Happiness is a lifestyle choice, we just need to learn the Danish way

By Stephen Hinds Day: Culture Columnist

It is often said that silence can be deafening. Indeed, it is true that we meet an intrusive sense of peace when left subject to lengthy periods of solitude – for it is easy to become submerged under the mighty currents of our own mind. Considering something like this may explain why, during lockdown, 63% of adults reported feeling stressed or anxious about life after COVID-19, according to the UCL COVID-19 social study.

“Will life ever be the same again?” – perhaps you are one of the many still lamenting on this question? If so, you must beware its alluring nature. For once we become overly fixated on what is ahead of us, we automatically disconnect from that which is happening in front of us; but perhaps a tip from one of the happiest countries in the world can remedy that.

The Danish call it ‘Hygge’. Pronounced “hoo-gah”, (although some believe “hue-geh” is more accurate), it is defined as “a mood of comfortable conviviality with feelings of wellness and contentment”. The feeling of putting on a fresh warm pair of socks in the winter; the calming experience of brewing a fresh cup of tea as the morning sun arises from its slumber – these little moments of bliss and appreciation are ‘Hygge’. It culminates around a sense of perpetual happiness; for it is the art of consciousness and appreciation towards the smaller aspects of our day-to-day experience. This is one of the various reasons Denmark has ranked top 3 in the World Happiness Report for several years now.

The word is argued to have originated in around the 19th century, as a way to endure and emotionally mitigate the continuous onslaught of cold dark days in the Scandinavian country. Fast forward to now, and the Danish have absorbed the spiritual concept into the very fabric of their lifestyle. Hygge constitutes a “defining feature of our cultural identity and an integral part of the national DNA”, says CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen.

The Danish ideology only recently attained international recognition, however, when in 2016 it became so popular in the UK that it was recognised as runner up ‘Collins Word of the Year’, and in 2017 the U.S followed suit with over 8 books being published within the space of a few months. At this present time, with over 900 books currently being sold on amazon, and over 4 million Instagram posts having had ‘#hygge’ attached, the ‘cosy culture’ is an international phenomenon.

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Schools in Denmark even utilise it as part of their curriculum, allotting an hour each day for ‘Klassen Tid’, or “Class’s Hour”. Children between the ages of 6-16 experience this as part of a compulsory segment of their day, during which, books are closed, pens are put down and eyes are directed towards each other. It is an experience of “intentionally created intimacy”, where classmates share any prevalent issues, and if none need to be shared, cake and sweet treats are substituted.

“a mood of comfortable conviviality with feelings of wellness and contentment”.

These experiences of empathy and relaxation are invaluable when it comes to the development of a child, for it is understood that happiness is also “dependant on one’s ability to cope well with stress and relate well to others when life throws you curveballs”, writes Mariana Rudan, an Australian resident discussing her visit to Denmark in 2017.

Denmark: The home of many cultural gems

However, it is important to remember that Hygge is a sensation, and not something that can be sold or purchased. It is a state of mind, and, “like love, though far less elusive, cannot be owned”, writes Danish Columnist Laura Byager. Simply lighting a candle, or investing in ‘Hygge Duvet Sets’ will not blossom this internal flower; it eludes materialism and tangibility – much like a Buddhist’s sense of ‘one-ness’.

So perhaps, for our children whom are returning to school and the ‘new normal’, as well as for ourselves who still stand face to face with the daunting unknown, we can take solace from the smaller things we may unknowingly take for granted. Because it is the journey we will remember, once we arrive at our destination.

What do you think about Hygge? Do you think you can follow the way of a ‘Hyggeligt’? Let us hear your thoughts and opinions!

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