Episode 28: The Science of Springtime Hygge

HYH EP 28.jpg

Here in the US when we think about Hygge, we usually think about cozying up with blankets next to the fire, but hygge can be a part of our lives all year round.  In this episode, I discuss the ways that we can bring some hygge into our lives this Spring, and why hygge is scientifically a good thing.



Welcome to Hang Your Hat.  This is episode 28.  The science of Springtime Hygge.

Hygge is an integral part of Danish living that is difficult to translate into English.  The concept encompasses many of the pleasures of everyday life, like spending time with friends or family, curling up with a good book, and enjoying good food by candlelight.  It is the feeling of being comfortable, at ease, and enjoying the moment.

If you have ever come home and took a moment to enjoy being in your own space, or walked into a coffee shop and felt unaccountably comfortable, then you have experienced Hygge.  It is sitting in your favorite chair and enjoying a cup of coffee, enjoying the warmth of the sun on your bare skin, and spending time with friends late into the night because you didn’t notice the time pass.

There is no English equivalent to Hygge the concept encompasses happiness, comfort, simplicity, kinship, and contentedness.  Here in the US,  Hygge is often translated as coziness, and I think that is why I think it is so often associated with winter here.  After all, what is cozier than cuddling under a blanket next to the fireplace with a cup of hot cocoa while wearing some hand knit wool socks - in my opinion, nothing.  

It is this image of coziness that makes Hygge nearly irresistible in the winter.  If you noticed pictures of chunky knit blankets, candles, books, and large cups of coffee in your Instagram feed this winter and thought - I need to buy a candle next time I am at Target, then you know what I mean.  But here in Florida, where I live, we have cozy by the fireplace weather for about an hour and a half in January once a year.  The rest of the year, when the temperature is over 80 degrees and the humidity is nearing 100%, Heavy blankets and roaring fires seem much less appealing.  After sweating under some cozy blankets and swapping hot coffee for the iced variety this February I started wondering if this Hygge thing was really for me, or if I just lived too close to the equator for Hygge to work for me.

Then I came to an important, and obvious realization - Denmark isn’t always cold, they too have seasons, and Hygge is a part of Danish life all year, so, surely there must be some warm weather equivalent of blanket cuddling that doesn’t involve heat stroke.  

On today’s episode of Hang Your Hat I am exploring the ways that we can maintain the sense of Hygge even as the mercury rises, and why, scientifically, a Hygge home is a happy one.


After a long cold dreary winter, full of heavy blankets, thick curtains, and oppressive darkness, springtime is like a breath of fresh air, and enjoying the simple luxuries afforded by the change of the season is what Hygge is all about.

In the winter, creating a sense of Hygge in the home is all about creating a cozy cocoon into which we can retreat from the cold, but in the Spring the outside world is no longer something that we need to retreat from.  As the weather warms, take the time to enjoy the outdoors by bringing them inside.

Open the windows wide and let the fresh outdoor air in.  Not only is it a luxury to have a fresh breeze running through the house, unless you live in a really polluted area, it will probably improve your indoor air quality.  

Homes tend to be pretty airtight to protect against heat loss in the winter.  While that is great for your energy bill, it is not so great for your indoor air quality.  

During the winter we bring a lot of things into our home and do a lot of things into our homes that are bad for air quality,  like cozying up to a nice roaring fire and lighting a bunch of candles.   Unfortunately, the fireplace flue is unlikely to rid our homes of all the smoke produced by indoor fires.  The heating systems themselves can also add to indoor air pollution depending on the type - any that are relying on combustion to create heat are not going to be doing your air quality any favors.

Winter is also when we are likely to bring in decorations from the garage, attic, or basement, where it has been collecting dust and mold spores all year - also not great for indoor air quality.  

Even the furniture and textiles we buy so that our homes look great when we welcome friends and family for the holidays is libel to outgas chemicals that our lungs could do without.  

Opening the windows gives all of those pollutants an opportunity to escape, leaving the air inside cleaner.  So throw open the windows and enjoy a lungful of that sweet fresh air.

Plants are another great way to bring the outdoors inside, and they also clean indoor air.  

