Happiness isn’t a destination, it’s a habit. You are the only person with sole custody of your life and the responsibility to actively involve yourself in the direction you so desire. Here are three words of happiness to live by. From the Scandi concepts of Hygge to the East of Ikigai, expand your cultural self-care knowledge and rethink the keys to happiness.
Time to lord over your life with these imported pearls of wisdom and reach hygge status.
Spiritual home: Denmark
In a nutshell: Hygge is about an atmosphere and an experience, rather than about things. A mood of coziness and intimacy that engenders a feeling of contentment and well-being.
What to do: This concept became a global phenomenon after a series of studies found that the southernmost Scandinavian country had the happiest people in the world. It’s become so popular that Denmark applied to have the word added to UNESCO’s list of “intangible cultural heritage,” alongside flamenco from Spain, yoga from India and Neapolitan pizza from Italy. Their contentment is founded on an unwavering dedication to sharing a moment’s pause in everyday life with those you love. It can also be a moment of self-care. It is about cherishing the moment before you and not what’s to come.
Conversation-starter: Danes burn through the largest number of candles per capita in Europe—13 pounds per year, double the runner-up, Austria.
Fireside reading: The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well, by Meik Wiking
Spiritual home: Okinawa, Japan
In a nutshell: Reason for being. (The word combines iki, to live, with gai, reason.)
What to do: Similar to the French concept of raison d’être, this refers not just to one’s calling, but to appreciating the small and large things that bring us satisfaction.
Conversation-starter: There’s no exact translation for the act of “Retirement” into Japanese—older folks segue from a 9 to 5 lifestyle to full-time ikigai. It’s probably the reason why Okinawa is one of the world’s Blue Zones, where centenarians are commonplace.
Fireside reading: Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life, by Hector Garcia
Spiritual home: Stockholm and beyond
In a nutshell: A Swedish and Norwegian word meaning “just the right amount”. Think IKEA, the moderation mantra manifests in its minimalist, functional designs.
What to do: The philosophy of lagom offers an alternative to always seeking the next best thing. The key to experiencing greater fulfillment is moderation and being satisfied with only what you need. The archetypical Swedish proverb, “Lagom är bäst”, literally means, “The right amount is best” but is also translated as “Enough is as good as a feast”. Quite the opposite of materialism and consumerism. That’s part of the secret to being happy — don’t obsess about it.
We suggest having a regular fika with friends too. Swedes traditionally stop twice a day for fika — a much needed break from the daily grind to catch up with loved ones.
Conversation-starter: It originates from the Viking drinking situation, where warriors would pass a horn full of mead around while never guzzling more than their share so that everyone gets to drink.
Fireside reading Lagom: The Swedish Secret of Living Well by Lola Akinmade Åkerström
Benjamin Franklin once said, “Happiness consists more in small conveniences or pleasures that occur every day, than in great pieces of good fortune that happen but seldom.