The Rules of Coziness

It seems we need to create a practice around everything nowadays.  Simple concepts need books to define them and classes to teach them… like meditation and mindfulness, even perfecting the art (and joy) of organization.  We need to be taken out of our busy lives to focus on what used to be common (not even really interesting) human behavior.  And now this: the art (read: rules) of being cozy. 

Hygge (pronounced: hoo-gah) is a trending lifestyle concept brought to us by the Danes (rated the happiest people on earth), and essentially perfects the art of being comfy.  Picture a raging fire in the fireplace, candles burning on tables, blankets wrapped around people drinking hot chocolate, a board game being played, and a blizzard blowing outside the window.  It’s kind of a perfect scene, isn’t it?  It makes me look forward to winter (sort of)…  But the rules don’t consist of solely being warm, they demand a mindset which includes reducing technology, relaxing, being good to oneself, embracing what your body craves (which might include mac and cheese or that large slice of chocolate cake), and surrounding yourself with loved ones.  

Does this really need to be a practice?

Ad campaigns have tapped into the Hygge money-maker worldwide.  The concept sells books, endless products (including scented candles, hot water bottles, bath salts, and blankets), gift and even vacation packages.  

While helping out Highland Hideouts (or simply HH), a lodging company in the Highlands, one of my jobs was to research hygge and see how we could bring its concept of comfort and warmth to their style, website, and brand.  Good news for HH, the Highlands emanates this concept on its own, no marketing required.  The Scots even have their own word for it: Coorie (to snuggle-up), and the Highlands is the perfect place to practice getting cozy from the sheer fact that the weather can be pretty rough (fairly often). 

Loch Morlich

Boats available on Loch Morlich

The Art of Coorie, by Gabriella Bennett, explains how the Scottish version of coziness adds a twist: embrace nature, the rugged landscape, and Scottish traditions before getting comfortable in Merino-wool socks and cozying up to a fire.  Imagine setting out for some cold-water (or ‘wild’ as they say here) swimming in one of the nearby lochs, hiking one of the 282 900+meter (3000+feet) mountains in the country, or simply stargazing on a clear night.  Afterwards, you light that fire, set out a pot of hot tea, and sit around a board game with your dearest friends.  Cold rain streams down the windows, candles flicker on shelves and tables, and warm scones are passed around with butter and jam.  Maybe in the corner, a grandmother is knitting socks next to the sheepskin rug in front of the fire.  If that’s not an ad for promoting winter in Scotland, I don’t know what is.

One of Highland Hideout’s beautiful lodges.

Working for HH, I roughed it a bit sleeping on living room floors and inside ice cold trailers, but I also got to stay in some posh country homes that are ideal for this so-called practice.  But even if I didn’t get to stay in these lovely old homes, the towns in the Highlands, like Aviemore, have stores and cafes that radiate warmth and comfort.  

One outdoor shop in particular, Cairngorm Mountain Sports, has everything you’d expect for hiking, skiing, mountain climbing, etc., but on one side of the store, it has an adventure book collection, a comfortable couch, and a large wood-burning stove pumping out a steady flow of heat.  Why doesn’t every outdoor shop have a living room set-up?  I found myself relaxed on the couch, absorbed in a book on clouds, and then in one on Scottish Bothies, and in another on British mountaineers before I looked up and realized hours had passed by.  (Maybe that’s why not every outdoor shop has this…)

I graduated from the couch up the spiral staircase to the Mountain Cafe, a Kiwi-owned cafe and lunch spot with ridiculously good desserts and coffee.  From the second story of the cafe, you can see the Strathspey Railroad (1800’s era) steam train arriving, people enjoying their tea and biscuits in the lounge cars, the main cross-country train, ScotRail, flying by, and the mountains surrounded by clouds in the distance- all while safely behind a steamed-up window.

As much as I laugh at these marketing trends and demands to perfect simple acts of humanness, I do have to admit that photos of candles flickering, blankets liberally dispersed on laps, and steaming mugs of hot chocolate gripped in hands, makes me want to jump straight in and start scheduling regular Coorie sessions on my calendar.  So if you happen to be looking for the perfect place to Hygge or Coorie with family and friends (for your new practice and all…), the Scottish Highlands is a great place to start.