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10 ways to promote well-being, especially during the winter months

Updated: Nov 12, 2018

The Danish culture has made trending headlines in recent years because of its literature on the philosophy of well-being, also known to the Danes as “hygge." Hygge actually originates from a Norwegian word meaning “well-being." Hygge places emphasis on atmosphere and experience, rather than material items. It is about creating a safe, warm environment that can be called “home” (Wiking, 2017, pg. vi). Author of The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living, Meik Wiking, is a researcher at the Happiness Research Institute (HRI) in Denmark. He has focused his work on well-being, happiness, quality of life in efforts to improve the quality of life among all citizens across the world at HRI, an independent think tank. Wiking and his colleagues have looked at numerous countries across the world to evaluate common practices and discrepancies when it comes to promoting well-being. What they found was that Denmark was repeatedly ranked among the happiest countries in the world. Therefore, Wiking and his colleagues aimed to investigate what makes Danes the happiest people in the world, and furthermore, how can the rest of the world incorporate those concepts.

The hygge lifestyle follows a manifesto of ten concepts of daily living and well-being. The ten components of the hygge manifesto are as follows: atmosphere, presence, pleasure, equality, gratitude, harmony, comfort, truce, togetherness, and shelter (Wiking, 2017, pg. 30). In traditional hygge lifestyle, the environment or atmosphere is manipulated to enhance well-being. A quintessential hygge atmosphere consists of carefully selected candles (most often non-scented) and warm lighting in lamps, from a wood burning fire-place, or from the lit candles around a room to exude soothing pools of light. Presence refers to practicing mindfulness skills or living in the present moment (i.e., turning electronics off or “unplugging”). Presence also refers to being together with loved ones and having intriguing conversations. Pleasure refers to finding comfort in preparing homemade food (homemade stews and pastries are essential to the hygge lifestyle), either individually or cooking together and having a dinner party. In hygge, the saying “we over me” is often used to emphasize equality and the sharing of tasks, which is why you would find many different “chefs in the kitchen” during a dinner party, instead of the host cooking and cleaning, everyone shares in the tasks to create togetherness and equality.

The fifth item, gratitude, in the hygge manifesto refers to taking in the goodness, feeling grateful for experiences, as opposed to negatively judging personal experiences or experiences of others, and accepting that the present moment might be as good as it gets. Harmony refers to an unspoken rule of non-competition, meaning, there is no need to brag about achievements or striving to be liked. Non-competitive attitudes promote a sense of relaxed thoughtfulness where nobody dominates a conversation for a long stretch of time, and thus, promote harmony within a group. Similar to the principles of harmony in hygge, truce refers to the agreement of a drama free environment, which means saving heated discussions for another day or setting. Comfort refers to getting comfortable with a cozy blanket and taking a break to promote relaxation. Togetherness refers to building relationships and narratives. Wiking proposed that a good indication of whether or not people are happy is based upon social relationships. From his research, the most recurrent pattern showed that relational factors are why some people are happier than others. The concern then becomes how to shape societies and the self to allow social relationships to flourish. He suggested the enhancement of social relationships could be achieved through a healthy work-life balance (Wiking, 2017, p. 35). Lastly, shelter is a key component of hygge because hygge is most effect in places that are peaceful and offer a sense of security. All of the components in hygge combined create an atmosphere that is warm, relaxed, friendly, grounded, close, cozzy, and welcoming environment that have the potential to promote overall well-being.

Wiking, Meik. (2017). The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living. New York,

NY: Harper Collins.

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