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Habits to build happiness, the Danish way

By Sinem Bilen-Onabanjo
27 April 2019   |   4:20 am
There is no science to happiness, many believe, but if there were, no one could explain it better than Meik Wiking, CEO of The Happiness Research...

There is no science to happiness, many believe, but if there were, no one could explain it better than Meik Wiking, CEO of The Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, the author of the international bestseller The Little Book of Hygge. He’s been described by The Times as the happiest man in the world. Earlier this year he gifted us his latest work The Key to Happiness, How to Find Purpose by Unlocking the Secrets of the World’s Happiest People.

You’re not likely to find who the world’s happiest people are in this book, if you think this is one of those ‘tips from the top’. What you find instead are ways in which the Danes, most famed for being some of the happiest people in the world, and people from other parts, turn the pursuit of happiness into the happiness of the pursuit.

Since picking up this read early last week, I find myself mindfully and mindlessly trying to practise some of these methods, some well-known by most but rarely practised and some I’d never heard of before. And guess what? It’s been a fun journey so far – so much so that I’m bringing you some of these keys which go a long way, in Wiking’s words, “to take you treasure hunting, to go in pursuit of happiness, to find the good that does exist in the world.”

Eat like the French
Wiking tells us how seriously food is taken in France where even school children are served three courses at lunchtime. More importantly, that the French eat together. While there are many dietary recommendations around the world, apparently, in France, one of the official recommendations is that you should eat with other people. So, the takeaway is to reclaim our lunchtime, sit down with friends, family, colleagues, enjoy eating slowly and with company.

Do it like the Dutch
Sad but true, I don’t even know the names of my neighbours. Not many do. Since 2006, the Dutch have celebrated National Neighbours’ Day on 26 May. What started as an initiative to get neighbours together is now a national event celebrated in two thousand districts. Make like the Dutch and make an effort with your neighbour – even if it’s a quick chat the next time you see them.

Disconnect to reconnect
If you had to give up your phone or social media on your own, it would be tough. Imagine, no mindless scrolling on Instagram, no sharing memes on Whatsapp… What’s a girl to do? But once you can commit to disconnect as a group, you’ll realise just how much fun it could be to reconnect in the analogue world. A Danish school trialled an extreme measure, where students were allowed their gadgets for just one hour a day. At the end of the first term, when this new system was put to student vote, a remarkable 80% said they’d like it to continue. Encourage friends and family to disconnect – even for an hour, say at dinnertime, during the day – so you can reconnect.

Pay now, consume later
Expectation makes the heart grow fonder, says Wiking, along with a growing number of millennials, it seems, as they invest in experiences they can look forward to as opposed to our generation and our parents’ who relied on possessions to make them happy. Wiking says expectation can be a source of great joy and advises to buy experiences well into the future so we can look forward to it. Perhaps time to book that holiday of a lifetime then?
I’m only halfway through, so more to come next week…