Who are the happiest people on Earth? Consistently, surveys show it's people in Denmark. And that may be thanks to a word you've never even heard before. We explore the Danish lifestyle known worldwide as hygge.
This little green path is in a neighborhood outside Copenhagen, Denmark and anthropologist Jeppe Linnett is about to give us on a hygge tour.
Jeppe Linnet: Welcome to my own little private hygge paradise here.
Hygge— that’s spelled H-y-g-g-e— is a uniquely Danish concept, which Linnet has studied.
Sharyl: What would you say in a sentence or two is a definition of hygge?
Linnet: Hygge is a kind of atmosphere where you feel that you can you can be yourself. You're allowed to be yourself and you feel that others are genuine and authentic and friendly.
That may be different things to different people.
Linnet: Just chilling and being lazy.
Sharyl: Read a book maybe?
Linnet: Exactly. Or listening to music or whatever you want to do.
It could be a cozy, functional space indoors with candles or soft light.
It also means spending time with people you genuinely enjoy.
Sharyl: The word is hyggly?
Linnet: Hyggly. Yeah. That's the adjective for the experience.
Sharyl: A hygge-like experience.
Linnet: This was hygge like.
The pursuit of “hygge” has become popular well past the borders of this small Northern European nation.
Shaun Russell: Boreal forest; spruce, pine and fir.
Shaun Russell says he’s found a way to bottle it.
Russell: The smell of baking bread, smoky tea.
Russell moved to Denmark from Britain.
Sharyl: What brought you here?
Russell: The love of a blonde Danish girl.
They’ve been married 20 years now. He’s built his life and business around an expanding appreciation for hygge. Candles and fragrances help people capture that feeling of happiness or contentment wherever they may be.
Sharyl: How do you put a smell to hygge?
Russell: That's interesting cause a lot of Danes can always tell you what hygge is if you ask them on the streets but actually, if you ask them what it smells like, they come unstuck. So when we created a scent for hygge, you have to be a little bit more, let's say creative.
Russell: But I think Western countries such as the United Kingdom and I, I believe the US too, have a tendency to defer happiness to a later date or a more significant event such as a new job, bigger car, bigger house. I think what the Scandinavians are very good at is just focusing in on the moment.
That’s what we’re doing back in the Danish countryside at Linnet’s cottage.
Linnet: There is a good degree of being yourself here, which is very important in a Scandinavian mindset to have a place where you can just be you.
Sharyl: If someone in the United States wanted to experience the feeling or the experience of hygge, what would you tell them to do?
Linnet: You can't force it and it won't come because you light a candle or put on a blanket. Take some good, slow quality time with people that they really feel good around, not the ones that they think they should feel good around, but people that, that, that really give them a pleasant vibe and they feel they can be themselves and then, you know, be together in a way that is not too demanding.
Sharyl: Well, I hope you found this conversation hyggely.
Linnet: I definitely did. Very much. Very friendly. Yeah
Sharyl: Thank you.
Linnet: You're welcome.
Meantime, the Dutch also have a lifestyle concept that’s catching on. Niksen.. which is described as "the art of doing nothing, aimlessly and without the objective of being productive.”