The science of happiness: Understanding How to be happy
The science of happiness…
This guide includes delicious Free Ice Cream… No it doesn’t, sorry to disappoint you. But I promise if you keep reading you will get something better. And no, you are not going to get two ice creams.
Happiness is a widely discussed topic, and still it is quite disconcerting. In fact, many sociological studies show that most people have no idea what it is that makes them happy.
According to a poll taken by psychiatrist Robert Waldinger about what the most important goals were in life for today’s young people, 80% of the respondents said ‘being a millionaire.’ And not only that, half of them also wanted to be famous. So we work hard to get those things but, are they actually the most important in life for our happiness?
In addition. for a long time, it was also said that positive thinking was the key to happiness. Well, sorry to disappoint again but it is not.
As the entrepreneur Nat Ware affirms: «The first step to being happy is to understand why we can often become unhappy.»
There is no magic pill for true happiness, at least nothing that will last in the long run. Happiness is an emotional process that can be learned if we understand the primary factors that determine it. Giving you a better understanding of happiness will actually help you to make yourself happier, but this undoubtedly requires a lot of work, effort and determination.
The science of happiness: Why we are so unhappy
- Why is it we live in the era of greater comfort and yet complain more?
- Why is it we have become more wealthy and are still not any happier?
In his Ted talk «Why we are so unhappy,» economist and entrepreneur Nat Ware, explains how bad we are at predicting our own happiness.
«The first step to being happy is to understand why we can often become unhappy. Many decisions we make for our own satisfaction are based on logical and pragmatic results, when our happiness is actually based on more relative values«, states Nat.
His conclusion? Expectations.
When our expectations exceed our experiences a gap is created, this is the main cause of our unhappiness. Thus, the moment we generate high expectations, we go against our own happiness by making it almost impossible for reality to equate to this. The problem is that when an expectation is set, it is difficult for us to accept another result.
As strange as it is, this is why we are more unhappy at coming second place in a competition than coming third. The desire to come first is much stronger than to come second. Being the poorest of the rich is less satisfying than being the richest of the poor because comparatively we feel that we have less.
This also explains how poorer countries can be much happier than other more developed countries, even if they lack basic resources. Their expectations are lower and they need less to be satisfied. As Agustin of Hippo said: «The richest man is not he who has the most but he who needs the least.»
The same can happen with our expectations of a relationship
For most of us, our needs were satiated by our parents, making us feel completely safe. This unconsciously creates us an ideal of love and the expectations we have of our partner in adulthood. Something that is actually far from reality and is somewhat unfair. The love received by our parents could never be a functional model with a loving partner. Without going into too much in detail, the reason is because when we are children, love is not reciprocal, basically they attend to our needs, but not their own. Additionally, the adulation for our parents will probably blind us to the ups and downs of their relationship.
Furthermore, Disney movies are another more popular conditioner of this idealization of love. All this can create extremely high expectations of our partner generating very large gaps.
Nat distinguishes 3 types of gaps on which we base our expectations:
- Our imagination
- Those around us
- Our past
1) Our Imagination
This happens when what we imagine surpasses the reality of our experiences. It’s like when we see a movie or place that is not as great as we had imagined.
Ware also claims that our decision-making process undermines our happiness. We make decisions based on choosing what we believe is a better option. We can choose Paris over Jakarta, buy a newer model of car or choose one person over another, thinking it will make us happier. However this is not always the case.
Nat adds that technology makes this even worse. We think one photo is better than another because it has 200 «likes» instead of only 3. Likewise, the use of photoshop produces sensational images, a romanticized sense of travel.
Marketing is also guilty by promoting expectations about products by creating an idealized image of what it is. Or beauty standards that are so high it generates lower self-esteem and depression (and of course, higher sales).
2) Those around us
Humans function in contrasts. I will know that my new car is better because I compare it to the old one.
We compare our reality based on our experience with that of others. We judge what we have depending on the people around us.
If I earn 50,000 a year and my neighbors are poor, I will feel richer. If I earn the same money, but my neighbors earn 5 times more, I will feel poorer. This is also because our social position matters.
Meik Wiking gives an example in his talk Ted «The dark side of the happiness«. In countries with lower unemployment rate, being unemployed can be more devastating because much more pressure is placed on us, we question ourselves more, not being able to blame the economy.
Meik also talks about social networking being another one of our worst enemies. Each person constantly displays their best news of the day, showing «perfect lives» and creating unattainable standards, distorting our perception of reality. The researcher tells us about an investigation taking two groups. One of them would stop using social networks for a week and the other would continue to use it normally.
