Brits rank 19th on the happiness polls with our Scandinavian friends at the very top. How can we improve?
The reason for this could be in part down to Hygge. Originally a Norwegian term for wellbeing, it was developed into a concept and way of living by the Danish in the 18th century and has been infiltrating the lives of Scandinavian countries ever since.
There is no direct translation in English, making it difficult to pinpoint its meaning. Some people describe it as “cosiness” or “togetherness” but its is more than these things, it is a mood or mental state, a concept, a way of life which can traverses all seasons. You can Hygge alone with a good book and coffee, or in the company of loved ones sharing a meal. Even places and surroundings can be Hygge-like which demonstrates how far reaching this concept is.
Hygge really comes alive in the winter months, and even in the coldest months when there is minimal daylight the Danes remain the happiest in the world. Here are a few tips:
One aspect of Hygge is creating a warm, inviting and relaxing environment to be in. A very easy way of doing this is with candles, lighting is very important to the Danes, with them rumoured to be largest consumer of candles per capita in the world. Candles are an inexpensive way to transform your interior with their flickering glow giving a calm escape from the dreary winter outside. Scented candles add another dimension. Candles with essential oils such as lavender and Eucalyptus and Ylang Ylang which can promote calm and relieve anxiety.
Happiness lamps, or a least thats my name for them are lamps that wake you up slowly and naturally with a light, as the sun would do as it rises. No more blaring alarm clock jolting you from sleep in the dark. You wake up naturally as the light increases, there is a backup sound that gets louder when the alarm is set. The sounds of a forest or birds chirping. I personally was convinced by my friend I needed one of these last winter, I was a sceptic when it came to buying into the whole Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), believing people had just coined another unnecessary term for the sake of it but after my first full winter in Britain I knew better.
The Scandinavians have know this for a long time and have light therapy clinics, with some areas going so far as installing special UV lights at bus stops and other public places to treat SAD.
Adding texture to your home can give it depth and interest, chunky knits and throws, woven rugs and sheepskins all encompass what is is to be Hygge, get the open fire going and pour yourself a glass of glogg (Swedish mulled wine) and thee you have it!
To truly Hygge you have to slow down, sit and be in the moment while drinking your morning coffee, take time out to sit in the sun, savour in the pleasure of the long relaxed dinner with friends. A growing movement around mindfulness is in keeping with the Hygge philosophy with practices such as yoga and meditation once seen as niche are now commonplace. As indie band Frightened Rabbit wrote “turn off the TV, its killing us, we never speak” Be in the moment, relax with the people around you give them and yourself your full attention.