If you’ve been livin’ la vida loca lately, it’s time to slow your roll and make more room in your life for lykke. Scratching your head and wondering, what is lykke? Lykke is the Danish word for happiness, and since Denmark is the third happiest country in the world, they know what they’re doing when it comes to living the lykke life. Denmark is a country of people who value self-care because Danes know that true lykke starts with being good to yourself. According to the World Happiness Report, Denmark prioritizes all of the things it takes to live a life of lykke: a stable income, a healthy life expectancy, social support, freedom, trust, and generosity.
On the other hand, the U.S. dropped four spots this year to number 18, which means Danes know something about happiness that we don’t. As it turns out, their commitment to hygge might actually be the secret to lykke. “Hygge” is ‘intentional intimacy,’ which can happen when you have safe, balanced and harmonious shared experiences. Practicing cwtch by having a cup of coffee with a friend in front of a fireplace might qualify, as could a summer picnic in the park,” Marie Helweg-Larsen, psychologist and native Dane, wrote for The Conversation. Basically, experiencing all the feels with someone you care about can actually make you feel happier.
How To Bring More Lykke To Your Life
Just because the happiness index is falling in the U.S., that doesn’t mean you’re doomed to a lykke-free life. According to Meik Wiking, author of “The Little Book Of Lykke” and founder of the world’s first Happiness Research Institute, happiness is attainable for everyone, regardless of where you hang your hat. The secret? Getting out of your head.
“If you want happiness immediately, I’d suggest engaging in an activity that demands your full attention,” Wiking said in an interview with Penguin Books. “For instance, even though I am a terrible dancer, I took up tango classes four years ago because it made me focus on the body and not the mind, enabling me to get a mental break from that voice that's inside all our heads, constantly critiquing our decisions and sense of worth.”
Wiking traveled all over the world searching for lykke, and he found one common theme everywhere he went — a direct line from regular engagement in activities that promote health and wellness to happiness. In France, it’s spending time together preparing and eating meals. In Bhutan it’s starting the day with a mindfulness exercise called brain brushing, and in Denmark it’s cycling to work to start the day off with physical activity. Not only are each of these activities good for you, they make you feel good too. Good for you + makes you feel good = lykke. This is math I can get behind.
Living A Life Of Lykke Doesn’t Cost A Thing
Who among us hasn’t entertained the notion that we’d be happier if we just had more money, a better car, designer duds? One of the reasons people in the U.S. are less likely to experience lykke is because we’re often chasing the wrong things. Let’s be honest, a lot Americans are programmed from birth to become climbers trying to reach the next rung on the ladder without considering whether or not it will actually lead to lykke. Case in point, discount shoe brand Payless tricking people into paying hundreds of dollars for $20 shoes by creating a fake luxury boutique and telling shoppers the shoes were designer.
The stunt was a social experiment that revealed the frivolous nature of American culture because the people who threw down hundreds for the designer shoes would not have parted with $20 if they knew those cool kicks were from a discount retailer. Obviously, a sense of security is one of the keys to feeling safe and happy. However, research has shown that after all of your needs are met, having more money to throw at shoes and clothes actually doesn’t contribute to lykke.
“In the end, more disposable income doesn’t hold a candle to having someone to rely on in a time of need (something that 95 percent of Danes believe they have),” Helweg-Larsen said on The Conversation. “At its core, hygge is about building intimacy and trust with others. Americans could probably use a little more of it in their lives.”
What’s the lesson here? Surround yourself with people you love and trust, and engage in activities that make you feel good. We can’t always control everything that’s going on around us, but we can control how we react to it. The secret to living the lykke life is not getting bogged down in the bajiggity energy of others. I know that’s an oversimplification, but a little visualization can help. When you encounter negatively, imagine yourself throwing up an invisible shield to deflect it. In your everyday life, choose to surround yourself with things and people that induce feelings of lykke. Everything else is just noise.