Denmark has recently been declared, once again, as the happiest & most content country on the planet. This is quite an achievement, and in comparison to England falling to number 23 on the annual report, it appears we can learn a thing or two about the ways the Danes live! So what makes the Danish so content and what can we learn from them?
The secret to their happiness is not materialistic or fussy, it’s an easy way of living known as ‘hygge’, pronounced (roughly) ‘hoo-ga’. Usually translated to mean ‘cosiness’ in English, but it’s far more than just a word, a feeling or a single action. When you get your head around what it means, it seems so simple, but it’s so incredibly important to living a fulfilling and happy life. From this, we can see why the Danish are considered such happy, calming people!
So, what is hygge?
Hygge is relishing in the simple things in life, a way of concentrating on looking outwards at your life instead of at the past. Hygge is also candles, a log fire, fluffy socks, cuddles, family gatherings and watching TV under the duvet when it’s raining outside. Hygge is sipping on mulled wine in the winter with your friends, appreciating the things you have instead of dwelling on the things you don’t have. It’s about being kind to yourself and those around you, having fun, indulging but not denying yourself the treats we all deserve in life. It’s the art of creating a feeling of intimacy, love and memories. Overall, it means creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life.
Can you live hygge all year round?
Simply put, yes you can. In Scandinavia they endure long dark winters and, in Denmark, they often have 17 hours of darkness per day at the high points of winter and an average temperature of a bone-chilling zero degrees. So there is no more ‘hygge’ time than the winter, most notably during the Christmas period. If you think homemade mince pies, candles, roaring fires and comfortable pyjamas, then you will be immersing yourself into the hygge way of living. This is how the Danes tackle the dark winter months. However, this isn’t a way of life secluded to just the colder, dark months. During the summer you can still experience the sense of contentment and conviviality by spending time outdoors with friends and family, having a bbq, going to an outdoor show or taking part in a bike ride, for example.
How it integrates into everyday life
Hygge doesn’t just live in front of the fire at home on a cold winters day. The Danish can incorporate the lifestyle into their days, each and every day, no matter where they are. Hygge at work is something we Brits can most certainly take a few tips from. Danish employers believe that their employees should to be fulfilled and happy to be the best at their job, not to be stressed out and overworked. They consider their employees leaving on time every day to spend time with family and have fun, a healthy recipe for further success. Finding a balance between work and life and happiness and achievement is all a part of the hygge life.
Hygge has gained an image of being based on home comforts, friends and family, surrounded by laughter and candles. However, as mentioned above, this idea isn’t about a single action or idea, a Hygge doesn’t sit around all day waiting for the home comforts and happy feelings to come to them, they go out and create their atmospheres and make the most of the day in front of them. Spending time outdoors means time away from staring at screens, punishing and boring gym sessions, but rather gentle and enjoyable happy medium activities such as hiking and biking.
What can we learn from Hygge?
Hygge is a reason to slow down the pace, to enjoy the space and people around us. To appreciate the smaller things in life and to allow our minds to wonder once in a while. It’s not about doing less, but to go gently, in peace and to be grateful. This is the perfect time of year to find your way to adapt the Danish way of living and to honour and celebrate their way of life. As officially the happiest country on this planet and having practised this tradition for years, I think we will do good to learn their ways and see if we can sneak up towards the happy Scandinavian countries in the years to come on the happy scale!