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Denmark is officially the world’s happiest country. Given that the UK languishes in 23rd place, perhaps it’s no wonder that ‘hygge’ is becoming our new favourite buzzword. Pronounced ‘hoo-guh’, it’s both noun and verb, and describes the Danish approach to wellbeing. So what is it? In its simplest form, a mindful focus on simple everyday pleasures.
Meik Wiking, CEO of Copenhagen’s Happiness Research Institute and author of The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way To Live Well, sees hygge as the solution to “the gap between wealth and wellbeing” experienced in the UK and other developed nations. Amongst non-Danes, happiness tends to plummet to its lowest levels between the ages of 44 and 46, before slowly clawing its way back up. Could our three-step fast-track guide to hygge help you to combat those mid-life blues?
Take simple pleasures seriously
At its heart, hygge is about appreciating, savouring and truly experiencing all the little things we tend to take for granted. Those little frivolities which fall by the wayside when we’re feeling overworked, overwhelmed and under pressure? Slow down and ditch the guilt. They’re the very things that’ll see you through.
A few of the ‘hyggelig’ pursuits favoured by Louisa Thomsen Brits, author of The Book of Hygge: The Danish Art of Living Well, include making risotto, making love, making tea, reading in bed, dancing, camping, walking through her local town and meeting friends for coffee. Why not start by dedicating thirty uninterrupted minutes to one such activity every day?
Respect your surroundings
Nature is, according to Wiking, “a fast track to hygge”. Take a short walk, or simply spend twenty minutes sitting in your local park, as you enjoy a brief pause from engulfment in “entertaining electronics or juggling a broad spectrum of options”.
But home is really where the hygge is. Fill yours with things which please your senses and make you feel “safe, shielded from the world” and able to let your guard down. Cushions, blankets, soft lighting and candles are your secret weapons.
Make time for friends and family
Hygge is “about an atmosphere and an experience, rather than about things,” says Wiking, with dedicating quality time to small, close-knit groups of friends and family being “the most important ingredient to happiness”. Why not try implementing a ‘no phones or TV’ rule at the dinner table at least once a week, or making a standing date to meet an old friend for coffee?