For many students, the months leading to summer are incredibly stressful and filled with deadline-related worries. From third year dissertations, exams, and the empty void of summer, many are all feeling a little on edge. As discussed in the Let’s be Honest report from organisations at the university – it is evident that the poor mental health of university students is worryingly high, for many reasons including studies and financial issues (the full article can be accessed here: https://ruskinjournal.com/2018/02/05/lets-be-honest-arus-mental-health-report/). This suggests that the happiness of young people is also quite low, with the World Happiness Report placing the UK in 19th position, which is not at the bottom, but still pretty low considering we are an MEDC in the Western World. So who is at the top of this? Not surprisingly, most countries from Scandinavia including Finland, Norway, Denmark, Switzerland and Iceland. The country I would like to focus on is Denmark, and their notion of Hygge (pronounced hoo-gah).
Hygge is defined by Hygge House as: A Danish word used when acknowledging a feeling or moment, whether alone or with friends, at home or out, ordinary or extraordinary as cosy, charming or special. These notions of comfort, warmth and cosiness result in many Danes having a great life/work balance, with a fairly stable political system and liberal society. It is common for Danes to finish work when the working day ends, and you are expected to spend your evenings and weekends with friends / family or pursuing leisure activities. So what does Hygge look like? One way of picturing it is being wrapped in a warm soft blanket, with a hot cup of tea and being surrounded by candles. It is all these notions of cosy and simple, and is best experienced with others, but can also be done alone.
Candles are a central part of Hygge, with 31% of Danes typically having more than five burning at one time (TLBOH 2016)
As a student, it is fairly common to isolate yourself with your stress and worrying, or having you and your friends collectively stressing. Perhaps incorporating a little Hygge into our lives might be beneficial, especially during exam and deadline season (especially as our budgets are slightly constrained as students, here is an alternative to a boozy night out). You can arrange to all go over to someone’s house, pop out some cheap candles (for the Danes, it is the actual glow from the candles which is considered hygge, not the smell), each cook a small dish, put your phones away and have a chilled evening of catching up, focusing on the positives in your lives and take a break. Then the next day, take some time to plan in some hygge time around your studying, and it might just help you to relax every now and again.
This Danish concept helps them to slow their lives down, take care in the small things such as having a coffee with friends, or reading a book on a windowsill on a rainy day. It is a way to pick up your spirits, live more in the moment and find some warmth during the tough days. As a society, we have become increasingly isolated and our technology just enhances this issue. In Denmark, hygge is not even considered a chore, it is a part of their everyday lives, and even something trivial as the warmth in your stomach from a filter coffee is considered hygge. However, it cannot be bought, and it is not a lifestyle – it is a way of thinking and embodiment within one’s self. It is vital we take a step back, slow it down and just take in our surroundings a little more. We could all benefit with a little more hygge in our lives.
By Elle Haywood
13 June 2018
The World Happiness Report can be accessed here: http://worldhappiness.report/ed/2018/
The Let’s be Honest Report can be accessed here: https://www.angliastudent.com/represent/campaigns/letsbehonest/
Hygge House facts: hyggehouse.com