6 Ways to Practice Hygge, the Danish Secret to Happiness

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There isn’t an exact translation for the Danish word hygge (pronounced HOO-GA), but you’ve definitely felt it before—maybe while playing a board game with friends on a snowy night, or curled up in front of a fireplace with a cup of tea and a really good book. Hygge has been described as “coziness of the soul,” and for the Danes—who are considered the happiest people on the planet (despite their long, hard winters)—it’s a way of life, says Meik Wiking, chief executive officer of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen.

In his Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living ($20; amazon.com), Wiking outlines practical ways to embrace the buzzy philosophy (“hygge” made the shortlist for Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year in 2016) and its key ingredients: togetherness, presence, indulgence, relaxation, and comfort. “[Hygge] is basically like a hug, just without the physical touch,” he says. What it really comes down to is making the most of little, daily pleasures, especially when it’s dark and freezing outside. Below are six of Wiking’s tips for adding more hygge to your everyday life.

Create a cozy atmosphere

“Danes are obsessed with interior design because our homes are our hygge headquarters,” says Wiking. The one thing every hygge home needs? A “hyggekrog,” or a cozy nook where you might enjoy your coffee and newspaper. You can also bring hygge to your space through candlelight, nature, and rich textures. “Danes feel the need to bring the entire forest inside—leaves, nuts, twigs, animal skins,” says Wiking. “Letting your fingers run across a wooden table or a warm ceramic cup is a distinctly different feeling from being in contact with something made from steel, glass or plastic.” In other words, log cabin chic has hygge written all over it.

Stock a self-care emergency kit

Instead of coming home after a particularly rough day and veging out in front of Netflix, try a self-care ritual that increases the R&R you get from your downtime. Wiking recommends creating a kit that contains comfort things like candles, quality chocolate, herbal tea, a soft blanket, warm wool socks, a page-turner, or a notebook and pen, or a photo album. All of these things allow you to wind down in a more mindful way.

Learn a craft

Knitting is super hygge, since its slow, steady rhythm is calming for many people, says Wiking. It helps you focus in a laid-back way. But if you can’t see yourself with knitting needles, there are plenty of other hygge pastimes. “Crafts in general are hygge, especially if you do them with a friend,” says Wiking. “It’s a chance to slow down and make something handmade.” Try painting, making a collage, or quilting during a night in.

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Make a hygge treat

Hygge foods are all about pleasure. Think cookies, cake, and pastries. (“Danes love freshly baked goods,” says Wiking. “They don’t have to look professional. In fact, the more rustic the better.”) Slow, rich food—like stews and chili—are also hygge. Even more hygge than eating these foods is making them with friends and family. Wiking suggests starting a cooking club instead of throwing traditional dinner parties. “When everyone gathers and cooks together instead of one person hosting, it maximizes the hygge. It’s a relaxed and informal evening,” says Wiking.

Start a new tradition with people you love

Togetherness is a big part of the hygge concept. To facilitate more time with friends and family, create a new tradition that involves a hygge activity (that is, one that encourages everyone to connect and feel comfortable). That could mean organizing a game night, renting a cabin, going apple-picking, or taking a ski trip. “Any meaningful activity that unites the group will knit everyone more tightly together over the years,” says Wiking. “Hygge is making the most of the moment, but it’s also a way of planning for and preserving happiness. Danes plan for hygge times and reminisce about them afterwards.”

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Practice gratitude

Hygge and gratitude go hand in hand. The philosophy entails feeling thankful for the little things, like a bike ride on a beautiful day, or a cup of hot chocolate, or re-watching your favorite movie. “Research shows that people who feel grateful are not only happier but also more helpful and forgiving and less materialistic,” says Wiking. “It’s all about savoring simple pleasures.”

Health24.com | The dangers sugary drinks pose to children

Liquid sugar is easily absorbed, and most of the sugar from sweetened beverages has no nutritional value beyond the sugar content.

The fact that sugary drinks are a major cause of obesity and diabetes came into focus at the recent Cardio Vascular Disease Imbizo in Sandton, Johannesburg.

High cost of healthy food

Speaking at the Imbizo Lynn Moeng Mahlangu, the cluster manager of Health Promotion and Nutrition at the National Department of Health, said that the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages or SSBs has strongly being linked with type 2 diabetes.

“In 2013 the Department of Health developed a strategy to tackle non-communicable diseases, and one of the keys was to reduce sugar intake by 10%,” she said.

Moeng Mahlangu said that South Africa is in the top three countries in Africa when it comes to people living with obesity.

She said one of the reasons for this is the high cost of healthy food.

“People choose unhealthy products because they are cheaper,” said Moeng Mahlangu.

“This is one of the debates we are having, involving other departments like agriculture,” she said.

Negative impact on health

“Our children are consuming 40 to 60 grams of sugar a day. This means their intake is between 100 and 200% more than it should be,” she said.

She said this was a dangerous situation as obese children generally tended to remain obese throughout life, and much of this was due to the consumption of sugary drinks.

According to Professor Karen Sliwa, director of the Hatter Institute for Cardiovascular Research in Africa and president-elect of the World Heart Federation, there is overwhelming data to confirm that a very high sugar intake has a negative impact on health.

“It is bad in many ways. It makes us obese, especially when we don’t move enough,” she said.

“You can develop diabetes, high blood pressure, you can develop heart disease or have a stroke,” said Sliwa, adding that these factors can lead to long periods of ill health or early death.

According to Sliwa, implementing a tax on sugar tax is one way of trying to combat this disease, as making SSBs more expensive would drive down consumption.

Fat until you’re old

“By decreasing the amount of sugar in beverages we can address some of those issues,” she said, adding that a sugar tax alone was not enough to address the problem properly.

“Although the sugar beverage tax will hopefully show the same results experienced in other countries where it saw a decrease in obesity, the core issues around poverty still needed to be looked at,” said Sliwa.

She said it was important for government to take the lead and make South Africa one of the first countries in Africa to implement the tax.

Sliwa said that educating the people on healthy living was important.

“Some people don’t know that if you are short of breath it can mean that your heart is failing. People don’t know that there is no cure for diabetes, and that you always have to take your medication,” she said.

Professor Liesl Zuhlke, President of the South African Heart Association said the health of children needed to be made a priority.

“If you are fat at 13 years, its possible that you will stay fat until you are old,” she said, explaining why children needed to be taught to make good choices for themselves. – Health-e News.

Image credit: iStock

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