Getting Cosy

The Psychological Reason We Crave Cosiness

And as we hurtle toward 2022 in our weighted blankets, will comfort still be key?

Picture a wood-burning fire, crackling softly.

A comfortable sofa with a soft throw to encase yourself in as the rain pours outside. A candle that somehow smells of fresh linen, a steaming cup of tea placed in your lap. If you were to raise a sleepy thought to describe this scenario, one word might come to mind: cosy.

Cosy is described as “giving a feeling of comfort, warmth, and relaxation.” Unlike its trendy Scandi sister hygge, cosy is specifically a British feeling. One that can only really emerge from a country where it rains for nearly half of the year and the weather is a constant source of conversation. In fact, Britain is considered to be a uniquely cosy country — its walkability and towns purpose-built for community make it inherently intimate.

With weighted blankets, fluffy slippers, and a hot bath described as the perfect night by many, cosiness is cooler than ever. And, while it evokes different meanings for each of us, cosiness is, at its core, a feeling. A feeling of warmth, safety, and contentment. A feeling of comfort. It’s the antithesis to hustle culture and the glorification of being busy. With a focus on low stress and staying in, cosy culture is all about slowing down.

Cosy the antithesis to hustle culture and the glorification of being busy.

From the British landscape to kitchen design, cosy has an impact on everything from our economy to ourselves. But what is it about cosy that really drives the way we live?

The Cosy Economy

Let’s start with the obvious: The past two years have been, at best, stressful. Packed with grief, economic instability, political unrest; and that’s before we explore the impact of U.K.-wide lockdowns that stripped many of a support network, followed by the loneliest Christmas in the 20th century. That said, lockdown is also responsible for our increased search for comfort. Across interior products, keywords related to cosy living jumped 46% in the United Kingdom in 2020, according to trend forecasting agency WGSN. Meanwhile, social media searches for “cosy aesthetic outfits” are up 100% in 2021.

Ultimately, cosiness is about replicating the feeling of protection or intimacy, something we have all missed at some point during the last couple of years. Hence the cosy coin, aka the new economy for comfort spending.

Rebecca Fisher, the owner of Homeshaped Interior Design, explains that our choice of aesthetics are becoming increasingly cosy. “Perhaps without directly striving for cosiness (especially outside of the winter months), we were all unwittingly trying to create it at home during lockdown,” she explains. “Last winter, demand far outstripped the supply of sheepskin rugs, cosy slippers, fairy lights, hot chocolate bombs, and Oodies (wearable blankets). And last summer (thanks to the double whammy of lockdown and Brexit), outdoor furniture was nigh on impossible to come by, as the U.K. became desperate to create cosy spaces in our gardens. As well as an increase in the choice of outdoor rugs, lighting, and garden heating sources,” Fisher adds.

Ultimately, cosiness is about replicating the feeling of protection or intimacy, something we have all missed at some point during the last couple of years. Hence the cosy coin, aka the new economy for comfort spending.

She notes that our more nostalgic trends are also influenced by comfort. “When we need to feel safe and supported, colour trends tend to err toward earthy shades. Even micro-trends like cottagecore are all about cosy feels, lived-in textures, and creating nostalgia,” Fisher continues. “Nostalgia is often about shared memories and togetherness, which is another part of having a cosy, welcoming home.”

And, it’s not just about aesthetics.

“Some of the key components of ‘cosiness’ have been shown to have an effect on our physiology, too,” says Fisher. “Firelight has been proven to reduce blood pressure, while a naturally fragranced candle (cedar, sandalwood, vanilla, cinnamon) induces calm feelings. By harnessing our in-built and evolutionary connection to nature, we can create spaces that have a positive impact on our senses and spark a psychological response. At the most basic level, it has even been suggested that using twinkly fairy lights (classic cosy vibes) triggers a good feeling, because they look like stars.”