Which were the result?
The group that left it for a week reported significantly greater satisfaction with life compared to the group that continued using social networks. This led to the conclusion that being exposed to the happiness of other people can have negative effects on our own happiness. Without getting too far off subject, Meik ended the issue commenting that this generated a paradox in happiness, making the countries with greater happiness also have more suicides.
Returning to Nat, the same thing happens with physical appearance. If we surround ourselves with people who look less attractive they will make us feel more beautiful and by contrast, others will perceive us as more attractive. On the contrary, surrounding ourselves with more attractive people will make us look and feel less attractive. Nat, in his great wisdom, recommends going out dancing with friends less attractive than ourselves.
A big issue is that we tend to prioritize those who have more, which makes us feel that we have less than we actually do, adds Nat. The problem is that as we move forward, we compare ourselves with those who are still higher up, becoming a vicious circle.
3) Our past experiences
We feel happier when we perceive that we are progressing from the past. If two different people have same income, but one has increased and the other decreased compared with a year ago, the former will feel happier.
Nat also notes that many times we can harm the happiness of our children. If we give them everything from the beginning it can be counterproductive for them when they want to get ahead. It´s the same if we tell them that they are special or that they can achieve everything that they want as an incentive. You cannot be a ballet dancer if you are in a wheel chair. It only creates more disappointment as they grow up and get an ordinary job or fail in many of their goals, like starting their first business, as most of them do.
Our happiness is the result of these battles with our expectations of the imagination, those around us and our past experiences. If you think about it, many of our best experiences are those in which we expected nothing.
As a solution Nat suggests that to overcome these barriers the first step is to take happiness seriously as well as our expectations.
As for the expectations of the imagination it is important to set realistic goals. It’s okay to think big, but it’s always good to be prepared for the worst. As for the expectations surrounding us, it is better to compete with ourselves instead of with others. Regarding the expectations of the past, it is important to keep in mind that there are ups and downs in life and not to pretend that everything is always going well. As for children, it is okay to give support but let them know when something can be difficult so they do not set impossible goals.
We have a lifestyle so perfectionist it seems to conspire against our happiness…
As we said earlier, many of our decisions are based on logical results when our happiness is actually based on more relative or sentimental values. For this reason, we may fail many times when we choose what we think will make us happy.
Therefore, it is important to understand that in the decision-making process we must take into account our feelings and expectations of the outcome because it will have a much bigger influence than we think.
The science of happiness: Understanding Happiness
(Chapter from Seduction Simplified)
A very interesting fact about happiness is that we are rarely aware of it while we are living through a happy period, but we do notice its absence once we have fallen from grace. It is like when we are healthy but then catch a cold, and we realise how important health is.
Psychologists such as Daniel Gilbert even affirm that the loss of something (whether a person or an object) generates three to four times as much suffering as the amount of happiness what was lost generated. This phenomenon is commonly referred to as “loss aversion”.
In fact, we also find greater value in the potential pleasure we could get from elements we have not yet obtained than in actually obtaining them. Which is why we not only find more value in things we do not yet have than we find in them once we have obtained them. But also, once we lose them, we feel a suffering greater than the pleasure we derived from having them. Those new sneakers we were craving for so badly won’t be as special as we thought they would be, but losing them will make us feel very disgruntled. The same can happen with a woman, a car, or a trip.
Another problem related to loss aversion is that the fear of losing something we presently have may push us into making a greater effort to keep that something, regardless of the actual amount of pleasure we get from it. In contrast, it is possible to observe that more happiness can be derived from investing in experiences and relationships than in possessions.
Therefore, not obsessing over material possessions can improve our standard of living in many ways:
It allows us to spend more time and money in establishing relationships and having new experiences.
By not basing our identity on money, it gives us the chance to get in touch with our values and behavioral patterns.
It suppresses the stress of loss aversion.
One of Daniel Gilbert’s most important theories poses that, having gone through any given experience, whether it be very good or very bad, we go back after some time to the same level of happiness we used to have. Gilbert called this starting point “baseline happiness”.
According to Gilbert, our mind will convince us that our experiences were not as great or as bad as we felt they were when we were going through them; he called this tendency to blur past experiences, good and bad, the “psychological immune system”. For example: “Losing the job I only got last year wasn’t all that bad, I actually didn’t really like it”. Or having a job that allows you to travel around the world ―it will also not be so exciting after a while, since forever queueing in airports will start to get tedious.
