Hygge – how the Danish became the happiest people in the world

If you’re looking for a way to happiness, look no further than Denmark. The Danes have been named the happiest people in the world, and there’s one word that sums up why: hygge.

Hygge is a concept that is difficult to translate into English, but it can be summed up as “cozy contentment.”

In this post I will take a look at what hygge is and will review the book The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking.

What is Hygge?

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines hygge as “a quality of cosiness that makes a person feel content and comfortable.”

Hygge is about taking pleasure in simple things and enjoying the moment. It’s about savouring good food, good company, and good conversation. It’s about being present in the moment and enjoying life’s simple pleasures.

The word “hygge” is actually Norwegian in origin. However according to the Danes it originates from the word “hug,” which is a lovely thought because what is more comforting than a hug?

The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking

If you’re interested in learning more about hygge, I recommend picking up a copy of The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking. This book is a great introduction to the concept of hygge and how to bring more of it into your life.

Meik Wiking is the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, and he is an expert on happiness and how to create a happy life. In this book, he explores the concept of hygge and how it contributes to the Danish people’s happiness.

In the introduction to the book he shares several definitions of hygge that he has heard over the years –

“the art of creating intimacy

“cosiness in the soul”

“taking pleasure from the presence of soothing things”

“cosy togetherness”

These all sound lovely, but I agree with him that the best one by far is “cocoa by candelight.” Even just the thought of that makes me smile 🙂

What are the main elements of hygge?

The importance of hygge lighting

Lighting is taken very seriously in Denmark. In the Autumn and Winter months the country is shrouded in darkness for most of the day. This is why the Danes put so much thought into lighting their living spaces.

Big bright ceiling lights are frowned upon because of the harshness of the light that they create. Instead, the Danish buy beautiful lamps and place them strategically around the room to create a soothing atmosphere and cosy nooks where they can curl up and enjoy the moment.

In addition, Wiking explains that the great majority of Danes would immediately mention candles if asked about hygge. There is something about their flickering flames that creates a sense of warmth and cosiness. They make people feel at home and create a lovely atmosphere of intimacy in the room.

Togetherness – “Like a hug without touching”

Another important element of hygge is being together with people we love. Whether it’s family, friends, or a romantic partner, spending time with the people we care about is central to a happy life.

Togetherness in hygge is about enjoying the simple things in life with good company. It’s about taking time to connect with loved ones and create lasting memories.

Equality is also very important in hygge. When friends and family come together, nobody monopolises the conversation or dominates the group.

I find this fascinating, and it makes me wonder how narcissists cope in Denmark. After all, if you put a narcissist in a room with a group of people, he (or she) is going to want to be the centre of attention.

So, would adopting hygge turn our social gatherings into narcissist-free zones? The thought is fascinating!

The joy of good food

Food is central to the concept of hygge. The Danes love good food, and they enjoy taking the time to prepare and share meals with friends and family. In fact, the process of preparing a meal and then sharing the food is fundamental to creating the feeling of “togetherness” that is so important in Danish culture.

The Danes also have a sweet tooth, and they absolutely love chocolate, gingerbread, pastries and cake.

In The Little Book of Hygge, Wiking shares several hygge recipes. These include Skipper Stew, Braised Pork Cheeks in Dark Beer with Potato-Celeriac Mash and Gloeg (Mulled Wine).

My mouth is watering just at the thought of these heart-warming dishes!

Bundle up nice and cosy

The Danes love to wear cosy clothes that keep them warm through the long Winter months. Jumpers, cashmere socks, soft scarves – they choose everything with hygge in mind.

They also love to keep their homes warm and cosy. Central heating is the norm, and fires are lit in every room that has a fireplace. Furniture is chosen with comfort in mind, and textiles are always soft to the touch. Rooms are adorned with piles of books, and plants and flowers bring nature into the home.

How can you bring more hygge into your life?

In our fast-paced lives, we often forget to take time to just breathe and live in the moment.

I believe that hygge has become such a popular concept in recent years because as we become more and more aware of the importance of taking care of our mental health, we are searching for ways to create pockets of calmness and happiness in our lives.

By adopting some of the simple principles of Danish culture, we can learn to slow down, appreciate the moment and find joy in the simple things in life. Hygge is about enjoying life’s simple pleasures and finding the time to appreciate our blessings.

I strongly recommend this book. My copy is a hardcover and it is a beautiful book, with lots of beautiful illustrations and photos. Wiking shares lots of tips about how to create hygge in all aspects of our lives – at work, at home, with our friends and even in the great outdoors.

Wiking’s book is a great introduction to the concept of hygge and how it can improve your life. If you’re looking for ways to be happier, I suggest you pick up a copy, and read it cuddled up on the sofa with a hot cocoa 🙂

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