The Practice of Hygge: The Danish Secret to Happiness

As summer begins its descent into fall, and fall slips into winter, it’s common to find ourselves feeling a bit grumpy. It’s cold, damp and dark. “Great,” we say with a heavy sigh and a harrumph, “winter is here.”

It seems like a perfectly reasonable response. Surely it is simply a hallmark of being human to feel blue when the skies are so grey.

Interestingly, though, one of the countries that continues to pop up on the “world’s happiest” list is Denmark — a place known for beastly winters.

How does Denmark manage to maintain its position as one of the happiest countries in the world?

Some point to its wide support for a robust welfare state. Others say it is due to their expertise as bakers (you have to admit, Danish pastries are pretty fantastic).

However, recently, researchers are considering an often overlooked ingredient: hygge (pronounced hoo-ga).

What is hygge?

The easiest way to explain hygge is that it’s the feeling of standing at the intersection of comfort, contentment, and well-being. The classic picture would be sitting next to a fireplace, drinking hot cocoa, bundled in a warm blanket, with a fur baby slumbering beside you.

How might we incorporate more hygge into our lives this winter?

According to Meik Wiking, author of The Little Book of Hygge, we can do it by honoring the “Hygge Manifesto”:

  • Atmosphere: Turn down the lights
  • Presence: Be here now. Turn off phones.
  • Pleasure: Coffee, chocolate, cookies, cakes, candy and a cup of warm tea.
  • Equality: “We” over “me.” Share the workload and make space for other voices to be heard.
  • Gratitude: Take it in. Appreciate what is going well (or at least appreciate what is not wrong).
  • Harmony: It’s not a competition. We already like you. No need to brag.
  • Comfort: Get comfy. Take a break. Relax.
  • Truce: No drama. Let’s discuss politics another day.
  • Togetherness: Build relationships and narratives. “Do you remember the time we…”
  • Shelter: Build a space that is warm, peaceful and inviting for you and your tribe.
Want to gather more ideas for how you might navigate this winter with a bit more joy? Come visit the Community Health Education Center. Here, you will find an entire library of books that may be able to offer you some insights. Books are available for all community members to check out, and we have health educators on staff to help you should you want any additional support. Call us at 503-814-2432, or visit our website at for more information.