck sweater for an instant dose of cozy. The neutral color and geometric pattern align perfectly with hygge design.
150 Best Cottage and Cabin Ideas
Price: $19, Amazon
Whether or not you’re ready for a quiet existence deep in the woods, you’ll enjoy flipping through the pages of this gorgeous book for hygge-home inspiration.
Price: $24, Zappos
Made from high-quality merino wool, these socks will keep your feet cozy and warm, but never sweaty. They’re great for wearing around the house or in front of the fire, as well as outside under boots.
H. Gillerman True Relaxation Essential Oil
Price: $48, Amazon
Having a hard time relaxing? This organic essential oil contains lavender, vetiver, mandarin, and other oils that are proven to help calm the nervous system and help you truly get “hygge” with it.
Fleece Bootie Slippers
Price: $23, Amazon
These sweet shoes are ideal for indoor or outdoor wear all winter long, with thick, fluffy fleece lining and a slip-resistant rubber sole. They’re easy to pull on and off — not that you’ll ever want to take ‘em off!
Price: $29, Etsy
Just in case you get tired of explaining what “hygge” actually means to your friends and family (or need a visual reminder to tap into the mindset), place this comfy handmade pillow on your couch to do the talking for you.
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