The Secret of Danish Happiness – My chat with Meik Wiking

16th January 2019

As the clock struck midnight and the new year officially got underway I watched, from the balcony of our rented apartment, the Copenhagen skyline erupt in celebratory fireworks.

The bombardment lasted for nearly two hours and while I was astounded that our three-year-old slept through the whole thing – that’s what a day spent running around Tivoli Gardens does for you I guess – I was also struck by how much shared hope and happiness was being displayed on the streets of this amazing city.

Like most Brits at the moment I’m a little frightened as to what 2019 has in store, but without getting into politics, it isn’t just the beautifully designed homewares I love about the Danish way of life.

So, to understand the happiest people in the world a little more, as well as to help us all beat those January blues I recently spoke to bestselling author and CEO of The Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, Meik Wiking.

Here’s what Meik had to tell me:

After all the festive excitement the first few weeks of a new year can leave us feeling a bit flat. What small things can we all do to boost a positive mood and mindset?

Especially in the first weeks of the New Year, going back into the normal working routine can be stressful. That is why it is important that we keep hygge in mind.

Hygge is about giving yourself and others a treat. Don’t forget to savour such simple moments like enjoying good food and good company. Eat cake with friends, make sure the lighting is right, and seek to create the perfect hyggekrog in your home.

Until the end of the month our bank accounts may be echoing but money doesn’t necessarily buy happiness. What should we be really focussing on to help keep us happy?

Although money matters, it is not the only thing that contributes to our happiness. Overall, we observe that after our basic needs are covered, increasing your disposable income follows the law of diminishing returns, meaning that each pound we gain will add less and less to our happiness.

A couple of things I think are important to focus on are, being part of a community and meeting with friends or family. Apart from providing us with the feelings of safety, security and warmth, it also keeps us happy.

Another thing that will keep us happy is to stay healthy, and by that, I mean not only physical health but also mental health. So, go out, go for a walk or a run and why not combine several things at once such as going out for a walk with your friends?

Now all the Christmas decorations are packed away our homes often feel dark and gloomy. What can we do to add some instant hygge to a room?

There isn’t a rule of thumb for making your home as hygge as possible but remember it’s not just about how things look, it is just as much about how things feel.

Letting your fingers run across a wooden table, a warm ceramic cup or against the softness of a blanket is a distinctly different feeling than being in contact with something made from steel, glass or plastic.

Think about the way objects feel to your touch and add a variety of textures that you love to your home.

Nordic people are renowned for being the happiest people in the world, why do you think that is?

Since researching for ‘The Little Book of Hygge’, I do believe that Danes are as happy because they embrace living the hygge way. We focus on the small things that really matter and enjoying the good things in life.

The Danes are also exceptionally good at decoupling wealth and wellbeing. After our basic needs are met we focus on what brings us a better quality of life.

Throughout your work you refer to ‘Happiness Tips’, what would be your ultimate top three?
    1. Make a hyggekrog

As mentioned earlier the one thing that every home needs is a hyggekrog, which roughly translates as ‘a nook’. It is the place in the room where you love to snuggle up in a blanket, with a book and a cup of tea.

    1. Bring in nature

Danes feel the need to bring the entire forest inside. Any piece of nature you might find is likely to get the hygge greenlight. Leaves, nuts, twigs, basically you want to think – how would a Viking squirrel furnish a living room?

    1. Be prepared

Hygge emergency kits are very important and can include candles, good quality chocolate, tea, your favourite book, jam, a good pair of woollen socks, a notebook, a jumper, a blanket and, naturally, a scarf. In Denmark, we suffer from scarf withdrawal syndrome, so it’s important to have one on you at all times.

You’ll probably need a fairly big bag for all of this though!

Thank you so much to Meik Wiking for chatting with me.

The Little Book of Hygge and The Little Book of Lykke by Meik Wiking are available now. Find out more about The Happiness Research Institute from their website.

Image 1 courtesy of Meik Wiking. Images 2 and 3 by Nicola Capper.

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