Look for the bare necessities … in Denmark!
Winter, cold weather, short days, fatigue ... Danes people are starting their favorite season. Yes, happiness is not related to the temperature ... not entirely at least! According to Danes people, winter is the best time to experience the Hygge: the Danish happiness philosophy.
Denmark is named as one of the happiest countries in the world according to international surveys (1st place according to the 2019 World Database of Happiness , ranked 2nd according to the World Happiness Report of 2019 , 1st place according to the World Happiness Report in 2012 , 2013 and 2016, 1st place according to the European Social Survey of 2012 and 2014).
How can we explain that a country that has about 180 days of rain a year, 1 hour of
sunshine a day between December and January, and one of the highest tax rates on the planet is also one of the happiest countries in the world? Among many factors that justify Danish happiness (safety, education, health, work, pro-personal lifestyle, cycling, etc.), there are three values that are central to this people and that I would like to talk to you under the eye of Positive Psychology: trust, the Hygge philosophy, and the freedom to be yourself. I hear you coming: "What is the point of telling us about it as we are not Danish and do not live in Denmark? ". Well, as Malene Rydhal so rightly says "these are not Danish values but human values" . The good news of the day is that it is possible to be happy as a Dane, even if we are not.
Trust: the breeding-ground of Danish happiness
In Positive Psychology, trust is seen as an essential foundation for social interaction and connection between human beings.
In Denmark, it is customary to leave strollers with babies outside the restaurant so they can take a nap in the fresh air while you have lunch quietly inside. A French person would directly object to this practice the risk of leaving a baby unattended. The Danes consider that everyone is watching the child, if it is not the parents it is a passer-by. This is a proof that trust exists in the Danish society. Eight out of ten Danes say they trust each other’s. It's a world record.
A study by John Helliwell and Shun Wang has established a very clear link between trust and happiness. In particular, they have found a correlation between believing that someone who finds your lost wallet will return it to you with the money and between saying that you are a happy person. In other words, people who thought their wallet would be returned consider themselves about 7% happier than those who thought their wallet would not be returned, according to the study . And in the case of Denmark, wallet voluntarily forgotten for this study were returned in 100% of the cases. Confidence improves the quality of life.
To increase trust in a community, be yourself a trustworthy person and show your trust in others. If you offer your help to a friend to move, do it really. If you agree to come in support of a colleague on a project, go to the end of your commitment. Be the change you want to see in the world, Gandhi said. Trust is built from trustworthy people.
Take care of the little things of life in the HYGGE lifestyle
The Hygge is at the center of Danish life. It is a true component of national identity, the Danes become attached to Hygge. Now known worldwide, this concept has even integrated English dictionaries in 2016. Often defined in a shortened way to candles, hot tea and cozy plaid, the Hygge is much more than that and has no equal in any other country. It could be summed up as a moment of conviviality with the people we love, which generates a feeling of satisfaction and well-being. An appreciation of simple pleasures, a comfort of the soul. The Hygge is looking for a daily happiness. By strengthening social bonds, it increases the level of happiness. According to Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, "some of the key components of Hygge are vectors of happiness" . More than a concept, it's a true philosophy of life.
Entering a Hygge space is putting aside personal and negative concerns, to connect to the "we" rather than the "I", and to be fully anchored in the present moment. The Hygge is enjoying the simple things of everyday life: read a good book under a cozy plaid, share a family friendly meal, snuggle up to the corner of a fire. The Hygge is the friendly, the intimate, the cozy, the comforting. Being with other people is a key moment in Hygge, which helps to strengthen the spirit of community among people, an important factor of happiness in Positive Psychology.
How to bring Hygge into your life?
- Take care of your interior: create an intimate and warm atmosphere. Candles, plaid, home-made cakes, hot tea, plants, cozy carpets ... "The house is a bit like the headquarters of the Hygge" 
- Spend time with family and friends with friendliness and inner self.
- Slow down, be present, focus on the moment to live (and disconnect your phones)
"Hygge gives us the language, the objective and the methods for planning and preserving happiness – and for getting a little bit of it every day."
- Meik Wiking -
The freedom to be yourself as a backdrop
Everything starts in the education of Dane children. At school, teachers seek to develop the child's personality by reinforcing his strengths and talents. Malene Rydahl sums up the philosophy of Danish education as follows: "No matter what you are good for, it is important for society” . Danish society values talent, whether you are good at math or knitting.
This way of supporting the development of others offers great permission to the Danes: the freedom to be who they want to be. And so, choose a life that corresponds to who they really are. By interviewing Danish people, you will therefore realize that most of them feel a strong sense of purpose. This feeling is essential for living a meaningful life for yourself.
The Danes are also champions in what represents the first of the Toltec Agreements: "Be impeccable with your word" . They tend not to make value judgments about others. And what can bring more value to a person than to have the opportunity to be who she wants without judgment of others?
Pay attention to how you support the strengths of those around you, including your children, and how you react to others difference. Make the choice not to judge but to support and encourage. This will give you permission in return to fully express your potential and your desires.
Whether you are Dane, French, Italian, Peruvian, Australian, Togolese, Pakistani, Cambodian, or any other part of the world, these three values can be fully integrated to your lifestyle in order to increase your daily satisfaction and overall happiness, if they are not already. We have a lot to learn from our Danish neighbors. And now I am going to take my hot chocolate wrapped in a plaid, see you.
By then, Happy Christmas!
🎁 N.B : Participate in the Christmas Contest and try to win a copy of Meik Wiking's "Book of Hygge" Danish happiness.
- Camille Lamouille -
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To know more on this topic:
- Le petit livre du Hygge : mieux vivre la méthode danoise, Meik Wiking, First
- “The Happy Danes: Exploring the reasons behing high levels of happiness in Denmark”, The Happiness Research Institute, https://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/928487_7f341890e9484a279416ffbc9dc95ff4.pdf
- The year of living Danishly: Uncovering the Secrets of the World’s Happiest Country, Hellen Russell, 2016
- Heureux comme un danois, Malene Rydahl, Grasset, 2014
World Database of Happiness, 2019 https://www.worlddatabaseofhappiness.eur.nl/hap_nat/nat_fp.php?cntry=17&mode=3&subjects=917&publics=14
World Happiness Report 2019, https://s3.amazonaws.com/happiness-report/2019/WHR19.pdf
Heureux comme un danois, Malene Rydahl, Grasset, 2014
Helliwell, John F. and Wang, Shun, Trust and Well-Being (April 2010). NBER Working Paper No. w15911. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1590721
Le petit livre du Hygge : mieux vivre la méthode danoise, Meik Wiking, First
Malene Rydahl, « Planting seeds of Happiness the Danish Way”, TEDxINSEADSingapore, 2015
Les quatre accords toltèques : la voie de la liberté personnelle, Miguel Ruiz, Jouvence, 2018