The little book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living

This was a quick read and wonderfully accessible. Mostly I find books in the “Better Life” genre to be either a bit too prescriptive or a bit too much fluff for my taste, but this one managed to strike just the right balance between recommendation and ideation and simplicity of re-focusing.

What is Hygge?

First, apparently it’s pronounced HOO – GA 🙂

“Hygge is about atmosphere and an experience, rather than about things.”

In fact, hygge encourages less spending and more doing, with the author explaining “simplicity and modesty are central to hygge.” The more money spent on or for something typically the less hygge.


You’ll notice that with the exception of “comfort” these 10 elements are not at all about buying things or stock-piling sources of hygge or happiness.

People not things

You cannot buy the right atmosphere or a sense of togetherness. You cannot hygge if you are in a hurry or stressed out, and the art of creating intimacy cannot be bought by anything but time, interest and engagement in the people around you.


“Being with other people is a key part of hygge.” While the connection between happiness and social connectedness is not a new idea to me, I found the data presented to be compelling for this introvert to push herself further and try harder to build social connections.

In fact, the author often changes the question from “how happy are you?” to “how satisfied are you with your social relationships?”

Why are the Danes so happy?

“Interestingly, there is wide support for the welfare state. The support stems from an awareness of the fact that the welfare model turns our collective wealth into well-being. We are not paying taxes, we are investing in our society. We are purchasing quality of life.

Bikes and Happiness

Cycling is not only beneficial for the individual and his or her well-being and health, but it’s an indicator of the degree of neighbor’s and locals’ sense of community. Those who chose to walk or cycle to their destinations attended more social events and had comparatively greater trust in others.

This doesn’t mean that swapping your car for a bike will instantly improve how much you trust other people. The researchers behind the study point toward the increase in commuting distance as an explanation. Cars = jobs being further away, which in turn means that people’s social networks are spread farther, which reduces their sense of belonging and engagement in their neighborhood.

“In other words, if a city is designed in a way that makes a long drive to work necessary, we harm the social health of that city. If a lot of people cycle, it’s probably an indication that you live in a healthy neighborhood.”

There were plenty of worthwhile thoughts and reminders to refocus in the book. It’s a great little read snuggled by the fire with a blanket and a warm cup of something…very hygge 🙂