Updated: May 30
When international surveys ask citizens around the world how happy they are, Denmark always comes in amongst the top three happiest nations. But what is it that makes the Danes so happy?
Is it the free education, the free public health care?
Is it the low crime rates? 52 weeks maternity leave?
Or could it be their way of life?
Deeply embedded into the Danish culture is the lifestyle concept of Hygge [pronounced 'hue-guh']. Danish people live and breathe Hygge in their daily lives, but what is it exactly?
There is no direct translation, but Hygge is about taking time to slow down, enjoy the simple things in life, with the people you love, in a cosy environment. Hygge is a feeling of cosiness and wellbeing, brought about by anything that makes your soul and heart feel warmed.
For example, it might be sitting infront of a cosy crackling log fire enjoying a lovely glass of wine; sharing a delicious meal with your favourite people; putting fresh flowers on the table; a walk in nature taking in the smell of the fresh air; or purely sitting with your slippers and dog reading the Sunday paper. These are all moments of Hygge.
If you want to bring a little more Hygge and happiness into your life, here’s six things the Danes do regularly - and that you can do too…
1. Get out on two wheels
Copenhagen, Denmark's capital, is dominated by bicycles and has 350kms of cycle paths and lanes. 9 out of 10 Danes own a bicycle. Not only is cycling great exercise but it forces you to slow down, take in your surroundings and enjoy some fresh air, all under the power of your own two legs.
2. Help others
Rooted in the Danish culture is a huge sense of community. Stemming from their welfare system, Danes are generous and spread kindness and support to the people around them. If there is one way to make yourself feel happier, it's helping others. Do some good, make a meal for a friend, bake a cake for a lonely neighbour or volunteer for a cause you're passionate about.
3. Get cosy
Danes buy more candles than any other country in Europe, and they’re a key component in creating a warm, cosy atmosphere. Make your home a sanctuary of Hygge; get out those woolly blankets, throws and soft cushions, light up the candles and snuggle down.
4. Be present
Unplug and be present in the moment, spend time away from your electronic devices and enjoying 'being' with the people around you, undistracted by social media and life online.
5. Work- life balance
Danes understand the importance of family time and don't feel the pressure to do overtime - infact it is strongly discouraged. Work-life balance in Denmark is a way of life. Did you know, Danes work an average of 33 hours a week with 5 weeks paid holiday. Parental leave is amongst the most generous in the world, with employers required to offer up to 52 weeks of leave, for either mother or father.
"Eftermiddagskaffe" or "Afternoon Coffee" is a daily event in Denmark, where you invite a friend over for a cup of coffee and piece of cake and Hygge together. The Swedes have a similar tradition called "Fika" which you may have heard about. It's a chance to catch up over a lovely piece of cake and a warm drink. There is nothing more heartwarming.
With such a focus on wellbeing rooted into the culture of a nation, there’s no wonder the Danes rank so consistently highly on the world happiness charts and there is so much that we can learn from their wonderful lifestyle. Hands up who wants to be an honorary Dane...!
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