HOO-GAH: Hygge The Danish Secret to Happiness

Pictures from my travels in Copenhagen when I first experienced Hygge. 

Until I visited Copenhagen in April 2018, I had never heard of Hygge. After some research, I found out it’s pronounced, HOO-GAH. Hygge is the Danish Art of Happiness and no, it has nothing to do with their delicious pastry. In Denmark, the weather is almost always shitty.  Think rainy, cold, & dark. You’d expect that they would be amongst the most miserable people on the planet. Instead, they are ranked 2nd in the World Happiness Report.  (P.S. if you are thinking, “let me look up the U.S.,” don’t bother.. we are 19th which dropped from 18th last year).

I don’t know about you and your friends, but in NYC, no one wants to do anything when it’s cold, dark, or rainy.  We’d all be antisocial movie experts if we had Denmark’s weather all year round. So what is Hygge and how do we bring it to the States?  

“Hygge is the antidote to the cold winter, the rainy days and the duvet of darkness” (Meik, 18).

What do the Danish people have that we don’t have? Perspective. They could have easily become an indoor culture, but they made a conscious decision to have better lives.  One filled with nature and fun activities year-round. It is time for us to challenge our societal norms and adopt more best practices from other cultures. If we truly are a melting pot, then our prerogative should be to absorb the best parts of everyone else’s’ culture to form our own.

It is time for a cultural refresh.

While I was in Copenhagen, I became obsessed with the idea that as Americans, we let winter and the cold outdoors control our lives and happiness. I searched the city to find a book that would teach me further about this concept and help me translate it in a way that would inspire other Americans to want to participate. I found “The Little Book of Hygge- The Danish Way to Live Well” by Meik Wiking and have used it to guide my research.

The concept that spoke to me the most is the importance of a safe atmosphere to create experiences rather than materialistic things. One of the ways the Danish create atmosphere is through their use of candles for intimate lighting. Denmark is generally dark from October to March which could be incredibly depressing if there wasn’t another option to find light and warmth. A big part of creating a safe atmosphere includes being fully present. It is important while out with friends to unplug and let yourself truly live in the moment. 

If we are always texting people who aren’t there, we will miss moments with the ones who are.  Culturally, we rely too heavily on social media and FOMO, but I am afraid of not really living.  Who cares if Joe Schmo is skiing, you are out to dinner! Or my favorite, who cares if people you know are at a bar, you chose a self-care night (which is harder to do & more important for your soul).  Life is about choices and it is about time we stand for the ones we’ve made.

“Hygge is about being kind to yourself– giving yourself a treat, and giving yourself, and each other, a break from the demands of healthy living” (Meik, 70).

When Americans think of coziness, we think of the comfort of our own homes. The Danish are able to feel a sense of coziness while they are out in public if they are with the right crowd.

I am a firm believer that happiness is a choice.  I have seen so many people who have been dealt a bad hand, yet still remain some of the happiest people I know.  In every situation, choose to see the positive. Yes, some days stink and it’s okay to admit that, but then create a plan to make them better.  Let one day be a bad day, but not the next three after that. 


Challenge: Spend one day without complaining, only seeing the positive and see how it affects your overall being.  You will be amazed. Please reach out with your findings, I’m curious.

Double Challenge: Put down your phone.  Look around. Engage in the world. See how it impacts your life.  Do you feel better? I know I did when I started doing this.

Elaina Pearl
Elaina Pearl
I started Elaina Pearls as an outlet to share my voice. The topics I write about cover fashion, lifestyle, & travel. On every post, you will find a challenge to spark self-growth. I believe that each day there is a lesson to be learned and something to be grateful for.