WHILE some mourn the end of summer, I have always rejoiced in the arrival of autumn. With the changing of the seasons and falling leaves, there is a frisson of excitement in the air.

On reflection, it is probably a reaction hard-wired to the new academic year at school or university with its sense of new beginnings and delicious potential for fresh adventures.

It has long struck me that the soul-sapping gloom of January – when it barely gets light at all most days in Scotland and a perpetual grey cast lingers over everything – is a rubbish time to make long-lasting resolutions for the year ahead.

Far better to do so bathed in the golden glow of September and October. Like clockwork I find myself simultaneously decluttering and nesting – the proverbial out with the old and in with the new – like an animal robustly preparing for a long hibernation.

But eventually autumn gives way to the hell of winter. I suffer terribly from seasonal affective disorder, or SAD as it is known. I have tried various remedies over the decades from special lamps to dosing myself with vitamin D. Then, a few years ago, I cottoned on to hygge.

Picture the scene: sitting by a roaring fire on a cold night, wearing a woolly jumper and cashmere socks, snuggling under a blanket with a good book and a mug of hot chocolate surrounded by the warm flicker of candles. Sound enticing? Then it may be time to embrace some hygge in your life.

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The Danish word, pronounced “hue-gah”, is typically translated into English as “cosiness”. Yet there is far more to it: the essence of hygge is about being good to yourself, indulging guilt-free in favourite pastimes and enjoying simple pleasures.

The term comes from a Norwegian word meaning “wellbeing” and is thought to be loosely connected to the English “hug”.

While little is known about the origins of hygge, it first appeared during the 18th century at a time when Denmark had lost swathes of foreign territory and was perhaps looking for a way to reinvent its national identity. Hygge has since evolved into the cultural idea known today.

The Danes can lay claim to being the most contented people on earth – topping the 2016 United Nation’s World Happiness Report – and many believe this can be credited to the art of hygge. (For the record, the UK is ranked 23rd.)

Scandinavian neighbours Norway and Sweden and Nordic cousins Finland and Iceland have their own equivalents of hygge. Yet curiously, despite winter’s shortening days and diminishing hours of sunlight – Glasgow is on the same latitude as Copenhagen – there is no comparable concept here.

Perhaps this is the upshot of living in an Anglocentric world where in the warmer summer months we are force-fed images of bikini-clad women frolicking in London parks or at Brighton beach on days when the weather in Scotland is better suited to fur coats on deckchairs.

To an extent we have lost a sense of who we are geographically, climatically, culturally. I recently stayed in an old farm cottage on Skye where the north-facing rear was built entirely from thick stone with no windows. When the rain and 60mph winds from a September storm battered the exterior, we happily cooried in front of a wood-burning stove in the cosy living room.

That is how Scotland should do autumn and winter. Rather than take our lead from London, which is physically closer to Paris than Edinburgh, doesn’t it make more sense to look to Scandinavian and Nordic countries? On a level we know all this, yet continue to be surprised when it’s wet and cold and dark and we feel utterly miserable.

The good news is that Scotland is made for hygge: where better for a stroll through the kaleidoscopic autumn colours or blowing away the cobwebs on a bracing winter walk along the rugged coastline? There’s warming tots of whisky; hale and hearty cuisine; and a rich history in producing textiles that are perfect for staying snug in the colder months.

Things may be slowly changing. Since the trend for Scandi chic and Nordic noir dramas such as The Killing, Borgen and The Bridge came into vogue a few years ago, there have been growing murmurings about hygge on these shores and it is now beginning to seep into wider public consciousness.

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A flurry of books on the subject will hit shelves this autumn. Among those published in recent weeks are The Little Book of Hygge: the Danish Way to Live Well by Meik Wiking (Penguin Life, £9.99) and The Art of Hygge: how to Bring Danish Cosiness into Your Life by Jonny Jackson and Elias Larsen (Summersdale, £9.99).

The Book of Hygge: the Danish Art of Living Well by Louisa Thomsen Brits (Ebury Press, £12.99) is also out now, with two others – How to Hygge: the Secrets of Nordic Living by Signe Johansen (Bluebird, £14.99) and Hygge: a Celebration of Simple Pleasures, Living the Danish Way by Charlotte Abrahams (Trapeze, £20) – due to follow next month.

There may be a whiff of bandwagon-jumping about such a glut, but bear with me. The key thing to note is that in Denmark, hygge is an ingrained mindset rather than a trendy, self-help fad. It is woven into the fabric of everyday life. You can’t purchase a hygge starter kit: it is a hugely personal endeavour.

Among those to embrace this notion is author Charlotte Abrahams, who stumbled across the concept of hygge while flicking through an interiors magazine on a November afternoon a couple of years ago.

Her interest piqued, she delved deeper and found herself drawn to hygge because it is not about denial, but rather generosity of spirit. “There are no manuals or mantras, no prescriptive lists of things you must, or must not, do,” she writes in her new book.

“It is simply about taking the occasional break from life and allowing yourself to enjoy the moment. Hygge encourages us to take pleasure in the modest, the mundane and the familiar. It is a celebration of the everyday, and it prioritises experiences over things.”

As Abrahams says, the wonderful thing about hygge is the lack of rules: it is each to their own. Hygge can be sharing delicious food with good friends; the smell of freshly brewed coffee; the feel of crisp, clean bed linen; idly stroking a cat or dog; reading the weekend papers in bed; or enjoying a meandering walk in a park or the countryside.