We are probably all familiar with a plants ability to absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen, but they can also clean the air in at least two other ways.  Like carbon dioxide plants can metabolize some toxins and release harmless byproducts.  They can also absorb toxins into their tissues sequestering them so they are no longer free in the environment.  We know this because in 1989 NASA did a study on the impacts that plants had on indoor air quality.   They were interested because the air quality in spaces with low indoor-outdoor air exchange - like space vessels - gets pretty bad pretty fast.  If NASA wanted to do long-term space habitation, they needed to find a solution.

Throughout several studies plants were found to be surprisingly good at removing toxins like benzene, formaldehyde, and other volatile organic compounds.  Some of the plants that were found to be great at filtering air were already popular house plants, like Dracaena, English Ivy, and Snake Plant (also known as Sansevieria).  My favorite houseplant, pothos (also known as Devil’s Ivy) was also on the list.  Pothos is a wonderful houseplant because it requires very little light and even less care to thrive.  I currently have a neon variety growing quite happily in my windowless bathroom.

Plants may also offer psychological benefits.  Numerous scientific studies have shown that indoor plants are positively associated with a variety of beneficial psychological outcomes, such as reduced stress, improvements in reaction time and attentiveness, and increased productivity.  They were even associated with a reduction in the amount of perceived pain.  

Before you throughout all of your anxiety and pain medication in favor of houseplants, keep in mind that these are associations rather than causations, and additional research needs to be done so that other causes for improvement can be ruled out.

While you are opening the windows and setting plants on the sill be sure to throw the curtains wide as well.  Lots of natural light important for creating a sense of Hygge in the home, it is also great for our bodies and minds, especially after the long dark winter.

During the winter I go to work in the dark and I come home in the dark and get few opportunities to spend time outside during the day.  Frankly, it's a bit depressing.  When the sky starts to lighten during my morning commute, I can almost feel happiness seeping back into me.  

That may be because scientists believe that levels of serotonin in the brain increases as the days get longer.  In other words, wintertime blues may actually be a product of too little light.  Severe cases are called Seasonal affective disorder, a type of depression.  Doctors recommend that people spend at least 30 minutes of a day out in the sunlight to combat this type of depression.

While you are out there you can also soak up some vitamin D, which is important for calcium absorption and bone growth.  Vitamin D can also help prevent certain cancers, heart disease, depression, and even weight gain.  While it is possible to take a vitamin D supplement for these benefits as well, it is unclear if supplements are as good for us as getting vitamin D from the sun.  Currently, there is an Australian study underway called the Sun Exposure and Vitamin D Supplementation Study that hopes to get the definitive answer, so keep an eye out on your favorite biomedical publication.

In episode 15 we discussed the impact of natural and artificial light on the production of melatonin and it impacts on a good night’s sleep.  The short story is if you want a really good night's sleep natural light is your friend.  

It is also your friend if you want to be more productive.  Besides just helping you be well rested, natural light was shown to improve standardized test score and even increase sales in studies.  I think part of that is simply feeling better in a space.  

One of the reasons that Scandinavian homes have that sense of serenity or Hygge is the lack of superfluous stuff.

In Episode 8:  Wax on Wax Off, I discussed some theories on the History of Spring Cleaning.  My favorite was that after a long winter with the house closed up and the fire going non stop that homes simply needed a good clean.  While we may not get quite as much physical dirt built up during the winter time as we once did, we do accumulate a lot of junk over the course and Spring remains a great time to clean all of that out.

While we change out thick blankets and heavy curtains for lighter ones to make way for the new season it seems natural to also make way for new beginnings in our lives by clearing out the clutter from the prior year.  Clutter can cause stress and feelings of guilt and can hold us back from moving forward in our lives.  

By clearing out the clutter and creating a home with a very hygge feel we may also get many other physical and psychological benefits.  In Episode 4:  One Resolution to Rule Them All, I investigated the impact that clutter had on our lives and the benefits of decluttering.  

A 2015 study published in the online supplement to the journal Sleep found that people that were at risk for hoarding had some big complaints about sleep.  Study participants were found to have high levels of sleep latency, sleep disturbances, and daytime disturbances, probably stemming from poor sleeping conditions.  

Decluttering may also make you happier, reduce stress, improve self-confidence, improve breathing in people with allergies and asthma, reduce your risk of injury,  make it easier to exercise and eat healthily, save you money, and even help you lose weight.  Listen to episode 4, if you havn't already to get the full details.  


