Stories & Commentaries

Living Life with "Hygge"


Photo by Peopleimages/iStock

I was listening to National Public Radio one day while driving home from work when I heard a report on the happiest place in the world. Like most people, I want to be happy and live a life full of joy. The segment caught my attention.

March 20 was designated International Day of Happiness, and according to the United Nations' World Happiness Report 2016 Update (click here to find downloadable report),  the happiest place in the world for several years was not an island in the Caribbean having constant sunshine and pristine beaches of white sand. Much to my surprise, the happiest place was Denmark. A place where there is less sunshine, where it rains 50 percent of the year, and has cold winters with lots of snow!

This U.N. report ranked 156 countries around the world and Denmark was at the top of the list (Norway has surged ahead in 2017). Denmark had the highest ratings in life satisfaction and work-life balance though it was number 17 in income. Canada was ranked the sixth happiest place to live. Contrast those facts with the United States and it brings a somber pause. The United States is the richest country in the world with the highest incomes and ranked number 13 as the happiest places to live. When it came to work-life balance, th U.S. dropped to number 29. 

What made Denmark the number one happiest place to live? It appears the Danes have a philosophy on life that sets them apart from the rest of the world. The first idea is called "hygge" (pronounced hugah). Hygge is defined as "enjoying life's simple pleasures." It is taking a walk in nature, sitting by the ocean and listening to the waves, watching a sunset, listening to music that relaxes you, or having a cup of tea as you read a good book, or enjoying a good meal with your friends or family.

Hygge is experiential! It reminds me of Jesus' promise in John 10:10 that He came for us to live an abundant life

Contrary to the materialism in so much of the western world, the Danes have a second principle that they live by that catapulted them to the top of the charts for happiness. It is the "Law of Jante "(pronounced Yanta), which means to live humbly. The Danes do not put great value on material possessions. They shun flaunting wealth. Thus, it would be considered in poor taste for Danes to discuss how many square feet their house is, where they bought their clothes, or what type of car they drive.

Though I may never get to Denmark, I have decided to live my life with more "hygge.” I can choose to appreciate the simple things of life with which God has so richly blessed me. I can count my blessings and name them one by one. I can praise God for my eyes that can appreciate the beauty of nature as I walk on the levee near my home. I can be thankful as I enjoy a simple cup of chamomile tea as I read my Bible and pray each morning. I can treasure the relationships with family and friends who love me with God's unconditional love. I can savor every experience that reminds me that "the most important things in life aren't things."

"I am come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly" (John 10:10, NKJV).

— Audrey Weir-Graham, a recently-retired educator, is a speaker and ministerial spouse director of the Pacific Union Conference; this article appeared in the NAD Ministerial Spouses online newsletter, click here for the original.