Ella – March 19, 2018

I am drawn to The Danish Home, not just because my great-great grandmother, Anna Mikkelsen, is one of the founders and part of its history, but because when I visit, I am always deeply warmed by its comfortable feeling. Decor is contemporary, but many residents have their own unique touches of artwork and furnishings that celebrate their Danish heritage and history.

It isn’t easy to balance Old World charm with contemporary comfort, but I feel so at home when I am at The Danish Home. So, when I recently read about the hygge (pronounced hoo-gah) phenomenon taking the world by storm, I automatically thought of my visits there.

In its most basic translation, hygge means “cozy” and was the subject of a bestseller in 2017 called The Little Book of Hygge, by Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen.

Copenhagen is home to the Happiness Research Institute, out of which two bestselling books about hygge and lykke were written.

While most people like a cozy space to curl up in, hygge is more a pursuit of a lifestyle. It might include sitting in a favorite spot wrapped in a blanket with a warm mug and candles lit. But it’s not just decor; it’s anything you associate with comfort. In Sweden, that might be roast lamb or a mug of glogg, hand knit sweaters or time spent with friends.

The love of all things cozy and the desire to emulate the hygge lifestyle made Wiking’s book and many others on the subject very popular last year.

This might all sound quite enticing as winter drags on (although tomorrow is the first day of spring!) and the fireplace is blazing. But I’m not ready to run out and buy a copy of a book on hygge just yet, because just when I thought I was getting comfortable with the notion, there’s a new trend on the horizon.

The Danes know that time spent with friends and family is the secret to true happiness.

Apparently, lykke (pronounced loo-kah) is the new buzzword in Denmark. It is the Danish word for happiness. As most people know, Denmark is often at the top of the list of the happiest countries in the world; hence, the location of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen. Wiking has now penned a book titled The Little Book of Lykke: Secrets of the World’s Happiest People that debuted last December. After studying happiness in many countries and cultures and measuring it like we Americans measure the economy, Wiking has shared some interesting findings in his new book.

It may not be surprising to learn that happiness doesn’t necessarily translate to riches. It has more to do with benefits, like longer parental leave, health care and equality between men and women. To me, this translates to aspects that make life more comfortable, and again I’m reminded of The Danish Home and how, on any given day, friends are gathered around the community sharing meals, playing games, heading on outings and simply enjoying each other’s company.

In what has become a very hurried and harried culture, dominated by screens and virtual relationships, it doesn’t surprise me that our comfort and happiness has less to do with what we have than with whom we spend our time and doing what makes that time together more enjoyable.

I don’t know which would win a contest between hygge and lykke, but I am more than willing to do my own research. As I’m reading reports of more snow coming to Chicago this first spring weekend, I plan to cuddle up in a fuzzy blanket by the fireplace with a cup of cocoa and play board games with my family…a lykke/hygge kind of day. I wish a comfy-cozy balance of both to you as well!