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The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living by Meik Wiking

Meik Wiking

Personal Thoughts

A good brief introduction to the Danish concept of hygge and how we can apply that to our lives. Hygge is an atmosphere or experience of wellbeing and an important reason that Danish people are generally very happy. An easy read, very informative, and backed by science.

Summary Notes

  • Winnie-the-Pooh—when asked how to spell a certain emotion, “You don’t spell it, you feel it.”
  • The key to understanding the high levels of well-being in Denmark is the welfare model’s ability to reduce risk, uncertainty, and anxiety among its citizens and to prevent extreme unhappiness.
  • More than half of Danes light candles almost every day during autumn and winter.
  • A study undertaken by the Danish Building Research Institute showed that candles shed more particles indoors than either cigarettes or cooking.
  • Hygge comes in the form of both a verb and an adjective. Something can be hyggelig(t) (hygge-like): What a hyggelig living room! It was so hyggeligt to see you! Have a hyggelig time!
  • What freedom is to Americans, thoroughness to Germans, and the stiff upper lip to the British, hygge is to Danes.
  • For Norwegians, everything should, ideally, be koselig.
  • A perfect koselig evening would consist of good food on the table, warm colors around you, a group of good friends, and a fireplace, or at least some lighted candles.
  • Canadians use the word hominess to describe a state of shutting out the outside world.
  • So, just like hygge, hominess very much implies a feeling of authenticity, warmth, and togetherness.
  • Germans use the word Gemütlichkeit to cover the state of warmth, friendliness, and belonging, and often to describe the atmosphere at a German beer garden.
  • Denmark and the Netherlands are among the countries with the fewest people who seldom enjoy life or rarely feel calm and relaxed.
  • Hygge you have on Fridays or Sundays. After a long week, fredagshygge usually means the family curling up on the couch together watching TV. Søndagshygge is about having a slow day with tea, books, music, blankets, and perhaps the occasional walk if things go crazy.

1. ATMOSPHERE Turn down the lights. 

2. PRESENCE Be here now. Turn off the phones.

3. PLEASURE Coffee, chocolate, cookies, cakes, candy. Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!

 4. EQUALITY “We” over “me.” Share the tasks and the airtime.

5. GRATITUDE Take it in. This might be as good as it gets. 

6. HARMONY It’s not a competition. We already like you. There is no need to brag about your achievements. 

7. COMFORT Get comfy. Take a break. It’s all about relaxation. 

8. TRUCE No drama. Let’s discuss politics another day. 

9. TOGETHERNESS Build relationships and narratives. “Do you remember the time we . . . ?” 

10. SHELTER This is your tribe. This is a place of peace and security.

  • The best predictor of whether we are happy or not is our social relationships.
  • Time spent with others creates an atmosphere that is warm, relaxed, friendly, down-to-earth, close, comfortable, snug, and welcoming. In many ways, it is like a good hug, but without the physical contact. It is in this situation that you can be completely relaxed and yourself. The art of hygge is therefore also the art of expanding your comfort zone to include other people.
  • Cuddling pets has the same effect as cuddling another person—we feel loved, warm, and safe, which are three key words in the concept of hygge. Oxytocin is released when we’re physically close to another person’s body, and can be described as a “social glue,” since it keeps society together by means of cooperation, trust, and love.
  • Using Surveys of Life Satisfaction to Value Social Relationships, a study undertaken in the United Kingdom in 2008, estimated that an increase in social involvements may produce an increase of life satisfaction equivalent to an extra $110,000 a year.
  • According to the “belongingness hypothesis,” we have a basic need to feel connected with others, and close, caring bonds with other people play a major part in our motivation and behavior. Among the evidence for the belongingness hypothesis is the fact that people across the world are born with the ability and motivation to form close relationships, that people are reluctant to break bonds once they have been formed, and that married or cohabiting people live longer than single people (although this last is in part due to an enhanced immune system).
  • Almost 60 percent of Danes say the best number of people for hygge is three to four.
  • Hanging out with your close friends in a tightly knit social network, where you all go way back together and know each other well, definitely has its benefits.
  • The high level of meat, confectionery and coffee consumption in Denmark is directly linked to hygge. Hygge is about being kind to yourself—giving yourself a treat, and giving yourself, and each other, a break from the demands of healthy living. Sweets are hyggelige. Cake is hyggeligt. Coffee or hot chocolate are hyggeligt, too. Carrot sticks, not so much.

The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living by Meik Wiking

Meik Wiking
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