Gettin’ Jiggy with Hygge

According to the World Happiness Report 2016, Denmark is the happiest country on the planet. If you’re thinking it’s because they have great health care, a substantial gross domestic product (GDP) per capita, an overall high life expectancy, social support, freedom, generosity and little corruption  — the criteria for happiness in this report — then you are right. They do. But they also have something else that I discovered the other day that is so aligned with the notion of Slow, I simply had to tell you about it.

You see, the Danes, aside from their fabulous butter cookies, have something that a lot of us do not. They have the notion of hygge, which sounds a lot like “hoo-guh”, which, in turn, sounds a lot like a cave man with a slight Irish lilt demanding a hug.

But that isn’t it at all, my friends. Hygge is the idea of going slow in the winter time. It is roughly translated to mean “coziness” (in German: Gemütlichkeit). After all, it gets light late and dark early for five months out of the year in Denmark. Yet they aren’t SAD from all that light deprivation (afflicted with Seasonal Affective Disorder). They are HAPPY. Thanks to the mental state of hygee.

Hygge says to embrace That Which Is; accept the darkness and leverage it to create a cozy atmosphere. Light candles, slow down, go within, reflect. Celebrate the now. Give yourself what you need – a visit to the sauna, healthy vitamin-rich food, warm meals, a fire in the fireplace, a hot water bottle at night, heat.

My daughter has set up her room such that her bed is in a darker corner of the room so the streetlights from outside aren’t nearly as visible. It is comfortable, warm and relaxing. In my view, it is the perfect hygge design.

Morning rituals in the winter time are different than in the summer time. Slippers and a bathrobe, a hot cup of coffee and warm food create a sense of nurturing to offset the piercing cold.

Warmth is not only a physical state. It’s a mental one too. The Danes figure snow and ice will slow you down so what’s the rush? Get jiggy with hygge. It’s cave time with the tempo to match.

 

For 37% in the EU, Vacation a Dream, Not Reality

Flags of the Nordic countries - from left: Fin...
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According to a recent newspaper article about a German Census Bureau survey, 9% of all EU citizens cannot afford to buy adequate food, heat their apartment or have a car. In the land of vacation, a whopping 37% of all EU member citizens couldn’t afford to take even a week’s vacation somewhere (Poland tops the list with a full 63% not being able to do so). In Germany, thinks look a little brighter. Only 2.6% say they don’t have enough to live on, 26% can’t afford to go on a week’s vacation and only 5% said they can’t afford a car. Not surprisingly, Greece has similar numbers.

It seems to pay off to live in Scandinavia. In Denmark, Sweden and Norway, only 1% couldn’t afford to heat their apartment with only 10%, 11% and 6%, respectively, not able to go on vacation for one week’s time.

According to the 2010 International Vacation Deprivation Survey by expedia.com, Germans have an average of 27.5 days off annually, two of which get left on the table. So what does roughly one-quarter of the employed German population do that cannot take off for some sun and fun? Staycations have become a reality for a lot of people.

We’re staying close to home for the majority of our summer vacation as well. Singular day trips here and there with some time in Italy at a low-cost resort are all we’re doing. I realize as well that’s a lot more than some people get to do. No matter where you go this summer, go slow. A season pass to the community pool can be just as enjoyable and a lot more affordable than a package tour for thousands of bucks. As Financial Times Slow Lane columnist, Harry Eyres recently wrote, “spartan or quasi-monastic accommodation has its advantages” and is sometimes more relaxing anyway!

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