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The Secret of Happiness

Hygge: the Danish secret to happiness?

by Claire Law

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To encourage students to consider the Danish concept of hygge and its possible link to happiness and well-being. 

Preparation and materials


1. Ask the question ‘What is the secret to happiness?’ 

Either gather a range of students’ ideas, or suggest some ideas, such as money, power, fame, achievement.

2. One country that knows something about the secret to happiness is Denmark. In 2015 it was ranked the third-happiest country in the World Happiness Report. 

This might seem a bit surprising, as in the winter months Denmark is even colder and darker than the UK. It has just four hours of sunshine in winter and an average temperature of 0oC. However, something that is very important in Denmark is 'hygge' (pronounced 'hoo-ga').

3. So, what is hygge? Watch this short video clip to hear Danes trying to explain hygee. 

Show clip

4. Unpack the meaning of hygee and reinforce the ideas from video:
- from a Norwegian word meaning 'well-being'
- hygee can be translated as similar to the following English words: comfort, togetherness, cosiness, relaxation

5. However, it has also been said that 'hygge was never meant to be translated - it was meant to be felt' (writer Tove Maren Stakkestad).

Perhaps we can learn something from the Danes: as we rush through life, it is all too easy to forget to stop and to relax and appreciate simple things and the people around us. 

Time for reflection

Use the series of questions to encourage students to think what they can learn from the idea of hygge:
- What could you do today to stop and find a little hygge?
- Who could you share hygee with?
- What is it you need to stop doing at some point today to find a little hygge?

Dear God,
We thank you for friends and family.
We thank you for companionship and the people with whom we share our lives.
Help us to stop and take time today to appreciate each other, and our leisure time.
Help us to find time today to relax and simply 'be', free from worries and distractions.

Publication date: January 2016   (Vol.18 No.1)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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