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This autumn, take a cozy cue or two from Scandinavia

Three people sitting on a rock looking out over a mountain range.

Have you ever noticed that the Scandinavian countries (Norway, Denmark, Sweden) consistently rank near the top on lists of the world’s happiest countries? Even with their notably long and frigid winters, these countries seem to have found the secret to co-existing in harmony with nature and their fellow citizens. Maybe that’s part of the reason so many popular lifestyle concepts have their roots in Scandinavia.

We figured there’s no better time than now—as leaves and temperatures start to fall in much of the country—to prepare for the slower, quieter winter months. But whether you live in frigid Minnesota or sunny California, consider putting a snug Scandinavian spin on your home and life with these Nordic lifestyle philosophies.

Concept #1 – Get hygge with it 

Let’s start with the Danish idea of hygge (pronounced “hoo-gah”). Hygge roughly translates to creating a warmhearted atmosphere—the warm glow of candlelight, getting cozy with family or friends to watch a movie—and enjoying the good things in life with good people.

Hygge is about keeping things simple, comfortable and familiar while also living it up a little. Around the house, make things cozy with candles, a crackling fire in the fireplace, and soft blankets or throws. Wear your comfiest sweaters and pants with your fuzziest socks. Enjoy your favorite comfort food (another serving of chicken pot pie?) and hot drinks.

Most importantly, set aside time to enjoy your newfound coziness with the people who mean the most to you. (Disclaimer: This doesn’t just apply to cold-weather months; Danes practice hygge year-round with picnics, beach bonfires and outdoor dinner parties. As long as you keep yourself and your loved ones enveloped in that warmhearted feeling, you’re doing hygge right.)

Concept #2 – Enjoy the great friluftsliv 

Next, let’s explore the Norwegian philosophy of friluftsliv. Pronounced “free-loofs-leaf,” it translates literally to “open-air life,” or outdoor life. Friluftsliv means practicing a simple and non-disruptive life in nature and celebrating your time outdoors—regardless of age, physical condition, season or weather—so you can calm the spirit, clear the head and connect with other human beings.

Even though friluftsliv originates in Scandinavia, don’t worry—to practice it, you don’t have to ski, hike or dogsled (although if that’s what you enjoy, go for it). Activities can be as simple as picking apples, taking the dog for a walk, spending the afternoon reading in a hammock, or gathering with family and friends around a bonfire.

In the home, friluftsliv brings the outdoors inside with natural and organic materials: plants, natural woods, raw materials, etc. When you’re out exploring, look for colorful autumn leaves, twigs or berries. Find gourds and pumpkins at the farmer’s market. That way, even if you’re stuck inside during dreary or dangerous weather, you can still keep that all-important connection with nature.

Concept #3 – Find your lagom

Sweden has its own philosophy to contribute: lagom (pronounced “lah-gum”), which translates loosely to “not too much, not too little.” In other words, balance—having only what you need. Like working hard but taking breaks to relax, refresh and re-energize. Or removing things that cause you stress and replacing them with more happiness. Or finding that happy medium between being a minimalist and having too much clutter.

In your home, that doesn’t mean getting rid of everything you own. Rather, it means reducing the clutter that takes time and attention away from the important things and people—and being more intentional about what you bring into your life. It also means recognizing when things start to feel out of balance (e.g., you’re working too much or too little, you’re overwhelmed with stuff again) and when it’s time to take steps to re-balance your life or your space, so you have just the right amount of everything.

Make your own kind of cozy

As the seasons change this year, borrow the concepts of hygge, friluftsliv and lagom to banish boredom and bleakness and cozy up to the long winter ahead. Try shifting your focus—from hectic schedules to enjoying the moments; from screen time to sunshine; from cluttered spaces to a clear mind—to increase your own happiness and harmony.