Hygge is one of the words of the year announced by the Collins English Dictionary – and I can see why the world is cosying up to the idea.

It’s Danish for “cosiness”, a lifestyle that creates a feeling of comfort and contentment by appreciating all the good things in life. It means focusing more on simple everyday activities, such as making warming drinks and traditional dinners, and creating a warm cosy atmosphere in a smallish room at home with a real fire, candles, flowers and fur (or faux fur) throws. Pictures accompanying articles about hygge often show couples and families in knitted jumpers and socks gazing into a roaring log fire – with one significant modern-day phenomenon missing from the picture. Technology is not required.

Why has it struck such a chord here, and now? The Danes have long embraced hygge to help them survive their long, dark winters. Since the 18th century, it has helped make them the happiest people in the world. And I can see why. Ever since I first read about it, I haven’t been able to stop buying jumpers and thick socks, and my living room has become a faux fur fantasy land.

And I think I know why it has hit such a nerve. It’s a safe space in a world that many people feel has become far less safe and uncertain in the past few months. It’s no coincidence that the Collins English Dictionary also included the words Brexit and Trumpism among its words of the year, two political upheavals that signalled significant change here, in Europe and across the pond in the USA.

Here in our homes, we can create personal peace, our own world of simple comforts, with our family around us, and nothing from the outside world to disturb us.

It’s a form of going back to basics, almost reverting to a caveman existence when all you needed was food, fire and fellow humans to survive.

It’s the polar opposite of the 21st century family scenario that has evolved over the past few years: grumpy monosyllabic children retreating alone to their bedrooms to contemplate who’s trolling them this week on social media or agonising over their latest profile picture in case it gets no “likes” from online friends or foes, tired parents who rely on technology to babysit their children because they’re so overworked, and grandparents are left on the outside looking in as families drift further apart both geographically and emotionally.

The nuclear family has imploded because its members live together separately, and hygge offers the comfort of kinship rediscovered. There’s a whole generation of youngsters whose blood relatives have been replaced by online “friends” who can vanish at the press of an “unfriend” button., a generation who might just welcome something they’ve missed out on in their heady rush to replace the real for the fake.

Contentment seems to have vanished into the ether, because the internet provides a constant point of (unfavourable) comparison and it brings the troubles of the world into your home and your psyche 24/7.

But perhaps hygge has been imported from Denmark at a key moment in our development: the moment we realise that we need to draw back into ourselves and rediscover our inner resources before our senses overflow.

Are we at peak trauma, both in a political and personal sense? There is only so much the human mind can absorb and process, and in a world where political change is gonna come and everybody’s personal tragedy is laid bare for public consumption, it seems that introversion and introspection become our instinctive reaction.

The Argus: A gondola makes its way through Venice.  Picture: pixabay.com

I visited Venice earlier this year with my mother and my sister, joining the 20 million tourists who go there every year.

Even in the winter months, its picturesque streets and squares were packed to the point where you were jostled almost every step and your progress was only possible if carefully planned a few steps ahead.

No wonder Venetians came out in protest a few days ago against landlords letting their apartments to tourists rather than locals. The number of locals is rapidly diminishing, and on our visit, we could see that almost all the shops catered for the tourist Euro rather than essentials needed by residents, such as fruit and vegetables.

Cornwall is also taking a stand, and now a ruling banning second homes in St Ives has been backed by the High Court. Around 25 per cent of its properties are second homes, leaving the town with empty buildings for much of the year.

How can local shops and businesses stay open all year round with only part-time customers? Second homes are a very First World problem but it’s still a problem that can ring a death knell for many people’s livelihoods and also a local community.

But it’s a problem many second home-owners don’t have to worry about. After all, they don’t actually live there, do they?