As the weather in the Northern Hemisphere begins to turn cold throughout the fall and winter, more and more people are pushed indoors. By early February, terms like “cabin fever” start getting tossed around, as more individuals become tired of being indoors for the majority of the day . . . which is understandable.
But maybe we can all take a cue from the Danes, a country and a culture that constantly tops “the Forbes chart for The World’s 10 Happiest Counties,” as pointed out by author Olivia Telford. “Year after year,” Telford writes, “[the Danes] remain steadily within the top three, and many of those years they see the #1 spot.”
So, the question for many people is that how can a country, which experiences cold and dark climates for most of the year, be one of the happiest places on Earth?
Some individuals suspect it has to do with how the Danes look at life, or, their philosophy, in other words. And that can be summed up in one word: Hygge. Pronounced “HOO-ga,” the idea “describes a feeling rather than a concept.” Hygge is all about experiencing “slow and intimate moments,” as the author points out. Other synonyms might be “relaxing” or “cozy.” The Danes spend roughly 17 hours a day in darkness and cultivate the philosophy of hygge. It’s a lesson that, perhaps, Americans can take a cue from during the cold and dark winter months.
Another way to put it might be: “The secret to hygge lies in paying attention to the rhythm of our daily lives, the people we choose to spend time with, the things we use, and the activities we undertake that give life values and meaning,” writes author Lousia Thomsen Brits. “We all recognize the universal themes that underpin [hygge],” she continues. “[B]elonging, trust, connection, community, mutuality, kinship, security, home, contentment, authenticity, presence, and love.”
“Hygge is evoked in situations where there is nothing to accomplish but letting go to the present moment in a way that’s more aligned to simple pleasure than deep reflection,” Brits writes. “Experiencing a sense of presence and belonging is challenging when we’re stressed or distracted.”
Finally, hygge is a philosophy we can all apply to our lives during the dark months of winter. All you need is to create a cozy ambience in your home and learn to appreciate the little things in life.
Brits, L. T. (2017). The book of hygge. Plume. New York, NY.
Telford, O. (2017). Hygge: discovering the Danish art of happiness.