With its concept of cozy and purposeful living, Hygge offers many advantages to student health and wellness.
Embracing the Danish concept of Hygge is just what international students need to decompress before the new semester. Source: Paul Morigi / Getty Images via AFP

From curing flu to cozying up winter home decor, the Danish concept of “Hygge” has dominated the lexicon of wellness in recent years. Believe it or not, hygge can be beneficial to student health if we look closer beyond surface-level cozy aesthetics that are all the rage in everyone’s Pinterest boards. 

According to Meik Wiking, the author of “The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living,” the concept is closely tied with a firm sense of social security, togetherness, a strong presence of mind, and equality. These seemingly abstract concepts are firmly rooted in a way of life that has been practised for decades. Even colleges are now teaching hygge in classrooms to promote student health and wellness.

Here we list down five reasons why hygge can greatly contribute to your wellbeing, especially if you’re studying abroad:

1. You’ll become happier

There are no two ways about it: hygge will make you happy. Even Wiking himself explains this in an interview. “I think the shortest label to put on it is ‘consciously cozy’, or ‘the art of creating intimacy’ or the ‘pursuit of everyday happiness.’”

Just look at Denmark, which is consistently ranked as one of the happiest countries in the world annually in the World Happiness Report. As a student abroad, committing to everyday happiness can be challenging when you’re missing home for the holidays, on top of shouldering responsibilities as a young adult in an unfamiliar environment and dealing with a pandemic.

Part of the overseas study experience is to enjoy what your new home has to offer. Whether you’re in a shared space in a dorm, or renting a room of your own, sprucing things up in your space is the first step towards building a sensory world cocooned in warmth to design the comfort that you need.

2. You enter a great headspace

Not only is hygge great for your physical space, but it also does wonders for your mental health. The sense of comfort and security that hygge creates can reportedly reduce cortisol levels, which are the hormones responsible for stress. After cramming for exams and hours of all-nighters writing your overdue papers, hygge is exactly what you need at the end of the Fall term.

The cold weather can be particularly harsh if you’re susceptible to seasonal affective disorders. Setting the right mood in your environment to offset the winter blues helps in restoring balance in the mind over the holidays. When the new term starts, you’ll be refreshed.

3. You will sleep better

Imagine if you’re all nestled under covers with snug pillows and warm blankets at the coldest time of the year. Add mental ease on top of that, and long hours of quality sleep is pretty much guaranteed. 

The National Sleep Foundation recommends at least seven hours of sleep each night for those aged 18 to 25 to maintain optimal student health. There is plenty of evidence showing that university students aren’t getting the restorative sleep that they need — 70 to 96% sleep fewer than eight hours on week nights.

Sleep deprivation from disrupted circadian rhythms impacts your immune system in the long run, making you susceptible to illnesses — which is something you want to avoid in a global pandemic. The holidays are the perfect time to restore your sleep cycle according to hygge.

4. Your social life will improve 

Part of the joy in hygge is forming meaningful relationships with others. As a foreign student, it’s all too easy to fall into the trap of social isolation, especially if you’re still adjusting to culture shock and are having a hard time making friends. The winter break is a good opportunity for you to reach out to make new friends and reach out to others within your community. 

5. You’ll learn to be more present 

We get it — studying in a foreign university is a huge milestone, and you’ve sacrificed so much with blood, sweat and tears to get to where you are. Being a student overseas, however, also comes with the constant pressure to perform and prove that all the efforts you’ve made to get to this point of your life are not in vain. 

Part of the study abroad package is also about learning new cultures and embarking on exciting adventures to dive into opportunities that were not available to you in your home country. Focusing solely on academic achievements can make you oblivious to the little joys that enrich your everyday life in another country. Staying in the present and appreciating the once-in-a-lifetime experience of being an overseas student will keep you grounded, instead of feeling anxious over your future.