Hygge, the Danish lifestyle trend that nourishes the soul

 ‘Light a fire, light some candles, open a bottle of red wine, and you have a happy Dane’. Can it really be that simple?

 Hygge was predicted to be one of the hottest home décor trends of 2017 – people have tagged over 2.3 million posts on Instagram with #hygge, and have also taken to Twitter to discuss the finer points of what makes something hygge or not (think throw rugs, fireplace, anything knitted, homemade food, hot drinks, board games, picnics in the park, backyard dinner parties – you get the idea!).

 Without realising it, you have probably (hopefully) already experienced the Danish trend of hygge. Pronounced ‘hoo-ga’, hygge is quite simply a feeling of cosy contentment and well-being – attained through enjoying the simple things in life. It has been a key part of Danish culture since the early 1800s when the word first appeared in the written language. The concept is so important to the Danish people it is considered a ‘defining feature of Danish cultural identity and an integral part of Danish DNA’, says Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen.

 While Denmark has been nudged by Norway into second place for 2017, not for nothing does Denmark rate consistently at the top in the ‘World Happiness Report’. The report is produced by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), a global initiative launched by the United Nations in 2012. The aim of the report is to provide another tool for governments, business, and civil society to help their countries find a better way to wellbeing. The rankings (Australia rates ninth) are based on six factors — per capita gross domestic product, healthy life expectancy, freedom, generosity, social support, and absence of corruption in government or business.

 So what is their secret? How do Danes get to be so consistently happy? Or as suggested by some sceptics, do they simply have lower expectations than the rest of us? Let’s try to unpack it – in an online vote of 300,000 people about what defines them as the world’s happiest people, these are are the top 10 Danish national values:

 Freedom of the individual

  1. Equality under the law – Denmark rates highly on trust/low corruption
  2. Gender equality – same rights and opportunities for all
  3. The all-important ‘hygge’- a special way of being together in a relaxed atmosphere.
  4. The safety net of a welfare society cushioning social and physical risks
  5. Trust – expectation that fellow citizens and public institutions are reliable
  6. Danish as a common language spoken by over 90% of people
  7. Association activities and volunteerism
  8. Liberal-minded, or open-minded and tolerant attitude
  9. Christian heritage, charity and the importance of work, personal responsibility, and equality of all people

 Of note is that Danes trust their government, support a welfare state, and value gender equality. And interestingly it appears that hygge, listed at number four, is not so much a function of everything else being perfect, but something they value highly and work at to include as part of their everyday lives. In other words it really does seem to be ingrained into their very culture.

 So how can we adopt hygge in our own lives to reap the benefits?

Hygge is more than a cosy room full of candles, company, and good food. Hygge is a philosophy; a way of life that helps us to understand the importance of simplicity, time to unwind, slowing down the pace of life, and being kind to yourself and others. So while hygge may have started in Denmark, it’s good to know you can recreate it at home. It starts with intention – make some space and time to do nothing but enjoy the little things with family and friends and you’re well on your way to a hyggelig home – it really is that simple!

 On Saturday night I had planned to share some hygge-time with friends quietly celebrating the Spring Equinox with meditation candles and tea at the summit of the world heritage listed site Mt Coot-tha, surrounded by stars and overlooking the twinkling city lights of Brisbane. However it didn’t turn out quite as expected – members of the Astronomical Society were also there, equipped with their powerful telescopes, generously sharing them with apparently half the population of Brisbane! In true hygge-style and going with the flow, we were invited to experience our first sighting of Saturn, the sixth planet from the Sun – complete with rings – approximately 1.2 billion kilometres away!

 Anyway that’s it from me, I’m heading off to enjoy my own special version of hygge – curling up after a day of work with a cuppa, snack and hyggebinge-streaming one of my favourite Scandi-crime dramas – think ‘The Bridge’, ‘Dicte’, ‘Beck’.

 What’s your special hygge moment? Is it hyggebold (hygge-kicking a ball around with friends in a circle – note non-competitive!), hyggefiskeri (hygge-fishing), hyggemotionist (hygge-exercise)? Let us know!

 Hyggehejsa, or cheers!

 Posted 26 September 2017