Happiness is... A trip to Denmark

Scandinavians do it better. It’s a fact. According to the World Happiness Report, Finland, Denmark, Norway and Iceland are among the top five happiest countries in the world.

But how is happiness measured? A range of factors are considered such as healthy life expectancy, GDP, freedom to make your own life choices, generosity of the general population, social support and perception of corruption levels in the country.

But one factor that is crucial to happy living and not accounted for in the measuring scale, is hygge (pronounced hoo-ga). You might be asking yourself what that is. There is no direct translation into English for this word, but in Danish it means, ‘cosiness’ and a feeling of enjoying heart-warming, feel-good, little things in life. Maybe it’s a hot chocolate by the fire playing your favourite board-game or relaxing in a warmly-lit room with some scented candles, listening to your favourite music.

It’s the feeling of contentment and the enjoyment of the present moment, and in Denmark it is a prized form of happiness. The French might call it ‘ambience’, and we could say, ‘vibe’, but they're not quite the same thing.

In fact, the Danes take happiness so seriously, that Copenhagen’s Happiness Research Institute was set up in 2013 to look at global wellbeing, using scientific methods. The think-tank employs experts in anthropology, economics, philosophy and physics to research and improve well-being. Using data, analysis, research and knowledge, they build a picture of how to develop overall happiness.

Broadly speaking, they say that happiness can be determined by three factors: (1) Biology (which we cannot change), (2) policies (which can be implemented over time) and (3) behaviour (which can be changed straight away).

To reach their conclusions, they study three different themes: firstly, they try to measure happiness, secondly, they try to understand why some people are happier than others, and thirdly, they advise on how quality of life can be improved.

Meik Wiking, the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute, says that hygge is simply about removing the guilt from enjoying the simple pleasures in life. And although it’s very much a Danish concept, he stresses that every nation and culture has its own unique way of doing things to improve their quality of life. So how do you Hygge?

A Lykke life: the six pillars of happiness that keep the whole world smiling (telegraph.co.uk)

World Happiness Report 2020 | The World Happiness Report

The Happiness Research Institute | The science of well-being

10 Happiest Countries in the World, Ranked | Condé Nast Traveler (cntraveler.com)

Hygge: A heart-warming lesson from Denmark - BBC News

Blue Monday: Seven secrets for happiness from joyful Denmark (telegraph.co.uk)