"Hygge" is a word that's difficult to pronounce (think: hoo-gah) and even trickier to explain. It roughly boils down to the Danish art of living well, a concept that prioritizes comfort, warmth and simplicity and has been translated as everything from "coziness of the soul" to "cocoa by candlelight."
With ten books on the topic already published in English this year alone – and more likely to come in 2017 – the wellness trend is spreading its warmth across the world with impressive speed.
Denmark is something of an authority on the topic, having been crowned the world's happiest country nearly every year since 1973. And considering the bleak nightmare that has been 2016, we're ready to take any advice the Danes have to offer.
Home sweet home
While hygge may not be a cure-all antidote for the various atrocities of 2016, it may, at the very least, be an effective way to get us all through the long winter months ahead.
To combat the bitter cold, interminable lack of light and general seasonal gloom, the Danes invest a lot of their time in leading active social lives.
While the American concept of socializing tends to involve spending a small fortune at a bar on a Saturday night or Sunday afternoon, the Scandinavian masters of simplicity instead opt to invite friends or family to their houses for a drink or a cozy dinner party.
And because 'home' is a key element of hygge, a great emphasis is put on making sure everything's as cozy as can be.
"Design and decor are part of Denmark's DNA," explains Camilla Schousboe, founder of Danish design store Nordkraft. "It's important for the Danes to have a pleasant living space because that's where they spend all their time."
And gradually, like a comforting ritual, hygge becomes a natural reflex. Camilla continues: "At home, we systematically light candles everywhere, it's obligatory! There is also always a throw or blanket on the sofa."
Natural materials are combined with white or simple colours to create a minimalist style while multiple lamps provide soft and changeable lighting.
But lighting a candle or changing your decor isn't enough, warns Camilla. According to her, hygge is above all a state of mind, "a concept anchored in our very way of life."
Always striving to be Europe's best-in-class, Denmark seems naturally set up to align to the principals of hygge. Despite elevated suicide rates and high levels of antidepressant use, the country regularly comes out on top in various rankings.
Malene Rydahl, author of 2016 international bestseller Happy as a Dane, explains: "Danish society offers the best chance to consolidate a healthy foundation on which to build our own happiness." That is, a society based on the tenets of equality, solidarity, tolerance and freedom.
"The Danish education system pushes children to develop and naturally gravitate towards what they like and not towards what is expected of them," Malene adds.
The world's "least corrupt" country, Denmark provides free higher education, has low long-term unemployment rates and regularly tops gender equality lists. Thanks to high levels of important factors such as trust, security, wealth and freedom, it's also cited as the planet's happiest nation.
The hygge how-to
Now that you've got the idea, it's time for a few ideas on how to make your life a little more hygge.
With temperatures dropping and the nights drawing in, it is officially time to cocoon – but don't do it alone! Invite friends over for a warm meal or a binge-watching session of your favorite comforting movies.
The very magic of hygge is its simplicity and accessibility. When it comes to spending a bit of me-time, the most important things to remember are to stay warm and keep things simple. Layer up or take a long bath, turn off your screen and pick up a good book.
You can also take time to be creative by trying out a new recipe, making a DIY candle or grow your own indoor plants.
It remains to be seen whether the concept can really provide a path to happiness or whether it's just a marketing ploy to sell more candles (Denmark burns a seemingly excessive total of over thirteen pounds of candles per year, per inhabitant).
Either way, we're willing to get on board with a little more positivity this winter. Long live hygge!