Has Denmark Found The Key To Personal Happiness?

It's all about feeling hygge.

Denmark doesn't only score high in the rankings each year for the World Happiness Report – the country ranked in the top three for the 7th consecutive year in 2018 – but the country also has one word that pretty much sums up their happy existence.

Hygge — pronounced hʊɡə — was only recently added to the Oxford dictionary in June 2017 and could mean "cozy" or better yet "intentional intimacy."

Basically, the Danes believe in community and a shared existence that contributes to their collective happiness despite paying some of the highest taxes in the world, according to psychologist and The Conversation writer Marie Helweg-Larsen, a native of Denmark. Helweg-Larson writes that the Danes pay their taxes with a smile because for them it creates a better society, one that gives access to high-quality education and health care. The country also has a stable government and low levels of public corruption.

Seems like they're onto something and the rest of the world is starting to catch on, too.

The Today Show followed National Geographic author Dan Buettner to the Danish capital, Copenhagen, in 2017, where Buettner chalked up the country's propensity for joy to three experiences he said its residents have in abundance: "When I think of happiness, I think of three qualities,'' he said. "How much pleasure you have in your life, how much pride you have with your life, and living with a sense of purpose."

And, as Helweg-Larsen observed, while other countries have their own "word" for a happy existence like the Norwegians koselig and the Swedes mysig, America does not.

It's interesting to consider whether focusing on individual success could contribute to someone's dismay in life. Are we too centered on ourselves to miss the important moments with others? If so, Americans need to fix that and hopefully find our own "hygge," which at its core means to build intimacy and trust with others.

Cover image via Shutterstock / Bajneva

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