ASK THE EXPERT
BY KELLY HEITZ
After ranking at the top of the World Happiness Report for several
years, Denmark is officially the happiest country in the world. But
why are the Danes so happy?
MEIK WIKING, CEO of the World Happiness Institute
thinks he’s found the answer: hygge. Hygge, (pronounced HOO-guh)
which doesn’t have a direct translation in English is sweeping the
world. It’s more of a feeling than anything else, and the Danes have
“Hygge has been called everything from ‘the art of creating
intimacy,’ ‘coziness of the soul’ to ‘cocoa by candlelight,’ and some of
the key ingredients are togetherness, relaxation, indulgence,
presence and comfort,” explains Wiking. “The true essence of hygge
is the pursuit of everyday happiness and it’s basically like a hug, just
without the physical touch.”
In this Ask the Expert, we ask the happiness expert on how you
can bring the concept of hygge to any corner of the world.
Pulse: Why do you think hygge is sweeping the world?
Meik Wiking: I believe more and more people are recognizing
that our societies have become richer, but we as people have
not become happier—and that we in a lot of
countries are failing at converting wealth to well-
being. Therefore, people are looking for new sources
of inspiration to improve quality of life. Living the
hygge way means focusing on the small things that
really matter, including spending more quality time
with friends and family and enjoying the good things
have a strong social safety net, but so do other Scandinavian
countries and Denmark still ranks highest on happiness
surveys. I came to realize that hygge was the secret ingredient
in the Danish recipe for happiness.
P: Why do you think the Danes are able to
master the hygge concept so well?
W: Hygge is a part of the cultural DNA in
Denmark. I guess, perhaps hygge is to the Danes
what freedom is to the Americans. The Danes are
also exceptionally good at decoupling wealth and
well-being. After our basic needs are met, we
realize that more money doesn’t lead to
happiness and, instead, we focus on what brings
us a better quality of life.
P: As CEO of the World Happiness Institute,
you’ve become very familiar with what makes Check out Wiking’s bestseller
people around the world happy. Why do you
think the Danes’ hygge has such a happiness effect?
P: You tout a great work-life balance as a factor in Danish
W: There is so much interest in Denmark and the rest of
happiness, how do you recommend companies implement
Scandinavia because these countries often rank highly on the
Danish customs to ensure their employees experience
happiness lists. On a weekly basis, I am asked questions like
“Why are the Danes so happy?” and “What can we learn from
W: Danes believe hygge can—and should—happen at the
the Danes when it comes to happiness?” from journalists,
office. Companies can make the workspace more homey by
researchers and policy makers around the world. Denmark does