I have always been intrigued when reading that Denmark was rated the happiest nation in the world - again. How do they measure 'happiness' What are the Danes secret and how can we imitate them?
Hygge: active cosiness and comfort that translates into contentment and well-being. At least that's what Google said when I typed the word into its translator.
Being fortunate enough to have been to Denmark a few times; the short breaks I had in Copenhagen unfortunately did not reveal to many secrets.The Little Book of Hygge goes a long way to explain.
The book is about the hard-to-describe, yet powerful Danish attitude towards life, which is one of the reasons that Denmark consistently ranks among the happiest countries in the world and how you can cultivate it for yourself.
Known for its dark and frosty winters, high taxes, but also its laid back culture, Denmark averaged a No.1 ranking in the world happiness report from 2013-2016 and is No. 2 for 2017; beaten by Norway, with Iceland in 3rd place and Switzerland in 4th. The top three all Scandinavian countries.
Meik Wiking, the author of this book and CEO of The Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen thinks one of the reasons for this high happiness standard is Hygge.
If I didn't listen to the audiobook while following the script in the book, I would never have pronounced Hygge correctly. Pronounced more like hue-gu, this mysterious noun, adjective and verb resembles not only a typically Danish attitude, but also well-being, comfort and feeling at home.
The three most powerful points I took from the book were;
Hygge is a special approach to happiness and not just an idea, but a mood, a feeling, an activity even.
Atmosphere is a big part of Hygge, so you should make a conscious effort to create the right environment for it.
You can live and experience Hygge anywhere and anytime, it is unlimited.
Not every day can be the best day, but a life of Hygge is about as close as it can get.
Hygge is a unique way to happiness and a feeling in its own way.
Hygge's earliest written roots go back to an old Norwegian word meaning “well-being” and date to the early 1800's. Other possible origins might be variants of the words “hug,” another old Norwegian term for “comfort” and another for “mood.”
While most modern interpretations have settled on “cosiness” as an appropriate translation, Meik says this not quite gets the point either. There might be related concepts around the world, such as the German “Gemütlichkeit,” the Canadian “hominess” or the Dutch “gezelligheid” ), but none of those paint a full picture.
Hygge isn’t just an idea. It’s a mood. A feeling. An action, even. In Denmark, Hygge is a part of people’s sense of self. That’s why an especially snug café might be called Hyggelig if lounging there makes you feel good.
I feel by making so much room for this word and concept in their lives, what the Danish are telling us is to make time to enjoy life, be happy and practice contentment.
As Hygge is a lot about atmosphere, you’ll need to make a conscious effort to create the right environment.
The atmosphere you Hygge in is very important. Indeed, feeling at home requires a homey place, so unless you create one, you’ll have a hard time getting into the right mood. It’s why the Danish are obsessed with candles, lighting and lamp design and natural elements like wood in interior design.
Some things that promote Hygge at home are:
Dimly, but sufficiently lit rooms.
Candles, scented or unscented.
Beautifully designed, sleek lamps.
Wide, open rooms and surfaces.
A fireplace or a stove.
Shelves, boards and other interior design elements made of wood.
A Hyggekrog – a cosy corner specifically designed to snuggle up, enjoy a hot beverage and read or relax.
The Danes sure live up to these foundational Hygge factors. At 6 kg or 13 lbs of candles burned per person per year, the Danes are Europe’s number one candle light junkies. They also have almost 2 rooms per person in living space.
It doesn’t take much to feel Hyggelig in your own four walls. All of these you can work on and get decent results in a single weekend. It does take a conscious effort on your end, though.
Hygge is all-encompassing and not limited to any single place or activity.
Then again, not everyone can afford to go on an IKEA spree, but shopping purely for the sake of Hygge would miss the point anyway. An austere and simple life can be just as full of Hygge as one of sipping lattes and champagne. In fact, this might represent the true meaning of Hygge more than even the most comfortable atmosphere.
In the end, Hygge is about learning to be content in the moment. Forget your life’s results for a while. Enjoy your family’s and friends’ company. Stop taking yourself so seriously. These are things you can practice anywhere, anytime. This sensory experience, this feeling, is the epitome of Hygge and it’s not bound by time and space. Be happy, be satisfied and choose to live trouble-free.
No matter where you live, if you focus on these aspects, a Hygge life is yours to own.
What I took from it.
I consider myself generally a happy person so at the very least, I was intrigued to see which of these ideas I might share. Glad to see that I already ticked some of the boxes and now know a lot more on where my focus is going to be to make Hygge my way of life.
For me the book felt more like a top end interior design magazine than novel, but therein lies the beauty of the book. Filled with amazing images, one can truly feel yourself becoming Hyggelig reading through the pages of this book.