1-Sentence-Summary: The Little Book Of Hygge is about the hard-to-describe, yet powerful Danish attitude towards life, which consistently ranks Denmark among the happiest countries in the world and how you can cultivate it for yourself.
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Just this week I wrote about how choosing a place to live is a subjective issue and can’t really be argued for or against with statistics. It’s about the feeling you get where you are, not how many public trash cans are available. At the same time, some places do better than others overall. While this is by no means an indicator you should move there, you can always learn a thing or two.
One such place is Denmark. Known for its dark and frosty winters, high taxes, but also its laid back culture, this nation averaged a #1 ranking in the world happiness report from 2013-2016 and is #2 for 2017. Meik Wiking, the author of this book and CEO of The Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen thinks one of the capabilities of his country’s citizens responsible for this high happiness standard is hygge.
Uh…what? Hy-gge. Pronounced hue-gə, which sounds a bit French, this mysterious noun, adjective and verb resembles not only a typically Danish attitude, but also wellbeing, comfort and feeling at home.
As it’s highly correlated with the nation’s extremely stable mental health, let’s explore it in more detail. Here are 3 lessons from The Little Book of Hygge:
- Hygge is a special approach to happiness and not just an idea, but a mood, a feeling, an activity even.
- Atmosphere is a big part of hygge, so make a conscious effort to create the right environment for it.
- You can live and experience hygge anywhere and anytime, it is unlimited.
Not every day can be the best day, but a life of hygge is about as close as it can get. Let’s learn what it’s about!
Lesson 1: Hygge is a unique way to happiness and a feeling in its own way.
Since it’s so hard to grasp, let’s first dive deeper into the etymology of the word “hygge.” Its earliest written roots go back to an old Norwegian word meaning “wellbeing” and date to the early 1800s. Other possible origins might be variants of the words “hug,” another old Norwegian term for “comfort” and another for “mood.”
While most modern interpretations have settled on “coziness” as an appropriate translation, Meik says this not quite gets the point either. There might be related concepts around the world, such as the German “Gemütlichkeit,” the Canadian “hominess” or the Dutch “gezelligheid” (who’s German equivalent “Geselligkeit” is also similar), but none of those paint a full picture.
Hygge isn’t just an idea. It’s a mood. A feeling. An action, even. In Denmark, hygge is a part of people’s sense of self.
That’s why an especially snug café might be called hyggelig if lounging there makes you feel good. You could even invite a friend to hygge together or revel in particular kinds of hygge, like kaffehygge or the julehygge of Christmas season.
I feel by making so much room for this word and concept in their lives, what the Danish are telling us is to make time to enjoy life, be happy and practice contentment.
Lesson 2: As Hygge is a lot about atmosphere, you’ll need to make a conscious effort to create the right environment.
As you can guess from that coffee example, the atmosphere you hygge in is very important. Indeed, feeling at home requires a homey place, so unless you create one, you’ll have a hard time getting into the right mood. It’s why the Danish are obsessed with candles, lighting and lamp design and natural elements like wood in interior design.
Some things that promote hygge at home are:
- Dimly, but sufficiently lit rooms.
- Candles, scented or unscented.
- Beautifully designed, sleek lamps.
- Wide, open rooms and surfaces.
- A fireplace or a stove.
- Shelves, boards and other interior design elements made of wood.
- A hyggekrog – a cosy corner specifically designed to snuggle up, enjoy a hot beverage and read or relax.
The Danes sure live up to these foundational hygge factors. At 6 kg or 13 lbs of candles burned per person per year, the Danes are Europe’s number one candle light junkies. They also have almost 2 rooms per person in living space.
You see, it doesn’t take much to feel hyggelig in your own four walls. All of these you can work on and get decent results in a single weekend. It does take a conscious effort on your end, though. Right now, my couch is my hyggekrog and while I feel pretty comfortable on it, I should probably get on customizing it some more.
Lesson 3: Hygge is all-encompassing and not limited to any single place or activity.
Then again, not everyone can afford to go on an IKEA spree, but shopping purely for the sake of hygge would miss the point anyway. An austere and simple life can be just as full of hygge as one of sipping lattes and champagne. In fact, this might represent the true meaning of hygge more than even the most comfortable atmosphere.
In the end, hygge is about learning to be content in the moment. Forget your life’s results for a while. Enjoy your family’s and friends’ company. Stop taking yourself so seriously.
These are things you can practice anywhere, anytime. This sensory experience, this feeling, is the epitome of hygge and it’s not bound by time and space. Be happy, be satisfied and choose to live trouble-free.
No matter where you live, if you focus on these aspects, a hygge life is yours to own.
The Little Book Of Hygge Review
I first heard about this idea in a Medium Members article by my fellow coach Andrew Merle and then learned that it’s currently one of the most popular book summaries on Blinkist. I consider myself a very happy person so at the very least, I was intrigued to see which of these ideas I might share. If you’re happy with your life in general, but feel like you’re sometimes not aware enough of this happiness when you need it the most, The Little Book Of Hygge is a book I recommend you check out.
What else can you learn from the blinks?
- What the Danish state does to promote hygge
- Why overtime is restricted in the country
- What a party pooper is called in Danish
- Why the English meaning of the word Danish isn’t far off from hygge
- Which annual holiday is most conducive to hygge
- How you can get started on a more hygge life today
Who would I recommend The Little Book Of Hygge summary to?
The 22-year old college student, who knows she has a great life, but still worries a lot about school, the 47 year-old family father, who often checks emails during board game night, and anyone who wants to work a lot, but still feel happy about where they are right now.