The Little Book of Hygge

Title: The Little Book of Hygge

Author: Mark Wiking

Overview: An enjoyable look at happiness and one that continues to resonate years later


  • Hygge has been called everything from “the art of creating intimacy,” “coziness of the soul,” and “the absence of annoyance,” to “taking pleasure from the presence of soothing things,” “cozy togetherness,” and my personal favorite, “cocoa by candlelight”.
  • 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.
  • The word for “spoilsport” in Danish is lyseslukker, which means “the one who puts out the candles”,
  • According to the European Candle Association, Denmark burns more candles per head than anywhere in Europe. Each Dane burns around thirteen pounds of candle wax each year. To put this in context, each Dane consumes around six and a half pounds of bacon per year (yes, bacon consumption per capita is a standard metric in Denmark). The candle consumption is a European record. In fact, Denmark burns almost twice as much candle wax as the runner-up, Austria, with a little under seven pounds per year.
  • Hygge you have on Fridays or Sundays. After a long week, fredagshygge usually means the family curling up on the couch together watching TV. Søndagshygge is about having a slow day with tea, books, music, blankets, and perhaps the occasional walk if things go crazy.
  • THE HYGGE MANIFESTO 1. ATMOSPHERE Turn down the lights. 2. PRESENCE Be here now. Turn off the phones. 3. PLEASURE Coffee, chocolate, cookies, cakes, candy. Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! 4. EQUALITY “We” over “me.” Share the tasks and the airtime. 5. GRATITUDE Take it in. This might be as good as it gets. 6. HARMONY It’s not a competition. We already like you. There is no need to brag about your achievements. 7. COMFORT Get comfy. Take a break. It’s all about relaxation. 8. TRUCE No drama. Let’s discuss politics another day. 9. TOGETHERNESS Build relationships and narratives. “Do you remember the time we . . . ?” 10. SHELTER This is your tribe. This is a place of peace and security.
  • On average, 60 percent of Europeans socialize with friends, family, or colleagues a minimum of once a week. The corresponding average in Denmark is 78 percent. While you can hygge by yourself, hygge mostly happens in small groups of close friends or family.
  • There is broad agreement among happiness researchers and scientists that social relations are essential for people’s happiness.
  • The importance of our relationships has even led to attempts to evaluate them in monetary terms. “Putting a Price Tag on Friends, Relatives, and Neighbors: Using Surveys of Life Satisfaction to Value Social Relationships,” a study undertaken in the United Kingdom in 2008, estimated that an increase in social involvements may produce an increase of life satisfaction equivalent to an extra $110,000 a year.
  • The more satisfied people are with their social relationships, the happier they are in general. As I mentioned before, the relationship factor is usually the best predictor of whether people are happy or not.
  • Just because introverts are drained by too many external stimuli doesn’t mean they don’t want to hang out with other people. Hygge is a way of socializing that can suit introverts: they can have a relaxing and cozy night with a couple of friends without having to include a lot of people and a lot of activity.
  • Preparing hygge food is about enjoying the slow process of it, about appreciating the time you spend and the joy of preparing something of value. It is about your relationship with the meal. That is why homemade jams are more hyggelige than bought ones. Every bite will take you back to that summer day when you picked the fruit and the entire house smelled of strawberries.
  • Every day after work I would come home, open the fridge, and take a good sniff to see how my concoction was progressing. The end result was so-so, but the enjoyment from monitoring the progress of the bottle in the fridge was hygge all the way.
  • For the casual yet stylish look, many people—including me—go with the combo of a T-shirt or sweater on the inside and then a blazer on the outside. I prefer the ones with leather patches on the elbows for the hygge and for the professor look.
  • HYGGE TIP: HOW TO BUY Link purchases with good experiences. I had saved money for a new favorite chair but waited until I had published my first book to get it. That way, the chair reminds me of something that was an important accomplishment for me.
  • Danes have relatively short working weeks, and get free health care and a university education on top of five weeks of paid holiday per year.
  • The one thing that every home needs is a hyggekrog, which roughly translates as “a nook.” It is the place in the room where you love to snuggle up in a blanket, with a book and a cup of tea.
  • At this point, you are welcome to go Freudian on the Danes and point out that hygge seems to be about comfort food and security blankets. And perhaps you are right. Hygge is about giving your responsible, stressed-out achiever adult a break. Relax. Just for a little while.
  • Hygge is humble and slow. It is choosing rustic over new, simple over posh and ambience over excitement. In many ways, hygge might be the Danish cousin to slow and simple living.
  • Simplicity and modesty are central to hygge, but they are also considered virtues when it comes to Danish design and culture. Simplicity and functionality are the main ingredients of Danish design classics,
  • In short, if you want hygge, there is no amount of money that you can spend which will increase the hygge factor—at least not if you are buying anything more expensive than a candle.
  • A comprehensive study carried out in 2014 by researchers at the University of East Anglia’s Norwich Medical School and the Center for Health Economics at the University of York, and based on nearly 18,000 adult commuters over eighteen years, found that people who bike to work are happier than those who drive or use public transport.
  • When the researchers of the study analyzed the results, they discovered that the people who over the years had changed from commuting by car or bus to cycling or going on foot became happier after the switch. And to further bombard you with compelling arguments to give the bike a try, another study, from McGill University in Montreal, also found that those who cycled to work were most satisfied with their commute, even though it could make their commute longer.
  • study undertaken by the University of Utrecht, switching from driving to riding a bike in your daily commute adds three to fourteen months to your life expectancy, and a Danish study concluded—perhaps unsurprisingly—that children who cycled to school were significantly fitter than those who were driven.
  • if a city is designed in a way that makes a long drive to work necessary, we harm the social health of that city. If a lot of people cycle, it’s probably an indication that you live in a healthy neighborhood. This is something that should be seriously considered in urban planning if we want to ensure neighborliness and trust among locals.
  • one of the main reasons why Denmark does so well in international happiness surveys is the welfare state, as it reduces uncertainty, worries, and stress in the population. You can say that Denmark is the happiest country in the world or you can say that Denmark is the least unhappy country in the world. The welfare state is really good (not perfect, but good) at reducing extreme unhappiness.
  • In sum, research from several decades provides evidence that supports the bond between our relationships and well-being. Happier people have a larger quantity and better quality of friendships and family relationships. Thus good relationships both cause happiness and are caused by it.
  • According to Robert A. Emmons, a professor of psychology at University of California, Davis, and one of the world’s leading experts on gratitude, people who feel grateful are not only happier than those who do not but also more helpful and forgiving and less materialistic.
  • But hygge is about making the most of what we have in abundance: the everyday. Perhaps Benjamin Franklin said it best: “Happiness consists more in small conveniences or pleasures that occur every day, than in great pieces of good fortune that happen but seldom.”