Yesterday, when the snow turned to rain, hard rain, and even the ski area across the lake had to close down because of ice on the road, and I couldn’t get out of the house, I read a new book which recently arrived, The Little Book of HYGGE…Danish Secrets to Happy Living. Desperate times call for desperate measures. I’ve been seeing that word a lot on decorating blogs and architectural articles about Scandinavian homes, and I am going to the Swiss Alps at the end of the month. Besides, who doesn’t love to say “hooga”. The author of the book, Meik Wiking, is the CEO of The Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen. We are always hearing about how those Nordic countries rank number one in being happy, and given the similarities in our weather, it seemed I might find some tips in his book.
He begins the book by writing:
“Denmark. To many, it is quite the mystery, as besides the horrific weather, Danes are also subject to some of the highest tax rates in the world. Interestingly, there is wide support for the welfare state. The support stems from an awareness of the fact that the welfare model turns our collective wealth into well-being. We are not paying taxes, we are investing in our society. We are purchasing quality of life. The key to understanding the high levels of well-being in Denmark is the welfare model’s ability to reduce risk, uncertainty, and anxiety among its citizens and to prevent extreme unhappiness.”
Just like our country, huh. Sigh. Well, besides a world view barely talked about here, there is also this concept of Hygge, which greatly contributes to happiness as well. Hygge is an emotion which can be created by coziness, intimacy, presence of soothing things, or the author’s favorite description, “cocoa by candlelight”. It’s a feeling that we are safe and shielded from the world. We could sure use some of that right about now.
And, as it turns out, I do have the essential hygge components in place at my house. Candles, chocolate and cake, hot mulled wine and whiskey, woolen socks and sweaters, books, a fireplace, cozy nooks with blankets. And, I have this sleepy owl pillow, who sits across from me when I’m reading by the fireplace. I bought him in Vermont last February, when we flew there to celebrate Mary’s birthday, joining her family at a hyggelig rented home. (This is an actual Danish word.) Being with people you love is a big part of hygge, as is gratitude. The pieces are all here as we trudge along through this winter. Good for me to keep in mind as I start another day, stuck in ice, sheltering in place, again. I’ve read a book about the unique weather of the northwest, the Paris Conference in 1919, Hygge, and today, I’m headed into some good old-fashioned fiction, looking for hygge.