When I began researching the topic of Hygge I couldn’t help but notice the parallels between hygee and self-care.  Hygge is not just about making your house look nice, it is about making you feel better while you are in it.  It is about fostering a sense of well being.

Just like drinking a cup of hot chocolate by the fire can make it seem like all is right in the world, springtime activities can also promote Hygge.  So this spring I would like to encourage you to have a picnic, drink a glass of ice cold lemonade by the pool, go star gazing or watch a sunrise, and spend time with the people you love.

I would love to find out how you create a sense of Hygge in your home as the temperature rises.  If you would like to share please love a comment on hangyourhatpodcast.com or email me at hangyourhatpodcast@gmail.com.  

Hang Your Hat Podcast has recently become a member of Patreon.  If you would like to help support the show please consider becoming a patron by going to Patreon.com/hangyourhat  

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And as always, thanks for listening.

Episode 11: It Really Tied the Room Together.

Do you know how big your living room rug should be, or which rug material is the most stain resistant?  What about how the technique used to construct a rug can impact it's durability?  This week's episode is all about rugs,  and in it I answer these questions and more, to help you make an informed decision when buying your next rug.  

This week's music is by Kai Engel, and can be found at the free music archive:  http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Kai_Engel/


Episode 5: Won't you be my Neighbor

In this episode I will be discussing the Fair housing act in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. day, as well as the 2017 Pinterest home trends, and the new best friend of parents with young children, the Octopus Watch.

Picture From: http://atlantablackstar.com/2015/06/22/gutting-voting-rights-act-supreme-court-looking-fair-housing-act/

Picture From: http://atlantablackstar.com/2015/06/22/gutting-voting-rights-act-supreme-court-looking-fair-housing-act/

Show Notes:

Link to Pinterest 100 for 2017

This Week's Fun Find:  The Octopus Watch

Show Transcript:

Note:  I may not be able to include show transcripts for every episode due to time constraints, but I will try to do so whenever I am able to accommodate the hearing impaired, and those who prefer reading over listening.

Welcome to hang your hat.  Ideas that are close to home.  This is episode 5:  Wont you be my neighbor. 

In this fortnight’s episode I will be giving my opinion on the 2017 Pinterest Trend Report, and in Honor of Martin Luther King Juniorday, I will discuss the passing of the fair housing act, the last big piece of legislation from the civil rights era.  Last, I have a new fun find that everyone with young kids or difficulty managing time should consider buying.

The 2017 Pinterest trend report is out.  Some of the trends I expected, some surprised but delighted me, and some I truly hope they are wrong about.  Lets take a look at the 2017 trends.

Pinterest posted trends from many areas of interest in their100 for 2017 group of pins - I will link to them all in the show notes, but I am only going to cover their 10 home decor released trends.  

First - Indoor Vines.  I think this may be as opposed to other indoor plants, like the Fiddle Leaf Fig, that have been popular in recent years.  I love indoor plants of any kind, including vines, so I was pretty happy to see this trend.  If you are looking to get on the band wagon, a great indoor vine that even works in low light areas is pothos.  My personal favorite is the Neon variety (that is it’s actual name).  It has solid, bright green leaves that start out a bright, almost yellow green, then darken slightly to a still vibrant medium green.  I think it looks far more playful than the dark green or variated varieties that are more common.

Next trend, Navy is the New Black for Home Decor .  I Honestly thought this was a 2016 trend because I have been seeing so much navy used in home decor lately, but I am glad that the trend doesn’t seem to be stopping.   I especially like navy cabinetry.  I have seen it used a lot lately on lower kitchen cabinets with white uppers, which looks great.   The darker lower cabinetry really ground the kitchen, and it doesn’t seem quite as airy as a totally white kitchen, and the navy is a little softer than black, so it doesn’t feel like a starkcontrast with white.

Wood Tile was the next trend.  Wood tile is tile that has been colored and textured to look like wood, and if you haven’t seen it lately, it is actually pretty convincing.  Some of the high end wood tile seems just like wood until you touch it - and then it is far too cold.  I love wood tile for flooring.  In humid areas, like Florida, where I live, it is a really ideal flooring option, because, unlike wood or laminate, it is not damaged when is gets wet.  I was really surprised when I saw the pinterest example of this trend however.  It showed reclaimed wood look tile on a fire place surround, where brick would normally be.  Using reclaimed wood on vertical surfaces felt old a year ago, and using wood look tile rather than reclaimed wood does not freshen up the trend - it makes it worse.  At least reclaimed wood doesn’t have the environmental impact of a newly produced good, but wood tile doesn’t have that going for it.   In my opinion - wood look tile should stay on the floor.

