After ranking at the top of the World Happiness Report for several years, Denmark is officially the happiest country in the world. But why are the Danes so happy?
Meik Wiking, CEO of the World Happiness Institute thinks he’s found the answer: hygge. Hygge (pronounced HOO-gah), which doesn’t have a direct translation in English is sweeping the world. It’s more of a feeling than anything else, and the Danes have perfected it.
“Hygge has been called everything from ‘the art of creating intimacy,’ ‘coziness of the soul’ to ‘cocoa by candlelight,’ and some of the key ingredients are togetherness, relaxation, indulgence, presence and comfort,” explains Wiking. “The true essence of hygge is the pursuit of everyday happiness and it’s basically like a hug, just without the physical touch.”
In this Ask the Expert, we ask the happiness expert on how you can bring the concept of hygge to any corner of the world.
Pulse: Why do you think hygge is sweeping the world?
Meik Wiking: I believe more and more people are recognizing that our societies have become richer, but we as people have not become happier—and that we in a lot of countries are failing at converting wealth to well-being. Therefore, people are looking for new sources of inspiration to improve quality of life. Living the hygge way means focusing on the small things that really matter, including spending more quality time with friends and family and enjoying the good things in life.
P: As CEO of the World Happiness Institute, you’ve become very familiar with what makes people around the world happy. Why do you think the Danes’ hygge has such a happiness effect?
W: There is so much interest in Denmark and the rest of Scandinavia because these countries often rank highly on the happiness lists. On a weekly basis, I am asked questions like “Why are the Danes so happy?” and “What can we learn from the Danes when it comes to happiness?” from journalists, researchers and policy makers around the world. Denmark does have a strong social safety net, but so do other Scandinavian countries and Denmark still ranks highest on happiness surveys. I came to realize that hygge was the secret ingredient in the Danish recipe for happiness.
P: Why do you think the Danes are able to master the hygge concept so well?
W: Hygge is a part of the cultural DNA in Denmark. I guess, perhaps hygge is to the Danes what freedom is to the Americans. The Danes are also exceptionally good at decoupling wealth and well-being. After our basic needs are met, we realize that more money doesn’t lead to happiness and, instead, we focus on what brings us a better quality of life.
Read more of our conversation with Weiking at pulse.experienceispa.com. Plus, download a printable “Hygge Manifesto,” which will help you strive for all thing hygge.