The Little Book of Hygge
The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living by Meik Wiking
Many people are skeptical about the possibility of measuring happiness. One of the issues raised is that there are different perceptions of what happiness is. We try to acknowledge this by saying that “happiness” is an umbrella term. We break it down and look at the different components. So when the Happiness Research Institute, the UN, the OECD, and different governments try to measure happiness and quantify quality of life, we can consider at least three dimensions of happiness.
First of all, we look at life satisfaction. We do this by asking people in international surveys: How satisfied are you with your life all in all? Or how happy are you on a scale from 0 to 10? Take a step back and evaluate your life. Think of the best possible life you could lead and the worst possible: Where do you feel you stand right now? This is where Denmark scores the highest in the world.
Second, we look at the affective or hedonic dimension. What kind of emotions do people experience on an everyday basis? If you look at yesterday, did you feel angry, sad, lonely? Did you laugh? Did you feel happy? Did you feel loved?
The third dimension is called the eudaemonic dimension. That is named after the ancient Greek word eudaimonia for “happiness.” And it is based on Aristotle’s perception of happiness. To him, the good life was a meaningful life. So do people experience a sense of purpose? Ideally, what we do is follow ten thousand or more people—in a scientific manner, not like a stalker—over, say, ten years.
Because, over the next decade, some of us are going to get a promotion, some of us are going to lose our job, and some of us are going to get married. The question is: How do those changes in life circumstances impact the different dimensions of happiness? So how happy are you all in all? How satisfied are you with your life? What is the average effect on happiness from, say, doubling your income or getting married? What are the common denominators of happiness?
HYGGE gives us the language, the objective, and the methods for planning and preserving happiness —and for getting a little bit of it every day. Hygge may be the closest we come to happiness when we arrive home after a long day’s work on a cold, rainy day in January.
Perhaps Benjamin Franklin said it best: “Happiness consists more in small conveniences or pleasures that occur every day, than in great pieces of good fortune that happen but seldom.”
Hardcover pages: 240
Publisher: William Morrow (2017)