Editor's note: This piece was originally published Feb. 20, 2018.
What is hygge?
According to Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, Denmark, the main ingredients of hygge are: relaxation, togetherness, equality, savoring simple pleasures, and the right lighting.
"The shorthand of explaining hygge [pronounced 'hue-guh'] is the art of creating a nice atmosphere," he adds.
To the Danes, hygge is a noun, an adjective and a verb, as Wiking discusses in his book The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living. "Hygge is to the Danes what freedom is to Americans, something we see as inherently Danish, part of our culture and our everyday conversations, something we give a lot of value to," he explains.
Wiking got into writing about hygge because he thought it might be connected to the fact that Danes consistently rank high in world happiness rankings.
So how can Wisconsinites make their lives a little bit more hyggeligt (hygge-like)?
"Danes are obsessed with lighting in general and candles in particular, because the lighting in a room really sets the atmosphere," says Wiking. "The lower the temperature, the more hyggelig the lighting in the room."
"When you look at the consumption of candles in Europe, [Danes] burn twice as much as number two, because of the hygge culture."
"Hygge is basically an excuse to savor simple pleasures in life. It's comfort food," says Wiking. "It's long, slowly-cooked stews. It's cake. It's everything that is basically forbidden in our modern society, but giving ourselves a break from all the regimes of healthy, clean eating, and being human for once."
"On average, 78 percent of Danes socialize with family, friends or colleagues a minimum of once a week, and almost 60 percent of Danes say that the best number of people for hygge is three or four," writes Wiking in his book. "It is about togetherness."
"It's namely socializing for introverts because it's a smaller group, it's about equality," he notes. "It's not a high-powered social networking event. It's more about board games or watching a movie together or just everyday conversation."
"It is about togetherness, but you can also hygge by yourself," Wiking explains. "Enjoying a good book while drinking some hot chocolate by your window while there's a storm outside would be really hyggeligt."
It may sound crazy, but 70 percent of Danes continue to cycle through winter according to Wiking. "It's also because for the city of Copenhagen, it's a priority to cater for the cyclists," he says. "If we have snow, the city will make sure that the cycling paths are clear before the car lanes are."
Wiking also notes there is a place for exercise in general with the hygge lifestyle. "When we look at the numbers of citizens in Europe who exercise more than five hours a week, Danes are at the top of the list," he says. "And it's not because we enjoy going to the gym, it's because exercise is built in to our daily transportation. That is also something that allows us to have a second slice of cake once and awhile."
Maybe Milwaukeeans can take notes and at least get a nice hike in outside.