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Release peace: the magazine

Release peace: the magazine

Analysis & Background Stories on International Affairs

The 'Hygge' Effect - or how to be happy

Article by: Harriet Kerr

The Hygge Effect - Lessons We Can Learn from the Danish Way of Relaxing

Denmark has been consistently found amongst some of the world’s happiest countries, which leaves us asking the question - why exactly are Danes so content? Well renowned for its work-life balance ratios, Denmark has a corporate culture which promotes the understanding that life should come before work. Whether achieved through a generous allocation of paid holidays, the option for flexible working hours, or even encouraging office socialising out-of-hours, it seems clear that Danish employers value the importance of personal life. So, when it comes to closing the laptop and switching off for the evening, what is it that many Danes do to unwind?

Hygge = Happiness?

Denmark even has its own word to describe the feeling of contentment: hygge. Pronounced hoo-gah, it does not have a set definition but is what many Danes put their happiness down to. It is the idea of cosiness and comfort. Imagine a cold winter day, you sit in front of an open fire, watch a movie with a loved one, a warm atmosphere is radiating through the walls, and your heart is filled with happiness. Or maybe you are alone in your favourite coffee shop, listening to music, watching the raindrops running down the window in an endless and fascinating competition, you are comfortable, content. Events which create hygge can be ordinary or extraordinary, it is all down to the person enjoying the present and taking the time to appreciate the little things in life. So how can you bring about this feeling of comfort and happiness?

How to Hygge

There are five key elements to create this fulfilling feeling:

Atmosphere: Creating a special atmosphere is an essential part of hygge. It is not always about the coziness brought about by an open fire, or fairy lights. It is often more about security and comfort. This is your environment where you feel most at ease, ready to practise gratitude for the little things, and alongside those who mean the most to you.

Lighting: In saying this, lighting can play a really important role in encapsulating hygge, and you will typically find that guides encourage you to light a fire or candles, or that there is a warm glow radiating throughout the room. Hygge does not always have to be done during the winter, but there is something particularly special about being tucked away from the elements - especially in Denmark where the winters are exceptionally dark, long, and cold.

Company: Who you spend this time with is also important. You want to be switching off from distractions, such as social media or work, and ensure that you are spending quality time with one another, by giving each other your full attention. It is best to avoid conversation topics that could be particularly sensitive or controversial, such as politics, and instead focus on wholesome activities to ensure the mood is relaxed and not disrupted. Perhaps pick up a board game or dedicate an evening to cooking a special dish from scratch together.

Time: Hygge is not only about being comfortable and cosy, but also about the dedication of quality time to be spent with a loved one. Taking pleasure in allocating your spare time to those whose company you enjoy is a huge part of hygge, whilst ensuring that they are just as happy and enjoying the moment as you are. You should relax in harmony, conversation topics should be balanced, with each person contributing as much as they are listening.

Activity: It is now clear that hygge is all about relaxing. So, however you decide to experience it, it should be a prime opportunity to recharge your social batteries. Perhaps you could curl up on the sofa one evening and watch an episode of your favourite TV show, something that is comforting or brings about a sense of nostalgia. Otherwise, you could dedicate more time towards getting “hyggelige” by having a particularly slow day and doing activities such as reading or baking. Nothing should be too controversial, disrupting, stressful or anxiety-invoking. It is all about activities that create safe environments.

How Hygge has made its way around the world

You only need to search #Hygge on Instagram for an astounding 7.7 million results to appear, all demonstrating some of life’s most simple yet fulfilling pleasures. Whether it is pictures of a warmly lit, cosy living room, or delicious homemade pastries that were made with love, the popularity of the phenomenon is clearly not strictly limited to Danes themselves. Hygge has begun to take the world by storm, and you can certainly see why it rightly should. It is all about taking the time to slow down and appreciate the little things, something that is often lost when we find ourselves wrapped up in corporate pressures and the stresses of everyday life. Of course, it is important not to get caught up in the aesthetic of hygge. It isn’t necessarily an Instagram trend for people to latch onto – it is largely a way of ensuring that a sense of a healthy balance is seen consistently throughout Danish culture.

Interested? Here’s how to know more

The buzz surrounding hygge has surfaced even more so in recent years, with plenty of resources readily available to ensure that people are doing it effectively. There is no right or wrong way to do hygge. After all, it is totally subjective to personal preference. What you might find to be cosy and relaxing could be quite different from the next person. However, if you feel like gaining some guidance, or want to know more about the phenomenon, there are plenty of resources out there to help you achieve a great state of hygge. Social media platforms such as YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest all offer useful insight and inspiration into the different elements of hygge. Or you can even take a stroll down to your local bookshop to browse some of the best-selling guides showing the many ways to bring warmth and comfort into your everyday life.

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