The first World Happiness Report was published in April 2012 and has been published once a year since this date. During it’s (so far) five-year run, Denmark has placed in the top three happiest countries in the world, and has held the top-spot a grand total of three times. In fact, the Scandinavian countries of Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, and Finland consistently dominate the top five in the report. In comparison, the UK ranks a lowly 19th…
So it begs the question; what are the Scandinavian countries doing?
For those unfamiliar, hygge (pronounced “hoo-gah”) is a Danish word, derived the Norwegian word for wellness. The actual definition of hygge is a lot more complex, because rather than it referring to a physical object, it is more commonly understood as a state of mind.
The author of the number one bestselling book, ‘The Little Book of Hygge’, Meik Wiking summarises this concept nicely. He explains how ‘you know hygge when you feel it’. To give some examples he goes on to say ‘It is when you are cuddled up on the sofa with a loved one, or sharing comfort food with your closet friends. It’s those crisp blue mornings when the light through your window is just right’. Hygge refers to somewhat of a relaxed nature, when you feel contempt and serene. How you achieve this depends on your lifestyle and personality but if we consider the results of the World Happiness Report, it may be important to find it as suggestively it holds the key to your happiness.
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Understandably there may be some scepticism surrounding how one evening with your partner on the sofa can improve your overall happiness, surely, it’s not that simple. Of course not, if it was sofa sales would go through the roof. The Danish however do believe in making time for this mindset as they believe it improves their overall lifestyle, and they may be on to something…
The Better Life Index, launched by the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development, was created to compare the lifestyles of populations around the world. It takes into a consideration several factors – i.e. housing, income, education, health, life satisfaction, security, etc. – and ranks countries based on how they are performing. If you compare the UK’s living conditions with Denmark, it is immediately noticeable that the Danish have a better sense of wellbeing.
On a scale of 1-10 Demark scored 9.1 on the work-life balance scale. The UK scored 6.6. On the education scale, we also see a drastic difference, Denmark scored 8.2 while the UK scored 6.4. There are factors where the difference between the two nations was considerably smaller – in regards to income and job security, Denmark scored 8.5 and the UK weren’t too far behind on the scale with a score of 7.8. However, there were also worryingly noticeable distinctions. On the life satisfaction scale, Denmark were nearly awarded full points with a score of 97%. The UK scored 60%. Life satisfaction refers to people’s happiness and this Index mirrors the results of the World Happiness Report.
Denmark are obviously doing something right and their focus on better living is evidently doing wonders for the country’s population.
How Do The Danes Live Their Lives Differently?
As hygge is a feeling, there isn’t a one fit all solution that can help you achieve this state of mind. Everyone is different and you will need to find out what works for yourself.
Some examples of what other individuals do however include eating sweets, drinking a cup of tea, lighting candles, going for long walks and playing board games.
They take some time back for themselves to focus on their own mindset. In order to relieve stress, some like to pop bubble wrap and press the button on the jam jar lid. The satisfaction from doing so is said to reduce tension.
Eating sweets is another way of achieving hygge. While eating sugary, high calorie foods all day every day is not the answer, treating yourself to cake or your favourite chocolate bar helps you to feel more positive. The diet culture is strong in Britain but in Denmark they are more relaxed; they don’t binge on food, they don’t deprive themselves, they let themselves eat more freely. We can see this in the sweet statistics – Danes eat around 8.2kg of sweets each year compared to just 4.1kg by Europeans. Not worrying about your diet and allowing yourself treats when you want them is a successful way of finding the hygge mindset.
Going for a long walk and getting some light exercise may also be key. Fresh air is said to do wonders for your mindset and clearing your thoughts. Various forms of exercise can also be productive in achieving hygge which is why a lot of Danes prefer to cycle to work. 35% of the population of Copenhagen cycle compared to only 3.9% of the population of London.
Spending time with a loved one has also proved to be successful. The small things matter and spending time with your partner, friends or your family can help you relax and unwind. Whether that’s a night in front of the TV, playing a board game or sharing a cup of tea – sometimes sharing the company is enough to improve your mindset.
There are various steps you can take to achieve hygge but the evidence certainly speaks for itself. The Danish are doing something that is having a positive effect on every aspect of their lives. Their happiness, life balance and community is out performing the UK and hygge could be the solution.