Through yoga I have been able to insert a moment of feel good and happiness into my every day life. A while ago I got curious about other habits that could have a positive influence into my life.
Originally from Finland, it has struck me how the Nordic countries always rank on top posts in the United Nations Yearly World Happiness Report. Having spent most of my childhood and early adult life in northern Europe, I appreciate having been able to go to school and later university in Finland without having to pay for it. I was happy to enjoy a long childhood playing at home and in the neighbourhood until the age of 7. I enjoyed the free healthcare, dental care and free school meals. I love the clean air, forests and the lakes and all the free space available.
However,  the dark season is very long and  the weather can be devastating (despite the saying “There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes”). And the tax rates are extremely high.
A few years ago, I got curious about the studies of Happiness in Nordic countries.
The first step was to look into how to insert some Danish happiness called “Hygge” into my life.  Hygge is known as the secret ingredient of the Danish happiness. Happiness, well-being and quality of life go hand in hand. And the Danes know how to enjoy life. They are masters in leaving work early, spending time outside and weekends in their little cottages by the sea. A happy life is more important than work, money and career.
Hygge (pronounced hoo-gah) has also been called art of creating intimacy or cosiness of the soul. It is about a lifestyle which is not about achievement and goals. It is about creating intimacy and cosiness, spending good time with friends in a easy, hyggelige atmosphere. It is about eating, drinking and socializing together in a place where one can feel protected from the outer world.
I read the book “The Little Book of Hygge, The Danish Way to Live Well” by Maik Wiking, chief executive of the Happiness Research institute in Denmark learning about Danish insights of into everyday happiness.
Originally hygge was describing habits to survive through the bad winter weather, creating a comfortable oasis at home where good times can be spent. It concentrates around the Christmas time, when the home gets decorated and everyone is cooking delicious Xmas dishes and bakery while outside is a cold and dark.
  1. Light up with candles

Creating a soft and caressing light, use candles to create atmosphere or light up your balcony/garden as well. They are called living lights or “levende lys” in Danish. As a curiousity: each Dane burns about 6 kg of candles per year, the European record. Burn natural, organic products without added scents!

2.  Create a Hygge corner at home

Have a specific place: a windowsill, an old armchair or an area with dim light and pillows at your home, where you can sit down for a calm moment, together with a book and a cup of tea. Make sure you have a view out so that you can get some natural light to you hygge area. Where you can hear the storm or rain beating the roof and windows. Bring a piece of nature into your home: leaves. twigs, nuts, sheepskin…
(For us yogis this could also mean a yoga area. All you need is a yoga mat, some accessories, a yoga god/goddess statue and candle. A nice bonus is a window with a view.)

3.  Choose ecologic materials and recycled pieces

Instead of buying new, cherish the old, go to flea markets, rescue old furniture from family or neighbours. Prefer natural materials, especially wood. Use textiles in natural colours and materials in you decorations.

4.  Togetherness: Invite a few good friends over to cook and eat together.

Hyggelige dinners are made of just a few of your best friends with whom the atmosphere is intimate and discussion can flow into the late night. Home made dinners, where everybody is cooking together is a great opening for the evening. Social relations are essential for people’s happiness, being maybe the most important ingredient for happiness itself. According to the Danes, the most hyggelige numbrer of people is 3-4. A small group of people guarantees more intimacy in the discussion.

5.  Get out and be present with some nature therapy

When ready for your hygge time, turn off the phones and concentrate on the moment you are in. It might be the best moment of your life.  Get out in the nature. Go for a walk in the forest or park. Watch the sunset or sunrise to capture the golden moment of the day. Take a picture of it. Make a fire and sit around it baking twist bread (snobrød, tikkupulla) with friends.

6. Learn Knitting (or other craft)

Getting comfortable when the evenings get chillier. Hygge people dress in comfortable leggings, oversized sweaters and hand made woollen socks. DIY being one the the key elements of hygge, also you can knit your own woollen socks!
Or you get a handmade pair from Etsy market:
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-Maija Airas-Ceri

4 comments on “Happiness the Nordic way: Hygge from Denmark

  • I just love this article and it’s beautiful, simple, practical ideas that anyone could implement.
    There are a couple of spelling errors eg.” Woollen” socks would be much more comfortable than “wooden” ones don’t you agree.

    • Hi! Haha! Thanks for pointing that out. You might want to replace wood by wool. Makes the socks much more comfortable 🙂

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