The question, then, is the following: is there anything we can do to up that baseline, or are we condemned to live with the same level of happiness no matter what?
I believe we all have a shot at modifying that baseline. It has to do with being able to enjoy processes, and not just results. For instance, people who earn a lot of money but do not enjoy what they do for a living, will probably not see much of a change in their baseline happiness. Contrarily, people who enjoy what they do, no matter how much they earn, will generate a rise in their baseline.
And this is not only related to enjoying the process, but also with feeling that one has some control over where one is going in life. People who have no control over what they do will suffer low levels of happiness, regardless of what they experience or how many goals they accomplish. People who are more comfortable about where they are going, even if they have less ambitious goals, will see a rise in their set point. There is no pill of true happiness, at least not one that will work in the long run, but we do have the chance to try to build our life however we want.
There are no shortcuts to happiness ―it is hard work getting there. Happiness will spring as a consequence of our actions.
This explains why there are so many successful people who are not happy: because they feel they have no control over their own desires, as if they felt they didn’t deserve to be happy.
The science of happiness: What make us happy
(Chapter from Seduction Simplified)
We often judge a person to be happy by their outward appearance. For instance, any rich person living in handsome material conditions could be considered “happy” according to this perspective. However, studies indicate that by looking at people’s exterior circumstances, one can only foreshadow 10% of their long-term happiness. The other 90% depends on how they assimilate to their environment.
Above all, happiness is related to people’s level of optimism, to how much support they receive from others around them, and to whether they perceive pressure as a challenge or as a threat.
There is also a deep belief that if we work more, we will be more successful, and if we are more successful, then we will be happier. As the writer Shawn Achor puts it, however, this formula is regressive for two reasons. For starters, every time we successfully accomplish one of our objectives, the finish line changes, so we go back to square one and the cycle that starts all over again. Once we get the promotion we wanted, we are going to want a further promotion in order to be more successful, and hence happier. Once we buy a house, we will want to buy a bigger one.
Furthermore, if happiness came as a result of accomplishing our goals, then we could never obtain it, it would be forever unreachable.
We would always have the idea that we need to be successful in order to be happy. In contrast, we should try to achieve happiness first, so that we can then go for our goals. In this way, we will find it easier to become successful. A mind which works with optimism functions much better than average. It not only enhances intelligence and creativity, but also improves energy levels. According to the studies conducted by Archor, it increases productivity by 30%. This proves that the formula can be inverted. If we find a way to make our minds happier and more positive in the present, then we will be able to achieve yet greater success, working more efficiently.
In the previous chapter we talked about what the baseline of happiness is and the importance of feeling in control of where we are headed. But this leads us to wonder: what are the most efficient measures of taking control over our own lives?
Assuming full responsibility for what happens in our lives:
This was one of the first lessons I learned in the area of seduction. It wasn’t that all women were hysterical, it was that I wasn’t conducting myself properly. We all have problems, the difference lies in how we handle them. Moreover, sometimes the actual problem is not as important as how we react. It often happens that we are mistreated because we allow others to mistreat us, or we suffer economic problems because we don’t know how to handle money. If we have trouble with women it is probably because we don’t know how to act around them. Instead of wondering, “Why do these things happen to me?”, we should ask ourselves, “What can I do about it?”.
Developing the habit of courage:
As we mentioned in chapter eight (Seduction Simplified), when trying to overcome our fears, developing courage is fundamental, it will definitely allow us to have greater control over our lives.
Setting achievable goals:
working towards small aims and goals give us greater control over our lives. By having goals, we are not referring to assuming a “get-a-promotion-to-achieve-happiness” kind of attitude. Is to being honest about what we want, and thus increasing our baseline happiness. It is important not to get carried away with overambitious or haphazard goals, since they generally amount to nothing. A clear example of this are the kind of diets on which people start intending to lose fifty pounds in two months. Getting what we want is about developing new habits. If your goal is to lose weight, instead of thinking in terms of pounds, you could try to first cut down on desserts, then sodas, and so on. If one is unable to achieve small goals one at a time, then then fulfilling them all together will be impossible.
Gratitude is closely related to happiness. It helps us appreciate ourselves, others, and everything we have in our lives. It’s also allows us to appreciate the here and now. It forces us to widen our perspective, and allows us to see beyond ourselves and our superficial desires. Besides, being a grateful person makes us more attractive. You might think you don’t have much to be thankful for, but you can always find new outlooks no matter your situation.
