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5 things you can do to live a more content life (the Danish way)

Happiness expert Meik Wiking shares the Danes’ secrets to happy living.

“WE MIGHT BE IRISH and Danish but first and foremost we’re humans and the same things drive happiness and wellbeing across the world”.

If there’s one nation that would know about happiness, it’s the Danes – they’ve been coming out on top of happiness rankings in Europe since the early 1970s, and within the top five of the World Happiness Report since 2012, winning several times.

And if there’s one man with the authority to explain why, it’s Meik Wiking, author of The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living, and CEO of the Happiness Research Institute. The Institutes carries out research on how to measure happiness, why some people are happier than others and how to improve quality of life.

He’s in Dublin to launch The Danish Experiment, a web series created by Carlsberg which will follow four eclectic Irish personalities as they explore the Danish way of living, learning what makes them so different to their European counterparts.

The series will see street artist Maser, stylist Jo Linehan, food trailblazer Kevin Powell and Kodaline bassist Jay Boland all discover what they can learn from Copenhagen to take to their creative careers back home.

So, what’s their secret? The reasons behind their happiness are composed of what Meik refers to as “many nutshells”, but here’s a few tips you can take into your own life.

1. Buy some new cosy bits for your home

shutterstock_715918531 Shutterstock / Alena Ozerova Shutterstock / Alena Ozerova / Alena Ozerova

You might have heard about ‘hygge’ or noticed the amount of fun, affordable Danish interior shops that have popped up lately across Ireland. Meik explains why the Danes are such pros at getting interiors right: “Danes are obsessed with interior design in part because they are forced indoors for eight months of the year.”

“But that’s also why Danes like to invite people over for dinner and if you’re having people over, you want to create a cosy place where you and other people enjoy spending time, so that’s why Danes contemplate a lot around how to create a cosy space in our living rooms or kitchens.”

2. Make food with someone gas (your mam/friend/other half)

We get it, sometimes making dinner is a thankless, lonely chore. But the Danes see cooking time as an opportunity to take their time and catch up with their friends, house mates and partners, as Meik explains:

“The rule of thumb is the longer the cooking time, the more hygge a meal – if you have a stew that needs to simmer for a few hours, you can enjoy making it and talk over a glass of wine or bottle of beer during the preparation, that’s great.”

3. Do your best to leave work on time

shutterstock_651765454 Shutterstock / Syda Productions Shutterstock / Syda Productions / Syda Productions

Always find yourself late to meet friends after work or college? Meik says take a leaf out of the Danes’ book: “Most people leave the office at five, if you work until six, people are like, ‘what’s going on? Is there some secret project you’re working on?’”

Meik explains how important this is for people’s connection to their social group: “It’s this good work-life balance that allows people to meet their mates on a regular basis.”

4. Nail down a weekly slot with your friends to meet up

According to Meik, Hygge (“the art of creating a nice atmosphere) is about being with the people we love. Things like ‘lille fredag’ (‘little Friday’, the chance to socialise on a Thursday as if it were Friday) allow Danes to meet their friends often. It’s a key in their happiness rankings, says Meik:

“If you look at how often people meet with friends and family and colleagues outside work, Danes report some of the highest levels in Europe. Hygge is about relaxation and comfort and togetherness and hanging out with friends.”

5. Take some time out for self-care

shutterstock_495459952 Shutterstock / NinaMalyna Shutterstock / NinaMalyna / NinaMalyna

Hygge is by no means something that’s only happening in Denmark, but their labelling of the concept is, and it’s important says Meik: “Of course it happens everywhere but Danes have a word that describes that situation and it makes us even more aware of it. It makes us try to achieve it on a daily basis.”

“I remember one French mother of two wrote to me that in the past she would have had an afternoon with her kids on the sofa with some treats and tea and she would call it a ‘lazy afternoon’. Now she calls it a ‘hygge afternoon’ and doesn’t feel guilty about it anymore.”

6. Share a meal with someone you care about

And Meik’s ultimate happiness tip? It’s actually pretty achievable: “You know, bringing together some good people over good food, that’s a really good starting recipe for happiness and wellbeing, whatever country or culture you are from.”

Want to find out what makes Denmark one of the happiest places in the world? Keep an eye out for the first episode of The Danish Experiment, which will be unveiled on TheJournal on June 14th. Follow Carlsberg Ireland on Facebook and Instagram to tune in to the series and for behind-the-scenes edits . Enjoy Carlsberg sensibly, visit drinkaware.ie.

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