In Search Of “Hygge”

Our Irish girlfriend left us a present on her departure a couple of weeks ago:

[Photo by me, 2018.]

A book. I always enjoy receiving books. This 2016 publication is about why Danes are so famously bl-ody happy.

A large part of the reason they are appears to be “hygge”:

[Photo by me, 2018.]

My immediate reaction – which I shared on Instagram – was I may ask a Dane or two I know about this.

I also presumed it wasn’t similar to one of those “How to be like the French” books, which are more likely to have actual French shaking their heads in spots.

I thought too: I won’t even begin to wonder… uh, how, yo, to be a ‘appy Nu Yawka in Ingland.

[Photo by me, 2018.]

What makes us “happy”? It is a useful – perhaps even a vital, from a health perspective – life question. And we don’t usually ask ourselves that directly.

At one point, the author asks us to consider that question in these terms: Think of one time you felt you were happy? Can you? That is actually another difficult question to answer.

Overall most of the time I’m not unhappy. But being actively actually “happy?” That is a tougher issue to address. Indeed what is “happiness”? Do we even honestly know?

[Photo by me, 2018.]

Seeing me reading the book, the Mrs. observed, “I hope you’re taking it all in [Mr. moody author].”

I’m trying.

It’s trite to say we tend to be at our happiest when we’re doing what we enjoy; that’s probably no big surprise. When I write, for example, I find happiness when I nail composing a “perfect” line or paragraph; and, okay, even if it is not literally perfect, because nothing is, there are still those times you may feel you want to stand up, throw back the chair, pump a fist in the air repeatedly and declare, “Damn right!”

[Excerpt from Conventions: The Garden At Paris. On Kindle for iPad. Click to expand.]

It happens too rarely, so it needs to be savored. It’s an event anyone else who writes fiction probably fully appreciates.

It’s also a Friday today. The imminent arrival of a weekend is usually bound to lift our spirits. After all, not having outside work to do for a couple of days, not having to cope with the boss, and a chance to be at home and/or otherwise doing what is pleasing to us certainly makes us “happy.”

Yet it is argued that you also can’t fully have “hygge” by yourself. Writing, for example, may make you happy, but it can’t be “hygge.” On the other hand, reading aloud and discussing with others what you’re writing – meaning sharing it – obviously can be “hygge.”

For “hygge” is rooted in socializing and human contact. It requires connecting with friends and family in a “cozy” manner. It’s found especially in these concepts:

[Photo by me, 2018.]

Here is a list of activities Danes associate with “hygge”:

[Photo by me, 2018.]

Notice Facebook comes dead last.😂 (Presumably, Twitter rates even lower.)

In the context of all of that, naturally I thought of a Danish long-time girlfriend. We were with her last weekend and once more she did her “thing.” (I hadn’t read any of the book before we visited with her.) She loves to cook a meal for only three or four other people (including of course her English husband) whom she and everyone else present knows fairly well to extremely well, with everyone helping and/or within chatting distance as she does so. She’ll invariably have candles lit all over the place. After the meal all of us sit around having desserts, post-dinner drinks, and coffees (it is NEVER instant coffee), and we just talk about…nothing too stressful. She may even pull out a board game (we all must play).

I recall now how much she had also fussed over my dad back at Christmas when she cooked a meal for us all when we were in New York together. He told me a week or so later that it took him two days to recover from her: she wore him out having fun. He had also not been so happy in at least a year.

I’ve known her nearly twenty years and I never realized until reading this little book: she has been doing “hygge.”

Have some “hygge” if possible this weekend, wherever you are in the world. 🙂


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