Thank you Fixer Upper for trend #4 - Farmhouse is the new shabby chic.  I love the show fixer upper, they have done some seriously beautiful transformations, and I love the light airy colors mixed with reclaimed cozy decor.  While farmhouse isn’t my favorite decorating style, I can defiantly appreciate it, and I will be glad to see more of it in the coming year.

The next trend was actually the 2016 Oxford English dictionary’s word of the year HOO-gah - spelled Hygee.  HOO-gah is a danish concept that roughly translates to cozy contentment.  You usually see it used to describe scenes with wooly blankets, warm fires, and big cups of coffee.  I like all of the examples of HOO-gah I have seen, and I wouldn’t mind seeing more of it, but according to the BBC, pinterest may be behind the times.  The new it word is le-gam spelled lagom.  It is a swedish word that translates to just enough or just right.  So look forward to moderation in 2017.

The next trend was Marble Wallpaper.  I don’t like anything about this trend.  First I am not a fan of faux finishes.  Unless they are really well done they usually look cheap.  Second, wall paper is the bane of my existence.  It is expensive, it doesn’t age well, and it is a giant pain in the butt when it needs to be removed.  If you participate in this trend, please, please, please use removable wallpaper.  You will be glad you did in 2018 when marble wallpaper is no longer in fashion.

With small houses becoming more and more popular, I think the next trend, Acrylic Decor, it just going to get more popular throughout 2017.  Since Acrylic is see through, it doesn’t have the same visual weight as opaque furniture, so it appears to take up less space in a room.  This is ideal in small homes that can easily appear overcrowded even with minimal furniture.  My favorite piece of acrylic furniture is a sleek and modern dining room chair.  I think they look especially nice when juxtaposed with a rustic or reclaimed table.

In 2016 gold hardware was all the rage, now Copper is the new gold.  I love both of these hardware finishes, and I am really there are more options for hardware finishes than ever before.  The hardware finish that I am watching for in 2017 is something that is being called silver.  It is mixture of gold and silver, and it looks really unusual and beautiful.  I started seeing it near the end of 2016, and I think we are going to see a lot more of it in 2017.

Heated Floors were the next trend.  As a resident of Florida these were not on my radar at all, but I did a little research on them, and I am now a believer.  Most heated floors use radiant heat.  Radiant heat is more efficient than baseboard heaters, and is usually more efficient than forced air heating (because there is no heat loss through duct work), and unlike forced air systems they don’t kick up allergens.  I am not sure about the costs of radiant heat vs other heating systems, but if the costs are comparable, radiant heat seems like the way to go. 

Ok, last trend for 2017.  This one threw me for a loop, because I don’t understand how this is a trend - so directly from the pinterest 100 for 2017 list:  New Night stands and Tapestries give bedrooms a mini facelift.  I guess the trend is using nightstands and tapestries to update a room, but I don’t know when that has ever not been the case.  Maybe we will see more interesting and inventive nightstands in 2017, which would be welcome. 

Let me know what you think about the 2017 pinterest trends.  You can email me at hangyourhatpodcast.com.

(Recording from LBJ's 1968 Speech on the passing of the Fair Housing Act)

That was Lendon B Johnson, and it was April, 1968.  The Fair Housing Act, the last big Civil Rights Era piece of legislation had just been passed into law,  only a week after the assassination of Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.   

The fair housing act made illegal:

  • The Refusal to sell or rent a home to any person because of race, color, religion, or national origin. 
  • Create different terms or conditions for the sale or rental of a home that discriminated based on race, color, religion, or national origin.
  • Advertising the sale or rental of a home in a way that discriminated based on race, color, religion,  or national origin.
  • And keeping someone from enjoying their home by threatening, or intimidating them based on discriminatory reasons or retaliating against a person or organization that promotes fair housing.  

In short, it tried to let people live where they wanted, and enjoy where they lived no matter the color of their skin, their religion, or where they came from.

