This danish secret to happiness has found resonance in India too where millennials are looking for simple ways to add value to their lives.
Hyggae (pronounced Hoo gaa) is a happy sounding word that could be dismissed as gibberish nonsense, almost like a new born baby’s gurgles. But, in reality, it is a word with its origins in Denmark. It is an intrinsic part of not just their vocabulary, but more importantly their day-to-day lifestyle.
The magic of this wondrous word, Hyggae, has spread its tentacles beyond the Scandinavian region and has been embraced by many cultures across the world. So what exactly does Hyggae mean? It is derived from the Germanic word hyggja, which means to think or feel satisfied. But metaphorically, it encompasses a broader definition that is life affirming and soul nourishing. No, there is no mystical mantra that needs to be followed. Nor do you have to be a part of some esoteric secret club, where members are subjected to a baptism by fire before deemed fit to be accepted into the sanctum sanctorum.
Hyggae is just a concept that promotes a schematic lifestyle. It does not necessarily imply the 70s Woodstock version of wild abandon. It is about living in the here and now and reveling in the cozy moments. So, yes, don’t sweat the small stuff, instead enjoy the basic pleasures.
Sit by your window and sip a piping hot cup of cappuccino while you enjoy the rain. Switch off your cellphone and listen to soothing instrumental music. Yes, it is as fundamental as this.
Rashmi Aiyappa, spiritual scientist, inventor of Aashwasan Sciences, founder of Aashwasan says, “I believe life is an experience and is lived through moments. It is really reassuring to see that in times when most of us are forgetting to cherish moments in our day-to-day routine, people are talking about the little things of life and creating moments of comfort with and for oneself by putting in conscious efforts to bring happiness into their life through a simple gesture called hyggae. Valuing moments is valuing life itself. It is showing gratitude towards everything one has been given. This is being truly spiritual.”
Like Indians, the Danish too are family-oriented and derive huge satisfaction from strong personal relationships. They also place much emphasis on friendship and guilt-free self-indulgence too. Susanne Peris, a Danish businesswoman married to an Indian, describes it best: “Hyggae is a feeling you have when you are in good company or for me and many Danes something you do in winter time, when you sit indoors with candles, cuddled up in a blanket. Or hyggae can be sitting out on a summer night, having a barberque, with good friends. Many different things can be hyggae, but for Danes it embodies coziness. So the concept of hyggae is to relax and feel at home in an intimate room with some people you care about. But, as you know, hyggae can be used in a wider way: You can hyggae in your own company or hyggae having a good conversation with a friend on a bench in a park.”
Rashmi believes that at the core, happiness is a state of being and is more than just simple pleasures. “It is an inner experience which is unique to that individual. As one touches the chord of one’s true being, one creates moments of presence and wholesomeness. The Danish concept of hyggae then becomes a deeper experience because you are you,” she adds.
So why is the world (including India) turning to the Danish to relearn a concept that has been a part of all our lives but seems to have lost its mojo somewhere? Because sometimes, you need a push in the right direction! Especially when you are trapped in a web of worldly pursuits — money, power, success. You need to witness a pure journey experienced by happy souls to convince yourself that there exists a life beyond pursuing ambitions. And sometimes it is okay to just exist and live in the moment.
Bengaluru-based psychologist Anika C says, “In a culture rich society like India, people living in cities have many psycho-social pressures due to their fast moving lifestyle, and find it difficult to deal with their daily lives. This often results in maladaptive thinking, feeling and behaving leading to poor self-concept, and low self-esteem. The concept of hyggae promotes thoughts of realism, positivity, comfort, security and contentment. This helps in feeling positive, happy, confident, interested and loving. Hence, resulting in adapting better coping styles.”
Hyggae dates back to the 18th Century and is connected to the English word ‘hug’ and maybe that’s why the Danish folk look so content because they believe in engaging in emotionally enriching experiences that all the money in the world can’t buy. Kaushik Mahapatra, an expert Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) practitioner, states, “The power of observation is almost becoming extinct.”
Hyggae like NLP teaches us to use our five senses — see, smell, taste, sound and touch more proactively to experience happiness by being in the present. In this transactional world, approaches to re-activate one’s senses are often kept on the backburner. And, implementing hyggae into your lifestyle helps you do just that. Once you start reactivating your senses, you can grasp things much faster, you can start appreciating simple things in life. For example, if you are taking a walk in a park, you will suddenly explore things around you which you have never noticed. Ultimately, it would give you a sense of appreciation and gratitude towards what is already existing around you.”
Given the stress-filled times we live in, the need to seek inner happiness is now better understood. And those with a hunger to explore happy pursuits are now thronging book stores that sell this much-needed genre as a panacea for peace. The Little Book of Hyggae: Danish Secrets to happy Living is on NYT’s bestseller list. Meik Wiking, the author of this book, is also the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, and defines hyggae as an atmosphere and an experience: “It is about being with the people we love. A feeling of home. A feeling that we are safe. Hyggae has been translated as everything from the art of creating intimacy to cosiness of the soul to taking pleasure from the presence of soothing things. My personal favourite is cocoa by candlelight.”
It comes as no surprise that a country that propagates the concept of happiness has consistently topped the list of United Nations World Happiness Report. In 2018, they are on the third spot, after significantly holding the number one slot for the past five years. India, incidentally has dropped by 11 places and is currently placed at 133 in the World Happiness Index. And that is essentially because we have lost touch with our roots.
Author Preeti Shenoy reminisces about how she has learnt to garden by watching her parents nurture nature at her childhood home. “It is something that I have always followed. It is only now that hyggae has become fashionable. My parents have always had their own garden, therefore I have inherited the same passion and grow most of my vegetables myself. The terrace garden is one place where I go to rewind. The hyggae lifestyle gives me time to re-charge my batteries, to connect with myself. I think in my line of work and personally how I am, it keeps me positive. And in this connected world, one has to disconnect from this constant bombardment. Small factors like walks, yoga etc helps to anchor me,” she confesses.
The concept is slowly gaining momentum in India too. In Goa’s eclectic Anjuna beach, filled with beach happy foreigners, you will find a brightly coloured little cottage that has been converted into The Hygge Hostel, a quaint property that is fast gaining popularity for a laidback hyygae vibe. In keeping with the theme, the walls are splashed with colour and random sketchings projecting a happy environment.
The hyggae impact has found its way into the Indian psyche. When a life-altering trend gains momentum globally, it catches the fancy of millennials (the true barometer of a country’s future) — who are gravitating in the direction of celebrating elementary pleasures. Hyggae is about slowing down and smelling the roses, literally!