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.
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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.
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?
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.