11 Secrets to the Good Life From the World’s Happiest People

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Denmark has a formula that works even in the long, dark winter. Try a bit of "hygge" to generate more cheer in your own life.

In 2016, the Danes were ranked the happiest people in the world, a rating that Denmark tends to trade off with a few other European countries, including Iceland and Norway. Why, you may wonder, would residents of a country that far north — with some of the darkest winter days on the planet — be so cheerful?

One answer lies with the Danish concept of “hygge” (pronounced “hoo-guh”) — an idea that is suddenly as hot as Copenhagen’s January temperature is cold. Hygge doesn’t really translate into an English phrase, but envision cozy, happy, simple pleasures. Think snuggling up in front of a fire instead of cruising from swank bistro to trendy nightclub. If hipsterism is goatees, electronica and sushi, hygge is fuzzy socks, candlelight and cocoa.

Bring a little hygge into your own life without paying for airfare to Denmark. As the coldest months of the year loom, battle them back by snuggling up with a way of life that will warm your toes and your heart.

1. Fire up

FireIrena13 / Shutterstock.com

Got a fireplace? Indulge in a crackling, home-built wood fire whenever you can. This may not be traditionally hygge, but we like to give the fire a rainbow kick with these mystical fire packets, Use a fireplace tool to gently drop an unopened packet onto your burning wood, and the flames turn into a brilliant, multi-colored display.

2. Bask in the glow

Shtarev Alexey / Shutterstock.com

If your home doesn’t have a fireplace — or even if it does — you can shed generate some hygge with burning candles. They bring a glow to short dark days and long nights. Hygge experts recommend unscented candles, since you’ll want a good many of them, and the aromas could mix and detract from the cozy. Of course, you should be careful about where you place candles so they don’t get knocked over or catch home furnishings on fire.

2. Warm your toes

Georgios Tsichlis / Shutterstock.com

Forget the designer labels and dig out your fuzziest soothing socks, and your cuddliest sweater, even if it has a goofy reindeer pattern and wouldn’t pass muster at New York Fashion Week. This is about comfort, not couture.

3. Eat cake

Olleg / Shutterstock.com

Kale is not hygge. Hygge foods are comfort foods, with cake and porridge among the most frequently mentioned (if porridge isn’t your thing, perhaps rice pudding will suffice).

4. Lose yourself in a good book

Alena Ozerova / Shutterstock.com

It seems pretty clear that snuggling up with a good book — ideally a cozy murder mystery — is more hygge than tuning in to a shouty, wacky reality show on cable. Want to stick with some Scandinavian tomes, just to stay in theme? Scandinavian Crime Fiction is a helpful, idea-packed blog, and it’s in English.

5. Raise a glass

Ray Bond / Shutterstock.com

What’s the ultimate hygge beverage? Glögg, which may sound like the name of a caveman, but is really a steaming hot spiced wine. If you can’t find a bottle in your local store, you can make your own with either pre-packaged mulling spices or your own homemade mix.

6. Binge-watching the slow way

Matryoha / Shutterstock.com

Reality shows and NFL football? Not very hygge. But you may want to doze off in front of Netflix’s Scandinavian-born “slow TV” options, which include hours of crackling fires, trains rolling through the countryside, boats cruising gently through the water, salmon fishing and people knitting. Don’t have Netflix? YouTube offers many of the same videos for free.

7. Game away the evening

Aizzul A Majid / Shutterstock.com

Board games, whether Scrabble, Scattergories or chess, can fit right into the hygge lifestyle for their cozy comfort, simplicity and ability to bring family members and friends together. Just no throwing the pieces if you lose.

8. Floor show

Kristina Sorokina / Shutterstock.com

Cozy, furry rugs fit right in with the whole comfort motif, so much so that the online store HyggeLife.com has an enormous selection of rugs. (Wait, is that … reindeer hide? No, Rudolph, no!)

9. The antlers go marching

tykcartoon / Shutterstock.com

Antlers might be one of the weirder hygge elements, but decorating with this rustic element, whether real or artificial, is common in Scandinavia. You can always hum Gaston’s song from “Beauty and the Beast” to yourself — after all, he sings about using “antlers in all of my dec-o-ra-ting.”

10. Splish, splash, take a bath

Slawomir Fajer / Shutterstock.com

Sure, showers are great when you’re in a rush to get clean, but a decadent soaking bath is much more hygge. You can surround the tub with candles and sprinkle the water with delightful smelling salts or bubble bath for that extra “ahhhh” factor.

11. Savor your friendships

Dmytro Zinkevych / Shutterstock.com

Sure, technically you could experience this cozy lifestyle by yourself, but at the heart of hygge is opening up to others. Invite pals over for a home-cooked dinner, a night of games and music, or just sitting around the fire chatting. You may just find the winter has become something to be savored, rather than to be endured.

What rituals do you practice to bring a little more hygge into your life? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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