Why are the Danes consistently ranked highest in the world in happiness? Their beloved welfare state may account for some of this happiness, but other Nordic countries have strong welfare states and don't consistently rank as No. 1.
According to author Meik Wiking, chief executive officer of Denmark's Happiness Research Institute, "hygge" is the reason for the Danes' outstanding levels of happiness, which he explains in his book, "The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living."
Hygge, prounced hyugah is a closely held value and concept not easy to translate into English. It is about hearth and home, about family, friends and coziness from the cold.
Wiking begins with a discussion on how Danes burn more candles per capita than any other country. How is this relevant? It creates an atmosphere of intimacy and coziness. It is a physical example of the value Danes place on creating a warm mood.
Similarly, a lot of thought is given to lighting. Careful placement of several soft lights, creates a much more comfortable atmosphere than one large florescent lamp. Wiking also discusses the importance of wood furniture as an example Danes place on creating a welcoming environment. Purposeful attention in creating a warm environment is one factor in hygge.
A second factor in hygge is an emphasis on relationships. Although Danes are more productive economically (than other economic powerhouses), they actually spend less time at work, ranking second in the world for short work weeks. This short work week allows Danes to maintain close family relationships and cultivate strong social networks.
This is a quick read and an excellent introduction to the concept of hygge. It gave me ideas on how to create more inviting environments and confirmed the value of candles in creating intimacy. If you're looking for ways to make life more comfortable and meaningful, check out this book.
Qhyrrae Michaelieu is the adult services manager at the Missouri River Regional Library.