The Year of Living Danishly : Fighting Covid With Hygge

The Year of Living Danishly : Fighting Covid With Hygge

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‘Laugh Long and Prosper’ is shelf help with a smile, stressbusters with a smirk, and information with a wink wink. You get the point. On Mondays, I host the podcast Just Another Mindful Monday. Recently, I interviewed a dear friend of mine named Heidi Petersen.

Heidi lives here in Toronto but she has over one hundred relatives covering three generations back home in Denmark.

I wanted to talk to Heidi because I had read two books last month:  The Year Of Living Danishly and The Little Book of Hygge. To find out exactly what ‘hygge’ is, here are a few excerpts from our chat together.

Judy: Heidi, welcome to the show. I wanted to interview you because I know that you also read two books that I love – The Year of Living Danishly and The Little Book of Hygge. According to an annual UN study, Denmark is regularly listed as one of the happiest places in the world. Canada is usually in the top ten, as well, but what makes Denmark unique is something that they embrace called ‘hygge’. I thought that with Covid continuing on for another year, what better time to talk about this incredible Danish super power? Perhaps we here in North America can draw from it.

Heidi, does the English word ‘hug’ come from the Danish word ‘hygge’?

Heidi: Yes, ‘hug’ is derived from ‘hygge’!

Judy: Heidi, for folks who haven’t heard of ‘hygge’, can you explain what it is?

Heidi: Sure! It’s actually a Danish concept. It’s a state, a mood, a coziness, comfort, feelings of contentment, being kind to yourself and others, self-care and self-love. It’s sort of derived from all of those things. But it also encompasses the idea of family and community. Doing things that make you feel happy – just being in your happy place.

Judy: I noticed in one of the books that they were talking about a ‘hygge kit’ that you should have ready when you come home from work, especially if you are feeling cold and damp.

The kit should include things like tea, candles, chocolate, woolen socks, books, a notebook, etc.

In other words, whatever you feel like. The author said that when you return home, you should crawl into your ‘hygge krog’ or cozy corner and get down to some serious ‘hygge’.

Heidi: Haha, yes, and keep in mind that ‘hygge’ is different for everyone. I know for myself (Judy, I know that you are also a big dog lover) but my dogs are part of my ‘hygge’. ‘Hygge’ also includes lighting, candles and texture. A nice chai latte or a glass of wine doesn’t hurt either.

Judy: It’s funny that you say that about lighting because according to a recent statistic, the average Dane burns thirteen pounds of wax, per year. Like you said, it’s all about the coziness – cozy corners with fun lighting, blankets and cushions.

I don’t know if this is part of ‘hygge’ but, according to research, the average work week in Denmark is 34-37 hours. The Danish attitude is if you can’t get IT done in that window, then you aren’t working efficiently enough. Haha.

Heidi: Yes, Danes work very hard during that time frame but we also play hard. Every Danish employee is entitled to five weeks of paid vacation per year. Danes are also very family- oriented. They take a lot of family vacations. Whether you have kids or not, it’s about spending quality time with your loved ones.

Judy: Speaking of family, the books also mention that if you have a baby, you get one year of maternity leave and you can split that time however you want between the two parents.

Heidi: As a result, many Danish couples share the responsibility of raising their children.

Judy: It’s funny because when we think of Danes, we think of pillaging Vikings. How did ‘hygge’ come out of all of that bloodshed?

Heidi: (laughs) I guess we evolved. Haha

Judy: How did we get to throw cushions?

Heidi: (laughs) It’s the Ying and the Yang.

Judy: It’s easy enough to adopt some of the ‘hygge’ traditions alone but I also read that ‘hygge’

includes a real sense of community and reaching out to others. In fact, the average Dane belongs to three clubs and/or associations. It’s almost like a group hug or ‘hygge’. So how are Danes managing with Covid when we are supposed to be isolating?

Heidi: It’s difficult. We have been doing a lot of Face Timing. However, because we are used to spending so much family time together in Denmark (now virtually), it’s easier to adapt. In fact, I notice that more North Americans are starting to grasp the Scandinavian concept of how cool it is to socialize!

Judy: So, while many of us here in North America are suffering from the ‘Zoomies’ ( dreading Zoom calls with our loved ones because we already spend so much time on work calls), I encourage our listeners to keep the dialogue going with their family, friends and individuals. Especially during these Covid times. Keep it going, folks. We will get through this together.

If your family feels more like an episode of ‘Hockey Night in Canada’ than ‘This Is Us’, have no fear. Persevere. Continue to reach out. Someone you know just might need a ‘hygge’.

Heidi, thank you so much for joining me on the show. Until next time… Laugh Long and Prosper.

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