The Danes are currently the world’s happiest people. Denmark has come top of The World Happiness Report for four years out of the last five. Note the most recent 2016 report placed the UK at 23rd on the happy scales.
So what is the secret to the world’s happiest country? Is it HYGGE?
The Danish world hygge pronounced hoo-gah comes from the Norwegian word for well-being, There is no one single word to translate into english, it’s often translated as cosy, but its more than this, its about having a relaxed time, in a comfortable environment, with modest beauty. It’s the Danish ritual of enjoying simple pleasures, family and friends.
Hygge is about recognising one’s downtime, taking time to re-charge the batteries and being kind to yourself – perhaps it could be described as giving yourself a hug.
Having coffee and cake with a dear friend, reading a good book, a cosy blanket and hot chocolate can be described as being Hygge. Hygge demands total immersion in the experience and acknowledges that we need to spend time thinking about our well-being.
The beginning of a new year is a natural time to reflect on one’s health and happiness and often results in embarking on January detoxes and plans to do an absurd amount of exercise, however hygge is not about schedules or denying yourself anything, So I am delighted with my new years resolution to include hygge in my life at least twice a week
I initially felt sure I would be halfway there with cycling every weekend. A bike ride may not be candle-lit and cosy , but cycling is about taking time for myself, you cannot help but fully immerse yourself and a ride can also be shared with friends. Cycling nearly always involves indulging in cake with a coffee, and I do believe my old steel frame has a modest beauty. I was therefore disappointed to learn that anything which involves getting sweaty or is competitive is not considered by the Danes to be in the least bit hygge.
Determined to keep my new years resolution, and not fail before 2017 had barely begun, I started this year with my idea of a hygge bicycle ride. No computer to check my speed and how far I had cycled, and although it was a pre-planned route I had no time limit, I simply enjoyed riding my bike and took the odd detour on the way. I found the cold winter air exhilarating, and the bright blue sky felt good for the soul. Habit meant that I forgot that a true hygge experience should not switch on Strava, however fate looked after that, as when I returned home I discovered that my phone battery had died, so my ride remained a hygge moment with no analysing of data.
It was a happy ride.