March 20 this week was the United Nation’s International Day of Happiness. While we cannot feel happy all the time, the pursuit of happiness can be a fun, creative, and adventurous journey! People in the nordic countries have consistently reported being the happiest people in the world, especially in Denmark. So what do they do to have such happiness, and how can we start following their example?
The Danes have a word that does not translate into English, but roughly means “coziness.” And they pursue hygge (pronounced “hoo-ga”) with purpose – especially in the winter months. But what is it?
Imagine being cuddled up under a fleece blanket next to a fire, reading your favorite book and petting your sleeping dog. That’s hygge. Or imagine watching a calming sunset with your family in an outdoor hot tub. That’s hygge. Lighting a candle and curling up with a loved one or friend to watch a good movie while you eat popcorn or brownies. That’s hygge.
Creating a cozy, comfortable space and feeling does wonders for our mental health. And while maintaining good health practices is important, occasionally relaxing and allowing ourselves a slice of cake is also very important.
So to create a little hygge in your own life, try doing something that really relaxes you for a few hours. Take a bubble bath, cuddle with a loved one or pet, sip on tea and read. Whatever provides you some comfort and self-care will boost that mood.
The Danes are also very socially engaged as a nation. A component of hygge is to spend that cozy time with friends or family. But the Danes take it a step farther and really show genuine interest and care in those around them. In fact, over 40% of all Danes volunteer in some sort of capacity. Through churches, sports organizations, NGOs, political organizations, and cultural associations.
They also put great focus on the family and look down on “work-a-holic” tendencies. Separate from the Danish culture, numerous studies show that increased volunteerism and taking more work-free time for family makes us happier. And not a short-term happiness, but actually an increase in more long-term happiness levels.
Do what you will with this knowledge. Warning: increased volunteerism and family time may improve your health, mood, and outlook on life. Engage at your own risk.
Biking is the Norm
Cycling is the preferred way to get to work, the store, or visit a friend for many people in Denmark. Not only does an extra 30 minutes of biking a day raise their life expectancy by a few years, but the exercise boosts their mood and they feel better about protecting the environment. They also save money they would otherwise have spent on gas or public transportation. And it’s become the cultural expectation.
While the infrastructure in Denmark’s roadways allows for safer travel via bike, there are ways that you too can enjoy the benefits of biking. If you live close to where you work, try biking to work one day a week. Maybe even get some co-workers to join you! If biking to work is not an option for you, go for a nice ride around your neighborhood in the evenings (or even take an early morning ride!) Try biking to the grocery store or over to see a friend on the weekends.
Increased exercise is one of the best and fastest ways to improve your mood, and it also helps increase your well-being, health, and life satisfaction. Any little addition will help more than you think.
International Pillow Fight Day
They celebrate International Pillow Fight Day in Copenhagen! This one is not unique to Denmark – in fact this year these U.S. cities are joining in on the fun on April 1: Atlanta, Austin, Chicago, LA, Madison, New York, Philadelphia, Seattle, Stockton CA, and Washington D.C.
You don’t have to take part in International Pillow Fight Day to reap the benefits of spontaneous fun. Have your own family pillow fight, or spend a whole day talking like a pirate, or blow bubbles in your chocolate milk. Be goofy and get back in touch with your inner child! The fun will be sure to boost your mood!
If you’re struggling with anxiety, depression, or any other mental health concern that makes it hard to enjoy yourself, reach out to me at (531) 289-8246. We can set up a free half hour consultation to meet. At that meeting, we’ll determine if we’re a good match for therapy, or if there is anything else I can do to help you begin feeling better.