Hygge – The Danish Art of Relaxation

I have always loved to travel which I can thank my parents for – we took many a family vacation from the cold Northern winters of Yellowknife. By the time I graduated high school I had experienced various parts of the U.S., Mexico, Australia, Italy, and Spain. And thus began my love for new places.

I graduated from my Bachelor of Kinesiology in December of 2014 and was on a plane to Europe under two weeks later. Other than the usual reasons for travel (adventure, new culture, and don’t even get me started on the food…), a huge reason for my three-month post graduation travels was to experience how other countries embrace health and incorporate it into their lifestyle.

Cue: my trip to Scandinavia.

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Nothing like a white chocolate raspberry cookie and a tea to ease the fact I just spent 85 euros on a train ticket to expensive Copenhagen.

My first stop along the way was Copenhagen, Denmark, and it sure did not disappoint. My first full day there was spent on a walking tour in the morning guided ironically by a Canadian woman who had moved over with her chef boyfriend. After stopping at various landmarks and hearing a bit of the history, this woman ended her tour with three reasons why Denmark is one of the happiest countries in the world*. And suddenly, my ears perked up…

  1. Danes average a 35-hour workweek – and it is looked down to work overtime or on weekends. When someone asks, “What do you do?” they are referring more to your social or family activities than your job status or income.
  2. Danes have great access to social support (free healthcare and schooling) and are very involved in various cultural and community activities
  3. Danes believe in “hygge”. The best translation is a sense of “coziness” that is characterized by a warm or inviting atmosphere. It comes from the Danish word of well being which could mean a warm drink and candles in the winter, or a BBQ and outdoor concert in the summer.

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Stopped for some refreshing gelato on a hot spring day in Stockholm, Sweden

I love the idea of hygge. I love that this country has embraced the importance of slowing down, sipping a coffee (or any warm drink really), and appreciating the present moment.

A huge part of my three-month adventure was spent in coffee shops. I read, wrote in a journal, and truly appreciated the wonderful opportunities that were presenting themselves in my life. I was embracing hygge before I had even had a word to put to it! And this is my challenge for you this upcoming week:

Take a hint from the Danes and try experiencing hygge.

Whether this is meeting up with a friend for coffee, taking a nap in a green space, or lighting a candle before bed. Embrace quiet, stillness, and mindfulness. If you find yourself going through a mental to do list, or unable to appreciate the present moment then I think it will reveal to you your need for a little more hygge in your everyday routine.

And who doesn’t want a little more “coziness” in their life?

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I ordered this decadent coconut latte in Glasglow, Scotland before braving my first try at haggis! 

* I did my own “research” to confirm this bold statement. Denmark is ranked #1 according to CNN, #2 according to Forbes, and #4 according to USA Today. So yeah, I’d say it’s pretty legit!

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