Most people take what they have for granted, without giving it due value, focusing instead on what they don’t have. And oftentimes, as we said before, we only learn to value things when they are gone. How many people undervalue their partners, friends, or material possessions. But once they lose them, cry and pray for things to go back as they were before? Being grateful is closely connected to being positive, and being able to see the bright side of things.
A very handy exercise is to sit down and give thanks for whatever makes us feel grateful. It is important that we are genuine, that our gratefulness is sincere, we should not to do it as a mere exercise.
We should tell our friends and family what we like about them and what we are grateful for.
Why adopt a positive perspective? Being positive is no harder than being negative. Just like being grateful, being positive is a habit, and it constitutes an outlook on life. It is a skill, since it can be attained through practice. One can frequently hear negative people say, “A pessimist is just an optimist with experience” or “I’m not pessimistic, I’m just realistic”. Are these statements true?
Well, I believe the answer is an emphatic “no”. First of all, perceptions are completely subjective, so that in any given situation. There is nothing that determines a tendency towards chaos and failure. In many cases, a negative attitude ultimately reflects a fear of thinking positive, since that could result in disappointment, or is a result from a belief that being optimistic is fooling oneself. But optimistic people trust they will find solutions to their problems, and so vigorously persevere.
Pessimistic people, in turn, focus only on the negative aspects. Why is this point so significant? When we harbor positive solutions, our mind looks for ways put them into practice. If we only take into account negative aspects, we will be blind to all possibilities of accomplishment. By giving up prematurely, or saying “I can’t”, one is killing the chance the mind will find a way to make it happen. Contrarily, one someone says “Yes, I can”, that person is looking at the aspects that will allow them to go for it, to try to accomplish something.
WARNING: Is not positive to be always positive!
Nowadays, people are always talking about how important it is to always look happy, and how everything has to be fun: the books we read, the movies we watch, the conversations we have. If things are not so, then we are not “cool”. It is as if being angry is bad; we always have to think positive and have an “it’s-all-cool” attitude. It seems we should be partying nonstop, like we see in TV ads.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I have anything against feeling really good and being positive. The point is that we should accept how we actually feel; we ought to acknowledge ourselves and start the change from there. We shouldn’t deny our feelings, we should first and foremost be honest with ourselves. Life is a collection of contrasting emotions.
As they say in Vanilla Sky, “Just remember, the sweet is never as sweet without the sour.”
Emotions are not positive or negative in themselves. They are a sort of electronic dashboard that lets us know when something is wrong, and we have to learn how to discern and deal with them. Ignoring those emotions is harmful. It is as if the car’s dashboard told us we have little fuel left and we ignored it. Knowing that our car is almost out of petrol is not a bad thing, but if we ignore that fact, there will be consequences ―in this case, the car won’t run.
It is perfectly okay to be angry; anger is an emotion and it is not negative. It is simply a symptom that something is going on with us. The problem is not knowing why we are angry, or continually being in that state.
If you are angry and you act like you are not, you will most surely become even angrier. If you acknowledge how you feel ―instead of trying to resist it and hide it―, it will be easier to feel better.
We shouldn´t hang upon what others think, most people really don’t care. Even if people think we are attractive, rich, and successful, those are just appearances, and that will make us subject to ever increasing pressure to fulfil other people’s expectations. If, in turn, we are capable of building internal validation, we will be able to establish and fulfill our own goals and objectives. We will have the power to increase our self-esteem and improve our baseline happiness.
Whether validation comes from the outside or the inside has to do with our outlook on life. What moves us into action? Do we do things for ourselves or to put an act on for others? The truth is that one thing leads to another. I believe it is impossible to completely extricate ourselves from either one, because they are connected. For instance, if we start training at the gym, do we do it to be healthier and fitter or to get more women? It could be both, actually, but we should be able to establish a hierarchy of reasons.
What is important is that we are honest with ourselves and that we are able to discern with what purpose we do things. Because if we act with other people’s opinion in mind, then we are putting the result before the process. We will thereby always have the feeling we are going back to our initial happiness set-point.
Building a wider perspective:
Being able to see beyond the limits of our own perspective has to do with being able to understand other people’s points of view (both if they apply to us or to themselves), with evaluating whether we act in pursue of external or internal validation (with transparency), with whether we are going after a certain set of goals for the right reasons, and with whether those goals will really make us happier.