Pre-2020, the “homebody economy” — a phrase coined by Vox’s Kaitlyn Tiffany — was used to describe the market of millennials who couldn’t afford to do anything but stay at home. Over lockdown, however, this has shifted to refer to a brand new category of spending. From cooking to an unprecedented investment in crafting, the way we spend our free time has pivoted, taking a much calmer turn. The data speaks for itself: In April 2020, NPD Group reported a 70% increase in arts and crafts sales.

Fashion’s Cosiest Collection

Cosy is also on the rise in fashion. Cosy collections — think oversized jumpers and fleece-lined trousers — have seen an increase in sales year-on-year from 2019.

In part, this is due to a change in our lifestyles. According to the 2019 UK Working Lives report, 54% of workers are putting in nontraditional hours as flexible working booms. At the same time, we’re seeing huge growth in the freelance economy: In 2020, there were 4.3 million self-employed workers in the United Kingdom, compared with 3.2 million back in 2000. With so many of us working from our kitchen tables and sofas, comfort is paramount.

When retailer Joe Brown asked how people were feeling about dressing up again after lockdown, 47.2% of respondents said they were (understandably) prioritising comfort over style.

“Styles and silhouettes have changed and adapted. Now more than ever we see people dressing for themselves and their own personal comfort.”

“I think after years of wearing uncomfortable clothes and feeling the need to ‘dress to impress,’ we’ve collectively breathed a massive sigh of relief,” says Koziko London founder Alexander Smith. “We essentially had limited control over our own wardrobes when working a 9-to-5. You wouldn’t wear joggers or knitted clothes for comfort to the office, due to it being deemed unprofessional. Comfortable shoes and trainers would be tucked away until 5 p.m.”

The cosy shift has also been evident in the growing fashion rental market, says Eshita Kabra-Davies, founder of By Rotation. “Priorities have shifted over lockdown, and we have witnessed this with rentals on the app,” she explains. “Demand for items such as the Daily Sleeper sets and cosy dresses are at an all time high. I also think the lack of good weather this summer has influenced the way we are all dressing, as we tend to gravitate toward cosier fabrics when the weather is cooler,” she continues. “Styles and silhouettes have changed and adapted. Now more than ever we see people dressing for themselves and their own personal comfort.”

The Feeling Of A Hug

“You know, when we think about cosy, we’re really thinking about being snug and protected,” explains psychologist and parenting expert Maryhan Baker. “Especially after the uncertainty of the pandemic, we’ve all been looking for new ways to feel secure. Lockdown also significantly reduced the number of people we interact with, so it’s no coincidence that the increase we’ve seen in cosy items, such as weighted blankets, also happen to mimic the feeling of a hug. Cosiness really just encompasses that feeling of safety. I think that’s why so many of us are feeling driven by it right now.”

Music hasn’t escaped, either. Playlists on YouTube and Spotify that are curated to feel “warm and cosy” have millions of views and listens, respectively. Featuring songs including The Neighbourhood’s “Sweater Weather” — a song that highlights the comfort of a jumper as the seasons change — and “Heather” by Conan Gray, each playlist of autumnal hits demonstrates our desire for a hug, even if it is just via our headphones.

“By looking to make ourselves feel cosier, we are self-soothing and providing ourselves with a sense of security, a way of making ourselves feel safer and more relaxed in our day-to-day lives.”

“Feeling cosy is something that brings us a sense of warmth, comfort, and relaxation,” says Sarah Cannon, psychological well-being practitioner at Living Well UK. “By looking to make ourselves feel cosier, we are self-soothing and providing ourselves with a sense of security, a way of making ourselves feel safer and more relaxed in our day-to-day lives.”

Comfort In 2022

As we hurtle toward 2022 in our weighted blankets, will comfort still be key? Well, like everything, it’s complicated.

Just as we’re rediscovering comfort outside of the house — with brunch back on the table and the return of gigs, events, and even parties at other people’s houses — there’s the threat of yet another lockdown looming. The homebody economy doesn’t look like it will crash anytime soon.

So, where better to weather the final quarter of 2021 than wrapped up on your sofa, knitting needles in hand, with a bath running and tea brewing? As Dorothy once said: “There is no place like home.” And, when you’re feeling the perfect level of cosy, it’s hard to argue with that.