It’s a pandemic, the world is in turmoil and life as we know it has basically shutdown. For many, 2020 was a year they would like to wipe out completely and hope springs eternal that 2021 will be a vast improvement on the year gone by – but it isn’t looking that great. No person on earth escaped the upheavals of 2020 and in so many ways it was a watershed moment as we enter the next decade.
What could one then expect from the World Happiness Report 2020 that came out? Most likely thought it would be a depressing read. But that wasn’t so – apparently there wasn’t much change in the rankings. Once again, the Nordic countries topped the list and Denmark as always, is ever present in the top five countries (they came second in 2020, beaten by Norway who topped the list). What then makes them consistently appear in the top five listings of the happiest countries? Why them and not a whole host of others who appear to have so much more or are more well-to-do economically?
Maybe the answer doesn’t lie in what you have so much as it is within an ideal of living a certain way. Confused? Don’t be – it’s a simple lifestyle concept the Danish have mastered. Try “Hygge” sometimes pronounced “Hoo-gah” or “Hue-guh”. It is a central to their culture and more of a lifestyle choice. There isn’t any magic to it – in a nutshell, it’s all about incorporating well-being into their lives and they are passionate about it.
This Danish concept is now becoming increasingly popular with Americans, and for good reason. Loosely translated, it basically encompasses a feeling of coziness and contentment. Enjoying the simple things in life. All in all, it isn’t such a radical concept and yet in this hyper-warped speed world, somehow slowing down and enjoying the simple joys of life is likely the biggest challenge people face.
With sunshine in short supply and wintery weather predominant, it’s a wonder the Danes find themselves to be happier than most people in the world. Well to be fair, most of the Nordic countries subscribe to this concept and to this lifestyle choice.
Now, Hygee is Norwegian in origin and is synonymous with wellbeing but the Danes have elevated to an art form. The word appeared for the first time in Danish writings in the late eighteenth century – this was also the time, tea became a popular beverage – coincidence, maybe? We like to think so! See, Hygge is all about the joy of the moment, finding pleasure in simple things and savoring the company of others.
Imagine a snowy day, its cold outside but inside you are in your cozy pajamas in front of the fireplace, sipping on gorgeous cup of tea and reading a good book while tender white flakes fall outside, or a winter storm rages – it doesn’t matter! You are in the moment, completely relaxed and your mind is at peace – you are in fact experiencing hygge.
Change the frame, maybe you aren’t reading a book but instead are having a coze with your family or friends over cups of tea and goodies to eat – that too is hygge.
This is the Danes national obsession – ‘being cozy with others’ is credited as one of the reasons Denmark remains at the top of the list of the world’s happiest countries, despite all their miserable winters.
Just like the hygge, tea is the perfect companion to allow you to relax - the simplicity of brewing the perfect tea of your choice and enjoying it is one of the key concepts of this lifestyle – it’s all taking a moment or several moments to just be. It helps relax your mind, allowing you to live fully in the present moment.
So how do you create hygge in your own environment? Simply look at things that make you happy – simple things. Not the latest gadgets or tech or e-com sites or video games or TV shows. Instead, try enjoying a cup of tea with your favorite book or having a weekly gathering with friends over tea (not in Covid times, duh!) but the family living with you also works. Wear your favorite lounge wear or yoga pants or pajamas and watch the world go by. Try to reconnect with yourself and give thanks for the many good things in your life even in such frustrating times – it’s not that difficult. The meditative aspect of drinking tea helps. Scrolling through social media or bingeing on TV doesn’t count as hygge – that doesn’t translate to togetherness, community or simply being in the moment.
Challenge yourself to practice hygge - maybe in a world seeming to be going off the rails, the near-constant bombardment of social media, the constant negativity and the temptation of consumerism is eroding our sense of self and well-being. Finding that moment of total contentment is getting harder – in fact, hardly anyone knows what true contentment can look like unless there is a price tag attached.
So, for 2021, ditch the FOMO (fear of missing out) and embrace JOBO (joy of missing out), - brew that favorite pot of tea, sip it and live in the moment – keep it simple. It doesn’t take much to attain! You might even surprise yourself, the Danes have found the secret to contentment and well-being, so can we!