The fair housing act had been intended to be a follow up to the civil rights act, which had been passed in 1964, but it had been delayed due to contentious debate in the Senate.  It passed the Senate in early April 1968, thanks to the hard work of Senate Republican leader Everett Dirksen (who defeated a southern filibuster), and Senator Edward Brooke, who was the first African American elected to the senate by popular vote.  During the senate hearings, Brooke, had shared the story of his own struggle to buy a home he wanted after returning from WW2.

The senate voted to approve the Fair Housing act on April 4, the same day that Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated.

The Act then passed to Congress.  President Lyndon Johnson used the civil unrest following Martin Luther King Jr’s death, to pressure congress into passing the Fair Housing Act.  King had been associated with he act from the beginning, and Johnson argued that the passing of the act would be a fitting tribute to the great man.  

Congress passed the act on April 10th, just 6 days after King’s death.  President Johnson signed the act into law the next day, on the 11th.

Since then the fair housing act has been expanded to protect people from discrimination based on sex, disability, and familial status (or the presence of children in the household).  It’s enforcement has also been strengthened.

However, Despite the fact that housing discrimination is now illegal, many neighborhoods in america are still segregated.   And the reasons for the segregation are not always clear.  

One possibility is the wage gap between minorities and whites.  Due to reduced buying power minorities are often concentrated in low income areas.  Minorities that are able to buy in higher income, mostly white, areas often do.  

Self segregation is also a possibility however.  Some minorities chose to live in racially segregated areas.  This is especially true of new immigrants, in places like china towns, who may want to live among people that share their culture or language.  There is also some evidence that African Americans self segregate, but the reasons are less clear.  It could be that primarily white neighborhoods seem less friendly to African Americansthan primarily minority neighborhoods.  It certainly does seem like that might be the case - since whites also self segregate by moving out of neighborhoods when they start to become more racially diverse.  That doesn’t sound like a welcoming attitude to me.

Still, with all of that being said, racial diversity in housing has improved.  We have come a long way from the days of bus boycotts, and forced integration in schools.  As the world becomes more insular, when countries close their doors to refugees, and the disabled are publicly mocked by politations, when random airport screenings are not random, and when the freedom of movement for certain religious groups is threatened, take a moment tothink about all of the progress we have made, and don’t let that progress be lost.  Love your neighbors, whether at home, at work, or even on the bus, appreciate diversity, and remember the golden rule, do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

To end on a lighter note, I have a new fun find, the Octopus watch.  The octopus watch is a smart watch designed for kids, but I think it would be good for anyone that has difficulty with time management and likes fun icons.  It, of course tells time, with icons or a digital or analogue readout, and it is also a scheduler.  When it is time for kids to do things, like feed the dog or brush their teeth, it pops up a little reminder icon.  I think this is great for kids that are still learning tell time, but also like to know what and when things are going in.  I think it helps them feel a bit more in control of the situation, which is really important for some kids.  It also keeps parents from having to constantly remind kids to do things they already know they should be doing, but may not realize it is the correct time to do it.

All of the reactions to this product that I have read so far seem either very positive or very negative.  Some parents, particularly the parents of developmentally disabled kids, really seem to love the Octopus watch, and think it would benefit their kids.  Other’s really seem to hate it.  Many people thought that the watch would take over the parenting of a child.  I’ll admit, this didn’t make sense to me, it is not as if the watch could teach the kids how to do the tasks it is reminding them to do.

I have two kids, if you read the blog, you will know them as the boy and the girl.  The girl has never been bothered by plans or schedules changing on her - she is, as they say, down for whatever.  The boy, on the other hand thrives on routine.  He really likes to know what the plan is and hates deviation from it.

I don’t think this watch would have benefited the girl very much, but the boy would have LOVED this when he was younger.  I think that Knowing that his day was mapped out, and that he would be reminded to do what he was supposed to do when he was supposed to do it wouldwould have relieved a lot of anxiety for him.

The Octopus Watch is currently available for pre order on indiegogo, and costs $69.  They expect it to ship out May 2017.

Thank You for listening, I hope you enjoyed the Show.  If you did, please rate the show or leave a review on I tunes.  I will be back in two weeks with the next episode.  If you would like to get in touch in the meantime please send me an email at hangyourhatpodcast@gmail.com.  You can also visit the website hangyourhatpodcast.com.

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