What makes the Danes the happiest people in the world? Meik Weiking, the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute, writes a delightfully small book about the concept of hygge.

I picked up The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living after my girlfriend mentioned the term hygge in passing. I did some research on the topic, and found the compact, friendly-looking book available at the library!

What is hygge?

Pronounced “HOO-ga,” hygge is one of those words that doesn’t have an exact translation into English—

hygge has been called everything from “the art of creating intimacy,” “coziness of the soul,” and “the absence of annoyance,” to “taking pleasure from the presence of soothing things,” “cozy togetherness,” and my personal favorite, “cocoa by candlelight.”

It’s about, the author writes, the atmosphere and experience; the feelings of safety and comfort; and coziness and peace.

These are all loose translations, abstract concepts, and yet I do feel like I have an idea of what they mean. It’s a relatable feeling, if one that requires some reflection to recognize.

Creating hygge

The book is divided into chapters of ways to create hygge: sources of light, clothing, food and drink, etc. Each chapter is easy to read and filled with cute illustrations.

I personally love these ideas. Keeping a gratitude journal has improved my outlook on life. Improving the lighting in my apartment makes being stuck inside all the time more tolerable. And there’s nothing more comforting than settling in for an evening with hot tea, cozy blankets, an oversized sweatshirt, and a kitten.

My learnings

I look forward to using some of the ideas from this book to help me enjoy winter a little bit more. I typically get pretty depressed during winter, and have been looking for ways to brighten up my life.

This book came at the perfect time—as I was writing this post, it looked like Chicago’s last days of warmth are behind us. A thunderstorm had just rolled in, too, to cool down the air.

“Could this be any more hygge?” he asked rhetorically.

“Yes,” one of the women said after a moment. “If there was a storm raging outside.”

That sounds right!

This was a delightfully cute book that only took me a few hours to read. It’s clear that it’s not meant to be read start-to-finish, but is instead a kind of reference manual for how to create more comfort in your life.

I highly recommend it—if nothing else, this book can help to reflect on what makes you happy. This kind of introspection has proved crucial to improving my own well-being, and I hope that it has the same effect on others!