The colder, grayer season is seeping in, and with it, a potential darkening of our mood. The winter can feel bleak in any year, and that’s especially the case in this one, in which a pandemic continues to pervade our lives and keep us from what would normally be welcome outings and festive entertainments. 

If there’s a silver lining to the season though, it’s that its bleakness heightens the pleasures of getting cozy, or, as the Danes — who must weather an especially long and dark winter — call it, getting “hygge.” Hygge represents a warm, snug, relaxing atmosphere, and it’s something you can intentionally cultivate.

With all of us staying at home more this winter, there’s never been a better and more important time to add some hyggely elements to our abodes and daily routines, and below we have 8 suggestions for how to do just that. Keep in mind that the coziness of hygge is most strongly activated through contrast; that is, sitting by a crackling fire, in a comfortable pair of sweatpants, sipping a mug of cocoa feels most pleasurable . . . when it follows, say, an afternoon spent snowshoeing in the cold woods. So to best survive winter, toggle between continuing to get out for draughts of bracing fresh air, and then retiring to a domestic den which you’ve optimized for hygge-ness.

1. Candles

In my podcast interview with Meik Wiking, author of The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living, he said that putting a ton of candles in your home is the first step in building hygge, noting that Denmark uses twice as many candles as the second-most candle-consuming country in Europe.

It’s easy to understand why candles create the foundation for coziness: real fire feels primally comforting, and generates a softer and warmer light than what’s created with electric lamps. Though the flicker of a candle’s flame is small, it adds a disproportionately large amount of coziness to your home. There are endless makers of candles, and endless scents of them. But an Instagram follower recently introduced us to what has to be hygge-ist kind: WoodWick candles. As the name implies, the wick is actually made out of wood, and when lit, the candle crackles, like a real fireplace fire. The effect is genuinely soothing.

One place you may particularly want to put the unscented variety is your dinner table at mealtime. Wiking shared a story of the significant difference this addition can make:

I spoke to a Canadian a couple of years ago who had read Hygge, and because of the focus on lighting and candles in the book, he went out and he bought some [candelabras] and started to light candles for dinner at home. And him and his wife, they have three teenage sons, and when this guy, he started to light the candles, the boys, his sons, they started to tease him. ‘Dad, what’s going on with the candles? Do you want to have romantic time with Mom? Should we leave?’