The science of happiness: The longest study on Happiness
Grouch Marx once ironically stated, “My son, happiness is made of little things: a small yacht, a little mansion, a small fortune…” And yet, look at all the unhappy men with bulging wallets. Happiness is a widely discussed topic, and still it is quite disconcerting. In fact, many sociological studies show that most people have no idea what it is that makes them happy.
Money, love, and health. It seems that the only external component that really makes us happy is love, and the intensity of our relationships is what makes us happiest the longest. As one of the characters of the movie Into the Wild puts it, “Happiness is only real when shared.”
According to psychiatrist Robert Waldinger in a recent survey of what were the most important goals for young people, 80% of the respondents said they wanted to be millionaires. In addition, half of them also wanted to be famous.
This is why we work hard, to achieve those goals and achieve more. We are given the impression that these are the things that we must pursue in order to be happy,
But to what extent is it so?
Fame or money, «it is not that they are bad, there are happy famous people and unhappy famous people» added the Academic. One study shows that beyond a level where our needs are met, an increase in income will not necessarily make us happy.
«We’re not saying that you can not propose to earn more money or be proud of your work and that others notice it, but it’s important not to expect your happiness to depend on those things.»
At Harvard University in 1938, an investigation began into what makes us happy by monitoring the mental, emotional and physical state of 724 young people ranging from the highest social classes to the lowest. One of the participants was a US president [John F. Kennedy].
For decades they answered questionnaires about their family, work, and their life in the community. The investigation continues even after almost 80 years with more than 2000 people from the children of the original participants.
American psychiatrist Robert Waldinger is the current director of the study, the fourth since its inception. He gave a TED Talk about the Project: «What makes a good life? Lessons from the longest study on Happiness«, which became viral with millions of reproductions.
Waldinger said: «There are many conclusions in this study, but the important thing to keep ourselves happy and healthy throughout our lives, is the quality of our relationships.»
Feeling lonely has to do with how many friends we have, whether we are in a relationship or if we get 1000 likes in our social networks.
«The social tendency is to isolate ourselves, to stay at home in front of our screens, but in my own life I have realized that when I am happier it is when I am not doing that«, adds the director.
Our happiness depends on the quality of connection that we have with friends, colleagues, and family. This means creating relationships by feeling comfortable with yourself, being able to count on the other person if you need it. Those who do so will be happier and healthier for longer.
If anything, I learned from traveling that the places themselves were not important but rather the people I met. When it comes to choosing my favourite cities, I chose the ones where I formed strong relationships with others. Places can give you the atmosphere, can be the complement, but I think it’s the people who make a complete experience.
When I was travelling alone for almost 2 years,
I ended up on an island paradise in southern Cambodia, Koh Rong. It’s known for its beauty and the high risk of diseases such as the dengue virus. Walking along the beaches, one would see packs of wild dogs keeping away the deadliest snakes in the world.
Having just arrived on the island, they offered me excursions of all kinds. None of them gained my interest. I imagined myself traveling on a boat to different, probably incredible beaches but with nothing I would not have seen before. I had already lost the excitement for that and preferred to go party and meet new people.
As it typically happens on a paradise island, I meet a girl who caught my eye. In my humble and objective gaze she was more attractive than any of the beaches on the island.
She invited me to go with her friends on one of the boat trips, the ones that bored me. I accepted it as it now sounded exciting, and it turned out to be amazing. Maybe one of the best tours I have ever done. And definitely was because of her.
– It was in Bromo, Indonesia, where I met a Frenchman and two Germans and we made our own way to cross the Volcano instead of paying for a tour.
– It was on the coast of Thailand, when we made a big group of friends from all over the world and we swam in the sea to an outcrop of stones to snorkel among five-foot-long sharks.
– In Sydney, Australia, we played massive games of football in the big parks of the city every Sunday.
– The same happened to me when I arrived in Paris. I liked Paris, it was nice. But what made it incredible was seeing my sister for the first time in more than two years.
I had many other good solo tours too but the ones I remember most were the ones I shared with someone.
As a phrase by Tim Cahill puts it, «A trip is better measured in friends than in miles»
According to the data collected in his study, Waldinger asserted that one could predict who would live longer, not because of their cholesterol but because of the degree of satisfaction in their relationships. As the writer Gabriel G. Marquez said: «No medicine cures what happiness cannot».
Those who are lonely than they would like, will have less satisfaction and health in their lives. They will be less happy, more susceptible to both physical and psychological problems and their brain function will deteriorate (greater memory loss for example).
