Cultivating Hygge

Mountain stream and road in Senja Norway

January 19, 2024

I’m Amanda.
The AWH Guide to all things health. With two doctorates and a background in healthcare I provide recommendations you can trust. 
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In 2018, my sister and I took a spontaneous trip to Northern Norway to see the Northern Lights. We both were in need of respite – I was coming off of a break-up, and my sister had just finished guiding her family through an arduous cancer journey. In three weeks we booked flights, found a hotel on a remote island and trekked off for an adventure. While we thought the goal of our trip was to see the Northern Lights (which we were blessed to experience), what we learned instead created life long change. 

Our trip started in Senja, the second largest island in Norway. The island is full of fjords, Arctic beaches, rugged mountains, and some of the most picturesque scenery I have ever experienced. We visited during October, the nights were long, and the days short. However, the people had a resounding happiness. Even in this isolated, “off the grid” location, a true, inner happiness and joy radiated off of everyone we met. This happiness extended into Tromso, one of the most northern cities in Norway. 

We asked the same question of everyone – how do you find happiness in an environment that is dark half of the year? The resounding response was universal – winter was often their favorite season. It was a time focused on cultivating warm, meaningful experiences with friends and family. A time of invitation, of closeness. Of enjoying the twinkle of candlelight, the crackling of a fire, the intimacy of a shared meal in your home. Inviting. Belonging.

Upon returning, I researched this point further and discovered that 4 out of the top 5 happiest countries in the world are consistently Scandinavian. Webster defines hygge as “invoking or fostering a sense of coziness, contentment, or well-being.” While there are a plethora of books describing how to achieve hygge, most of the Scandinavian’s I have met would argue it is much more simple. In fact, that is the root word. Simplicity

Create a warm, invite space.

Savor moments with others.


Turn off overhead lights and instead use soft warm lamps, or even better light a candle.

Light a fire.

Stop. Be still.

Eat comfort foods.

Sip warm beverages.

Dress comfortably.

Be cozy!

In the busyness of the season it is easy to view winter with negativity (perhaps I am writing to those in who experience a cooler winter, but the principles apply to snowbirds as well). To view this beautiful season as cold, damp, isolating, lonely. Instead, I encourage you to discover a bring a little inner-Scandanivian into your life. To reframe winter into a welcoming, inviting season. Attempt to cultivate an environment of hygge. I can guarantee you it will create a mood shift, even if subtle. From my perspective, cultivating hygge has permeated into all seasons, and areas, of my life. 

What started as a “simple” sister getaway, turned into simply, so much more … 

Stay cozy!

in good health,
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