Denmark consistently ranks as one of the happiest countries in the world, and happiness researcher Meik Wiking (yes, that's an actual occupation) believes it's because of the Danish obsession with hygge. This concept, pronounced "hue-guh," is used as a catch-all for anything that produces a feeling of contentment and cozy satisfaction. A bowl of hot stew on a cold night? Hygge. Laughing with friends over an intimate dinner? Hygge. A smell that takes you back to your happiest childhood memories? You guessed it, hygge. Wiking is the CEO of The Happiness Research Institute, a think tank tasked with researching and quantifying happiness worldwide. He breaks down not only hygge but its related concepts in other countries, both through etymology and practice. Just like a comforting touch, hygge can spark the release of oxytocin, a hormone that makes us feel safe, warm, and happy. Wiking believes that everyone can incorporate more hygge into their lives by choosing to be more present in the moment and following what he calls the hygge manifesto, which is a set of tips that will help anyone live the hyggelig lifestyle.
Fans of Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up will enjoy Wiking's straightforward writing style. The accompanying illustrations are fashioned with a minimalist charm that is very hyggelig itself. Happiness, the reader learns, is achieved through indulgence, being present in the moment, hot drinks, comfortable clothes, and good lighting. Danes consume almost two times the amount of candle wax than any other country in Europe, something Wiking posits is not a coincidence. Soft lighting, intimate gatherings of friends, slow-cooked foods that are savored, books, warm wool socks — these are all ways to boost hygge. He includes recipes, a month-by-month planner of hygge- inducing activities, and such bon mots as "don't drink and sled," which provide a lighthearted overview of why Danes are so happy and what the rest of the world can do to catch up.
Reviewed by BA, 03/17. Other reviews by BA.