Book Note: The Little Book of Hygge
Among the Oxford Dictionary's 2016 word of the year finalists was the Danish term hygge (click for a pronunciation lesson). The word has no direct English translation. Cozy seems to be the most popular way to describe the idea. But as Miek Wiking in The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living, hygge is so much more than feeling cozy.
In The Little Book of Hygge, Wiking introduces the reader to this quintessential trait of the Danes. He begins by defining hygge, helping us understand it's complexity. He also hypothesizes that it is hygge, this way of living, that may be the reason that Danes are the happiest people in Europe.
Wiking, the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen spends his days studying what makes people happy. Like most happiness researchers, he's learned that social connections are the number one predictor of happiness. He argues that hygge is a very specific form of social connection and cultivating it in our own lives will lead to greater happiness.
On this premise, Wiking guides the reader through the essential elements of hygge and offers examples of how to bring more hygge into your own life.
I appreciated that Wiking quickly dispelled the myth that hygge is wool socks, hot chocolate, and a candle. While it can be as simple as that, for most Danes, hygge is a way to engage with the world, and in particular, in their relationships.
Unfortunately, I found this book very inconsistent. Some chapters were intriguing, filled with thoughtfulness and insight. Wiking shares his research findings and blends this artfully with personal anecdotes. And then the next chapter will feel like an after thought, as if he was adding it to make the publisher happy.
I found the chapters on togetherness and happiness to be the most worthwhile. These two chapters seem to be his wheelhouse and they inspired to me to dip deeper into the research and add a bit more hygge to my life.
Hygge is more than coziness, it is a feeling of being safe enough to let our guard down
Danes are the happiest people in Europe, but they are also the ones most likely to spend time with friends and family
In a country that suffers from an extreme lack of light during the long winter, it should come as no surprise that warm light is an important aspect of hygge - light of about 1800K is the hygge sweet spot
Most Danes say that hygge is best reached with a group of three to four - a great way for introverts to socialize
Cake is hygge - go eat some
When you buy something, try to link it to a good experience - this way you will remember that experience every time you use the object
"The art of hygge is therefore also the art of expanding you comfort zone to include other people."
"Hygge is about giving your responsible, stressed-out achiever adult a break. Relax. Just for a little while. It is about experiencing happiness in simple pleasures and knowing that everything is going to be okay."
"Hygge is about feeling safe. Hence, hygge is an indication that you trust the ones you are with and where you are."
"Hygge gives us the language, the objective, and the methods for planning and preserving happiness - and for getting a little bit every day."