The 2018 World Happiness Report lists Denmark as the third happiest country. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to many since Denmark consistently ranks among the top three. The U.S., on the other hand, dropped four spots from last year, landing at number 18. So, what keeps Denmark smiling? Quality healthcare certainly plays a role. According to a 2012 Denmark survey of family medicine, Danes keep in touch with their primary care physician an average of seven times per year. Fresh air and exercise could also be boosting those happiness endorphins. In Copenhagen, Denmark’s most populated city, biking makes up 50 percent of all commutes to work or school. However, maybe the one thing responsible for Denmark’s happiness ranking isn’t a thing after all.
Hygge, pronounced “hue-gah,” is embedded in Danish culture. The Oxford dictionary added the word in 2017 and defined it as “a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.” Simply put, hygge is “cozy”, but the reality is that hygge is not limited to one definition. Meik Wiking, author of The Little Book of Hygge, puts it best: “Hygge is about an atmosphere and an experience, rather than about things. It is about being with the people we love. A feeling of home.” Just because the Danish culture is rooted in hygge does not mean they don’t experience stress. Rather, they are better positioned to combat the negatives in life by creating positive feelings and experiences. In his book, Wiking includes a ten-point action plan aimed at bringing hygge into your life. Remember, hygge should feel effortless so find small ways to live the hygge manifesto.
Atmosphere: Create soothing spaces. This could be through the warm glow of candles or the rustic design of a wooden table.
Presence: Put away your cell phone and live in the moment.
Pleasure: Allow yourself to indulge in that fancy latte or a tasty piece of chocolate.
Equality: Whether at home or work, share tasks and succeed through teamwork.
Gratitude: Place emphasis on all the things you have to be grateful for.
Harmony: Don’t feel the need to shout your achievements (or your failures) from the rooftop.
Comfort: Take time to relax, whether it’s with a comfy pair of socks or a steaming hot beverage.
Truce: Sometimes you must agree to disagree.
Togetherness: Start new traditions with friends and family. Life is about the experiences you have with the people you love.
Shelter: Make home a space where you feel secure and can let your guard down.
Written by: Mary Kavanaugh, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern. Learn more about the Wellness Workdays Dietetic Internship.
1. Huffington Post
3. The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living