Everyone Could Use a Little Hygge

Image:© fotoduets (Fotolia.com)

Put Hygge On Your To Do List

Denmark is the most southern Scandinavian country, south of Norway and southwest of Sweden. Only 42,924 square kilometers (16,573 square miles) in area, it is slightly less than twice the size of Massachusetts. Winters in Denmark are cold and dark with temperatures falling as low as -15 to -30 C degrees (-22 to 5 degrees F) and sunlight lasting only 7 to 8 hours per day. Humidity is greater than 70% year round, and it rains at least a third to half the month, depending on the season.

Sign me up!

Wait … what?

Despite the harsh living conditions of Denmark, the Danes are noted to be the happiest people in the world. Believe it or not, this is something researchers quantify every year. The World Happiness Index takes into consideration six categories: gross domestic product (GDP), health and life expectancy, generosity, freedom to make life choices, social support, and trust. In 2017, Denmark ranked second only to Norway, and it took top prize in 2012, 2013, and 2016.

If you ask me, that sounds like a pretty nice place to live.

Finding the Best in Any Situation

The people of Denmark find their happiness not only in sunny summers and their 16 to 17 hours of daylight. They make the most of every day, living according to a principle they call hygge. So many people try to define hygge in English, but its true meaning remains somewhat elusive. Some call it “cozy”, but it is so much more. It is a quality of life principle, a state of mind, that thrives on moments, not things.

What are some things that could make your life more hygge?

  • Food and Drink: Coffee, tea, beer. Oh, they LOVE cake and chocolate too. The Danes sure do enjoy their food. To them, it is comforting and indulgent. Take a moment to savor every sip and bite.
  • Natural Lighting: Candlelight, the rising sun, Scandinavian floor lamps. Fluorescent lighting makes Danes wither like a vampire in sunlight. Instead, they prefer more natural lighting. With winter pulling the shade on sunlight so many months out of the year, they like their lighting to be calm and soothing.
  • Warm and Toasty: Cozying up to a crackling fire, pulling on a wool sweater, wrapping yourself in a flannel blanket. Hygge lets you bundle yourself in a warm hug year round.
  • Less Is More: The virtue of a moment is living in its simplicity. That’s why their interior design is clean and modest with minimal clutter. Spending more money on something actually makes it less hygge too. Being hygge means that you are not showy. It keeps you humble, down to earth, and accepting of the world around you.
  • Togetherness: You can certainly be hygge on your own, but being with friends and loved ones the adds to the experience. Being with people equally enjoying the moment makes it that much richer.
  • Worth the Effort: The Danes like to be rewarded for their effort. I love that in his book The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living, Meik Wiking uses the example of going skiing. The physical activity is not the main event, cozying up with the friends by the fireplace afterward is. He also uses the example of a dinner party, where it is more hygge for all guests to prepare the food than to have the host do all the cooking. Better yet, he says that enjoying a cookie you made yourself is far more hygge than enjoying one you bought at the store. Reward your hard work!

Give the World a Hug

Hygge is more than setting a relaxing environment, although a book nook sounds delightful about now. It is about living and enjoying the life that you have. It is about putting aside all the drama and enjoying the simplicity of now.

It is no wonder that the United States has never ranked in the top 10 on the World Happiness Index. We are too often distracted by the chaos of a crazy world. Turn on the local news and you are bombarded with corruption, crime, murder, and the worst of humanity. If we are lucky, there might be a few stories to lighten the mood, but they are always at the end of the news cycle, rolling during the credits as if good news is not a priority.

As a country, we are so caught up in one-upping the next guy, in comparing ourselves to other people, or complaining about the things that don’t go our way. People rarely support each other. People rarely trust one another.  If we took the time to find the good, to focus on the good, to build on the good, then we too could be happier.

Engage more, hygge more, love more. It is a principle I intended to live by.

Copenhagen, Denmark! One day I will visit and bring my hygge to you.