Happiness is a desirable but elusive concept for many of us. Look around, and you’ll see people running from one task to another, with an air of efficiency. On closer examination however, you’ll notice how stressed and unhappy they look. Increased work scope, the race to meet deadlines and align teams, and performance goals to accomplish quarter on quarter are all reducing productivity levels and sadly, causing many to burn out. Many of us wish we could just leave all this and retire in the mountains in the hope of finding happiness.
Aagh!!! We realize we can’t!
The responsibility of bills to pay, loans to kill, and so on, becomes so overwhelming that we drop that blissful idea of early retirement like a hot potato!
Wait! All is not lost. The good news is that we can find happiness right here right now!
The recent World Happiness Report once again ranks Denmark among the top three happiest countries of the 155 surveyed, not once but for 7 consecutive years. Resident Dane, Meik Wiking, deep dived in to study the possible reasons for this happiness quotient that the Danish enjoy. Among all aspects, he concluded that they value a cultural construct called Hygge (pronounced hue-guh). The Oxford Dictionary added the word in June 2017 and refers to Hygge as high quality social interactions.
Hygge is an atmosphere; it’s an experience rather than about things. It’s about being with the people we love and are safe with. It’s a feeling of home, when we are shielded from the world and can let our guards down. “Coziness of the soul,” “the art of creating intimacy,” “absence of annoyance,” “cozy togetherness,” and “enjoying coffee together by the fireplace” are just a few of the phrases that describe Hygge.
Let’s explore reasons for high levels of happiness, well-being, and high quality of life people enjoy in Denmark, shall we?
Danes have clear markers that signify Hygge. Many of them are tactile and external in nature, and some are clearly around developing a state of mind that helps one experience Hygge (happiness).
The External Landscape
The atmosphere and physical space/items play a big role in creating Hygge.
- Lamps: placed strategically to create a soothing pool of light. A rule of thumb – the lower the temperature of light, the more the Hygge. Sunsets, wood, and candle flames are about 1800k. That’s the Hygge sweet spot. Choose yellow lighting and watch what it does to your mood.
- Candles: non-scented candles. Danes burn more candles in the world. In fact, according to The Little Book of Hygge, 96% of all Danes burn candles. There is approximately 6kg per capita consumption, burnt during autumn and winter at home, office, at restaurants, and wherever you would find people coming together.
- Food: coffee, chocolate, cookie, cakes, candy, and more! Don’t we all know the power of these incredible foods to stimulate our happy hormones?
- Get comfy. Take a break. It’s all about relaxation. Make the office space comfortable – it should be easy to move around, without barriers. Add bean bags and comfortable floor seating for to you unwind and read a book when you want. Create a sacred space for you to think and create at the office and at home. That’s how the Danes do it.
- Have fun! In Denmark, the office is like a morgue after 5:30 pm, and people with kids leave at 4. They head home and cook dinner. Home is Hygge Families make time to play and eat together at the end of the day.
The Internal Realm
Hygge is also about no drama. It is about being your authentic self. It’s about togetherness. Hygge is where you find your shelter, your tribe. This is a place of peace and security. It’s we over me. Share tasks and the airtime while in a conversation. There is harmony, no competition.
You can most likely relate to the points above, but the aspect that keeps most of us running like wild geese is the inability to develop qualities that most Danes seem to have quite naturally (at least this is how it seems from afar). These qualities, when developed, can help us completely experience Hygge.
- Be here now. It’s a strong orientation and commitment towards experiencing and savouring the present moment.
- Develop the attitude of gratitude towards all people, things, and experiences.
- Be in harmony with one’s self and each other.
Go ahead and experiment with what has been tried and tested by the Danes. Adopt a few of these simple little pleasures and allow the magic of happiness flow into your day and into your life.