Learn the Danish Secrets to Living Well (Hygge)

For over a decade I’ve been seeking ways to improve my well-being and live a happier, healthier life and I enjoy sharing my findings with those I care about. Recently I finished “The Little Book of Hygge – The Danish Way to Living Well” which is a guide (by Meik Wiking from the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen) to a happier more fulfilling life by following the Danish approach to living. The concept of Hygge has become popular recently outside of Denmark, but what is all the craze about?

You see, the Danes are consistently ranked as one of the happiest nationalities on the planet despite paying some of the highest taxes and weathering long dark winters. Wiking suggests that Danes use these aspects to their favour and that their well-being is linked to the culture of ‘hygge’. But what does this word mean? And how could we use it here on the other side of the world to enjoy more in our day-to-day lives?

New Zealand and Denmark might actually have more in common than you first think. Nations of similar size and population, spread over islands, living in wooden dwellings, experiencing high life expectancy and periods of challenging weather fronts. Both countries often rank high on lists of desirable places to live, and Wellington nabbed the number one city on a certain index earlier this year. This book helps show how we can follow some simple measures to bring an element of Copenhagen into our Wellington lives for our further benefit.

Hygge, pronounced as hoo-gah, has no direct translation in English, but attempts have described the term as encompassing ‘taking pleasure from the presence of soothing things’ and ‘creating intimacy’, to encouraging 'cosiness of the soul’. Hygge is not about having things but rather creating an atmosphere or experience to feel at home, to feel safe, to share with those people important to you and let your guard down.

Here are 6 vital elements to foster the above-mentioned feelings:

  1. Atmosphere
    • Thought and effort put into creating cosiness within your surroundings, a place of peace and security from whatever is happening outside. This often includes taking the time to light candles, having comfort areas with cushions & blankets to give that sense of warmth and being hugged.
  2. Presence
    • Taking time to truly live in the moment without being distracted. This often means having technology free times and taking a break from the busyness.
  3. Pleasure
    • Enjoying taking time to prepare and enjoy things, like slow cooked meals and danish pastries! Even when you are enjoying less nutritious food options, the impact can still be positive if you appreciate it as a special treat with good company.
  4. Equality & Togetherness
    • Building relationships by sharing experiences with others. Wiking’s book gives the example of Pantry Parties, where a group of friends come together with ingredients to cook bulk foods for the pantry (such as pickles, preserves, sauces) and share in the bounty by each taking home a selection at the end of the experience.
  5. Gratitude
    • Whilst you are taking time to be cosy with good company (which sometimes also means time to your self), giving thanks for what you do have, especially the little things.
  6. Harmony & Truce
    • Leaving all bragging, politics and drama for another day or time.

An example of Hygge might be curling up on a wet day with a book and a blanket, a hot drink and a biscuit. This is something we often feel guilty for doing but the majority of us really enjoy. However Hygge tells us that enjoy these rituals regularly helps us live a happier more fulfilling life. So please keep doing it, but stop feeling guilty rather feel proud that you are prioritising time to practice Hygge!

Whilst it is true that many elements of hygge may take place in the confines of a home, it is also possible to enjoy ‘hygge’ inexpensively outside. BBQ’s, picnics, community gardens, foraging or berry picking, bike riding – as long as these activities are in good company, casual, close to nature and done by enjoying the present moment they are believed to enhance your sense of well-being. New Zealand is famous for its pristine nature and Wellingtonians are perfectly placed to easily access many different natural environments and climates.

The Happiness Research Institute has repetitively shown is that the factor that has the biggest effect on our happiness is our social support. Having a term like ‘Hygge’ to describe that feeling of safety and connection as well as the pursuit and savouring of it, has shown time and again to enhance the quality of life of our antipodean cousins in Denmark.

As a chiropractor my commitment is to help you reach your health goals by enhancing your mind and body connection to live life in better balance. It is also my wish that by functioning in a more connected way yourself (without the nagging aches and pains that may have initially brought you to chiropractic care in the first place) that you can better connect with those around you.

Let us know at your next visit how you may have added some ‘Hygge’ to your life!