The Year of Living Danishly | Helen Russell

Summary of: The Year of Living Danishly: My Twelve Months Unearthing the Secrets of the World’s Happiest Country
By: Helen Russell


In this summary of ‘The Year of Living Danishly: My Twelve Months Unearthing the Secrets of the World’s Happiest Country’ by Helen Russell, you will discover what makes Denmark stand out from other countries when it comes to happiness. You will learn about the concept of hygge, their work mentality, the importance of hobbies and clubs, and the role of traditions in Danish culture. In addition, you will uncover the benefits of Danish parenting and childcare systems and how genetics play a hand in the overall happiness of the Danes.

Discovering “Hygge”

Denmark’s Cozy Lifestyle Concept

When you think of Denmark, Lego, freezing cold weather, and a perplexing language come to mind. However, another word has emerged as a favorite concept among Danes recently: “hygge.” Although the definition of hygge is challenging to explain, it refers to a cozy and pleasant household ambiance. During winter, Danes love to stay indoors with their family and friends, and that’s the “hygge” time. Hygge can also function as a descriptive adjective or verb and is connected with home, people, food, drinks, and chilly weather. It is a lifestyle that includes spending quality time with loved ones, enjoying comfort food, and being cozy. To achieve such an ambiance, Danish people transform their homes into tranquil paradises of warmth and comfort. They maintain tidy surroundings and make use of cozy corners with various lamps, ceiling chandeliers, floor, and table lamps, as well as candles that emit soothing scents and a warmer mood. Cushions and blankets for the winter/spring season enhance the cosiness factor, and small things can make this concept worthwhile. Research has shown that having a stylish, comfortable, and neat home makes people happy. A study conducted in 2011 by the University College London shows that Dopamine releases in the brain when you look at something beautiful. Thus, hygge contributes to Danish happiness by creating a soothing atmosphere that reduces stress and offers the feeling of serenity and comfort.

Denmark’s Work Happiness Secret

Denmark has the most satisfied employees in the European Union due to their work-life balance, societal views on career aspirations, and social welfare system. With a 37-hour workweek and no pressure to work overtime, Danes prioritize doing something they love over earning maximum salary. Additionally, Denmark’s free education system enables young people to choose professions they enjoy, while low barriers to changing careers are supported by an expanded unemployment insurance system and lifelong training programs financed by companies, labor unions, and the government.

The Danish Approach to Happiness

The Danish lifestyle revolves around the concept of hygge (coziness and contentment). One crucial aspect of this lifestyle is the cultivation of hobbies that increase happiness. Denmark has a whopping 80,000 registered associations, with each Dane belonging to 2.8 of them statistically. The government supports these clubs by providing free space and subsidies for membership costs. The clubs bond people of all professions, and cycling is a popular leisure activity that everyone enjoys. The government has paved 7,500 miles of bike paths and all taxis are required to have bike racks. This commitment to hobbies and leisure time is a key reason why Denmark is consistently ranked as one of the happiest countries in the world.

Danish Traditions and Patriotism

Denmark’s cultural traditions and patriotism play an essential role in the nation’s happiness. The confirmation ceremony is an important tradition that symbolizes a child’s coming of age and belief in God. After the ceremony, Danes celebrate with large meals, speeches, and presents, making it a significant event in their lives. Research shows that traditions create a sense of stability and affiliation that people find comforting in a constantly transforming world. Patriotism is another crucial factor in Danish happiness, with the Dannebrog flag being a symbol of the nation’s pride. Displaying the flag is considered a way of showing love for the country, leading to a sense of community and happiness. Studies also suggest that patriotism can contribute to overall well-being, making Danish traditions and patriotism a significant and fascinating topic.

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