Need Some Hygge In My Life

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As I noted in my last post, I’ve been in a bit of a rut. I do not like saying good-bye to summer and the holidays really stress me out. The other night, when I took a break from my Pinterest investigation of Halloween costumes, I came across on article on MSN.com about the Top 5 Happiest Countries. Curious and searching for internal happiness myself, I opened the article and found the list:

Top 5 Happiest Countries:
1. Switzerland
2. Iceland
3. Denmark
4. Norway
5. Canada

Where’s the US you ask… No.15. Honestly that really didn’t surprise me. What did surprise me was who the top 5 were. When I think of these top 5 places, I mostly think of cold, long dark winters and I don’t associate cold and dark with happiness. The list comes from the World Happiness Report, which was first started in 2012.

How do they rank happiness? The World Happiness Report researchers ranked countries based on factors including healthy life expectancy, social support, GDP per capita, the happiness of a country’s children, social capital, civil economy, absence of corruption and subjective well-being. An under-lying current with the happiest countries are those with strong social ties, a strong sense of community and a healthy work-life balance.

What does that mean? Well, partially, it means you can’t buy happiness, although jobs and economy are very important. It really made me wonder what makes these places and people so happy. I mean, I can’t just up and move to Scandinavia. Are there things they do in their lives that make them happier people? I did a little digging.

According to one article, Denmark has been voted one of the happiest countries in the world for over 40 years and was No. 1 for 3 years. I didn’t read all of the scientific research on why their ranking changed (feel free to do so at http://worldhappiness.report/), but what I did find was the Danish cultural concept of hygge (pronounced hooga). It intrigued me. What’s very interesting is that there is no exact translation of hygge in English. The closest are “cozy” or “homey”, but really do not do it justice. So what is it? From what I can tell, it’s a mood or state of mind – a conscious effort to create a peaceful, warm feeling and atmosphere-using candles a lot, usually with friends and family, although can be done alone. It also seems to be associated with gratitude and being in that moment. Here’s how the article “The Secret to Danish Happiness” put it (http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/the_secret_to_danish_happinessone):

 Try to imagine going to a drama-free family gathering. There are no divisive discussions about politics, family issues, or Aunt Jenny’s dysfunctional kids. No snide comments, complaining, or heavy negativity. Everyone helps out, so that not one person gets stuck doing all the work. No one brags, attacks anyone, or competes with another. It is a light-hearted, balanced interaction that is focused on enjoying the moment, the food, and the company. In short, a shelter from the outside world.

I don’t know about anyone else, but this definitely doesn’t describe my family gatherings (no offense to family members reading this…).  And Danes devote more than 16 hours each day to leisure and personal care activities (including sleep… hmmm). WOW…

Other cultures have similar concepts. There’s the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi, focused on accepting and learning from the imperfect. Norway has friluftsliv, which translates to “free air life” and stresses the importance of being outside. And there’s gemütlichkeit — essentially the German version of hygge.

So what about Switzerland? The one thing that really stuck out about Switzerland was that 96% of the population feels they have people in their lives they could rely on in a time of need. That is the highest figure of all the countries. Maybe that’s part of the strong social ties or the sense of “shelter from the outside world”, creating a sense of hygge?

To me, a lot this feeds into being at peace and creating a sense of harmony. I saw a poster at a yoga studio with this:

“Be happy. Appreciate this moment. Resist nothing. Love yourself and others. Be grateful for small blessings. Make happiness your number one priority.”

So this weekend, I plan on practicing some hygge. Tonight, I will complete my Halloween costume (yes I found a party to go to!!), then light a candle and snuggle up with my big fat cats with a feel-good movie. Tomorrow I will spend with wonderful friends, enjoying my time with them and being in the moment!

Go be a hyggelig fyr (someone who is fun to be with) and  have some hyggelig time (social, fun, relaxing time).

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