My own sense of hygge includes filling the kitchen cupboards with ingredients for home-baking, rustling up stews and soups, stocking up on gorgeous candles, gathering a towering stack of books and queuing a raft of feelgood films and television dramas on the DVR.

Nor does it need to be about being immersed in activities that span hours at a time. A series of small hygge moments spread throughout the day can equally add up to an overall feeling of contentment.

“One Danish woman told me that whatever meal she was having, no matter how simple and even if eating on her own, she would always lay the table, light a candle and make it into a moment,” says Abrahams. “I thought that was a lovely idea and also an easy thing to do.

“I work from home and tend to eat my breakfast and lunch at the computer. I realised I could not do that and instead sit down properly, use some nice crockery and make it into a little moment of relaxation and enjoyment. I don’t do it every day but it is something I try to do once or twice a week.”

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The crux of hygge, she explains, is to be fully present in the moment: no TV droning away in the background, constantly checking emails or tapping away on smartphones or tablets.

“You don’t multi-task,” says Abrahams. “If you decide you are going to take this bit of time out – whether 10 minutes to eat breakfast away from your computer or the whole afternoon to go for a picnic with friends – you do that and enjoy it, rather than half your mind being on something else.

“Hygge is very gentle. There is no discussion of politics or anything controversial that makes you feel uptight. Another hygge thing might be to meet a friend for a glass of wine or coffee and cake. And don’t feel guilty about having a drink or eating a piece of cake. You both talk in a gentle and non-confrontational way.”

One of the chapters in her book touches on how the environment can subtly contribute to hygge. “It is about being comfortable and not showy,” she says. “Danish design is very beautiful but it doesn’t declare itself – it is quietly beautiful.

“It is natural materials and rounded forms. The Piet Hein superellipse table that was designed in the 1960s is the epitome of hygge because it has no hierarchy, no one sits at the head and everyone can talk to each other easily. Or alternatively a long narrow table where people sit on benches and everyone is close enough to have quite an intimate conversation.”

Another example would be creating a cosy area with a cluster of candles and blankets – anything too starkly minimal would not be hygge.

“If you think of Danish design it is quite minimal with not much surface decoration, but it’s not cold minimalism with everything white and put away. It is about quiet and understated comfort. You walk into a house and think: ‘Oh, this feels like home.’”

According to Abrahams, the Danes burn more candles per head of population than any other country in Europe. “It is that gentle, flickering low light and a living flame,” she says. “In the winter [in Denmark] it is dark most of the time: the sun rises about 9am and sets again at 3.30pm. People do need extra light and candlelight is very cosy and welcoming.”

Yet, while design plays its role, there will never be such a thing as a “hygge diet”, she insists. “Hygge is absolutely not about guilt,” says Abrahams. “Guilt would kill off hygge in a moment. It is about indulgence and the enjoyment of that indulgence. It is not something you do all the time – and it is interesting that the Danes have a much lower obesity rate than we do.

“But if you are going to have a hygge moment you do things that make you feel good, whether it’s a piece of cake or a big bowl of creamy pasta without feeling guilty about it. Diets are very much based around guilt and denial. Those are the antithesis of all that is hygge.”

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The biggest lesson Abrahams has learned from hygge is to let go of the niggling guilt that she should be working on something from her to-do list and instead focus on stoking her sense of wellbeing.

“When I read my book in the garden I named it as a hygge day,” she says. “It felt good because I wasn’t doing nothing: I was hyggeing myself. It made a real difference to how I felt because there was no guilt. That was an important lesson. I don’t think I’m alone in this feeling of always having to achieve something all the time.

“Has my sense of wellbeing improved? I think it has. I would have been rather sceptical about that before, but I think it does make a difference. I don’t spend any more time lying in the garden reading my book than I did before, but my way of thinking about it has changed. I no longer think: ‘I ought to be doing something else.’”

Abrahams acknowledges that some may dismiss her enthusiasm for hygge as “the choice of a middle-aged woman searching for a life philosophy” and admits many British people could potentially be put off by the intrinsically self-indulgent nature of hygge.

“We are slightly puritanical about having a good time,” she concedes. “We take time off and go on holiday, but we always do it with a slight sense of guilt.

“I don’t think we are very good at allowing ourselves to enjoy moments of downtime. We always have to justify it in some way and I’m not sure why that is, but it is something very deep-rooted in our psyche in a way it doesn’t seem to be in the Danish psyche.”

She believes there is a tangible link between hygge and Denmark’s place atop the World Happiness Report three out of the last four years. “Hygge means much more than a fire, candles and a blanket. It is a philosophy that goes to the heart of Danish culture,” she says. “The Danes have got a good idea of how important your own wellbeing and relations with friends and family are.

“All those things are important to how you feel about yourself and how enjoyable your life is. Often if we say someone is successful what we tend to mean is that they have got a really good job.

“Actually there is a lot more to having a successful life than a good job and earning lots of money. The Danes seem to recognise that and hygge is part of it. They have a better sense that wellbeing, happiness and contentedness matter.”

Hygge: A Celebration of Simple Pleasures, Living the Danish Way by Charlotte Abrahams is published by Trapeze on October 20, priced £20.