For over a decade I’ve been seeking ways to improve my well-being and live a happier, healthier life and I love sharing my findings with those I care about. Recently I finished reading a book by Meik Wiking from the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen. “The Little Book of Hygge – The Danish Way to Living Well” is Wiking’s guide to a happier more fulfilling life by following the Danish approach to living. 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 blog will 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.
According to Wiking, hygge has ten vital elements to foster the above-mentioned feelings:
- Atmosphere: thought and effort put into creating cosiness within your surroundings. Light, and particularly that created by candles, makes up a large part of the hygge environment, as does wooden furniture and cushions and blankets to give that sense of warmth and being hugged.
- Presence: truly living in the moment and not diverting attention to your phones or taking photos to post on social media.
- Pleasure: savouring the goodness you are creating, often linked to the food and drink you may be cooking and consuming. Casual, rustic slow cooked meals are considered ‘hygge’ as well as sweets. However it is important that if indulging in less than healthy food options that you are present and truly enjoying it as the special treat that it is rather than guzzling it down.
- Equality: putting ‘we’ before ‘me’ and sharing with those around you. Wiking’s book recommends trying Pantry Parties. This is where groups 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.
- Gratitude: giving thanks for what you do have, even the little things!
- Harmony: losing any element of competition and leaving your bragging of achievements at the door
- Comfort: take a break from the busyness of your life and relax.
- Truce: leave political discussions for another day or time, no dramas allowed.
- Togetherness: build relationships and narratives by reminiscing on previous shared times and experiences
- Shelter: A place of peace and security from whatever is happening outside.
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.
What 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!