This does not mean that we should like everyone, nor that we should be happy all the time. It doesn’t mean that you will never fight or have any disagreement! That is impossible! It is about putting more attention on connecting with others in a more genuine way. If this is done, any dispute will be easier to cope with.
Now, why is it so difficult to accomplish this?
Waldinger states that 1 in 5 people report feeling lonely. It is also said that about 50% of marriages end up in divorce, not to mention that another large percentage remains united but unhappy.
Relationships are complicated and have little glamour when compared to money or fame. I believe that relationships are overestimated, believed to be something that should flow naturally, when in fact they depend on a lot of work and understanding. A quote from Jim Rohn, which I believe is appropriate for any kind of relationship:
“The greatest gift you can give to somebody is your own personal development. I used to say, «if you take care of me I will take care of you». Now I say, «I will take care of me for you, if you will take care of you for me.»
There are infinite options on how to work on relationships:
- Whether we spend more time with our loved ones
- Rebuild broken relationships, cook with someone
- Try new activities, or see people we have not seen for a long time
There is no “quick fix” for a good life. Nurturing your relationships takes energy and commitment.
The science of happiness: The Danes´s secret of Hapiness
In 2012, the UN declared March 20 as World Happiness Day. Since then Denmark has held the top spot for three consecutive years, followed by:
- The Netherlands
- New Zealand
As the ten happiest countries worldwide according to The World Happiness Report 2016.
What is their secret to happiness in this cold country that has only four hours of sunshine a day in winter, one of the highest tax rates in the world and a larger population of pigs than of humans?
No, it’s not the little pigs.
They call it Hygge, and it is of Danish Origin. Hygge directly translates as «cozy», although it comes from a Norwegian word meaning «Well-being». The idea of this concept appeared written for the first time in the 19th century. Since then has continued to evolve forming part of Danish culture.
If a Dane described it, they would say it is sitting in front of the fireplace on a cold night with a cup of hot chocolate (or a glass of whiskey, for those who prefer) next to a friend or partner. Beyond this nice description, Hygge is deeper and more abstract than that. Its concept is not related to something in itself but rather to a state or attitude. It has more to do with a way of feeling than anything else.
This could be taken in different ways, such as:
- Watching a movie in the living room of our home
- Lying in our favorite chair with a hot coffee, a family reunion
- Hugging our partner under the sheets while we talk all night
- Playing a football game every Sunday with our friends
- Even the time we spend reading a good book
The idea is to relax and feel «at home» as much as possible. It is a concept that transcends social classes because it can be found in the simplest form.
Once or twice a year I would meet with my twin brothers. We would sit in the garden of our family home on a wooden bench, it was not exactly comfortable but it faced the pool. In the summer the moon was white, probably more white than the skin of the Danes with their 4 hours of sunshine.
Although none of us smoke, we would light a Cuban cigar and pass it around as if it were a peace pipe shared amoung American Indians, chatting for a few hours while the dogs slept around us. We also played football every Sunday, but I guess those talks really embody the idea of Hygge for me, Argentinian style.
According to Helen Russell, author of the book «The Year of Living in Danes». The great Danish secret is: «Spend a relaxed and cozy time with friends and family, drink coffee or beer». «Hygge has to do with being good to yourself: pamper yourself, have a good time, not to punish yourself or deny yourself of anything.»
Despite the simplicity of the concept, an interesting point of all this is to be able to recognize how it can affect our happiness if we put it into practice.
Remember it has little to do with routine, it´s more of a state of being or feeling.
Another point that I personally think plays an important role in Hygge is trust. In her Ted Talk «Planting Seeds Of Happiness The Danish Way» Malene Rydahl announces that in Denmark 80% of people trust in others while in the rest of Europe it fluctuates by 25%. The important thing is to start with yourself, to be a reliable person, because that is the basis for any relationship. Being a dependable person is based on doing what you say you will, and saying when you will not.
During my travels I meet a Danish girl called Manna who readley responded to some questions about Hygge. Here are the answers:
1 – How do you describe Hygge?
Hygge can be a lot of different things. To understand it fully, you first must understand that there are different types of the word.
You can use the word as a noun, verbum or adjective. How you use it, depends on the situation.
Noun: Hygge as a noun can be a feeling, an action or an atmosphere.
Feeling: ”Jeg hygger mig virkelig til denne genforening/ Det var virkelig hyggeligt at se dig» (I’m really having a good time during this reunion/ It was really nice seeing you again).
Verbum: “Kom, lad os hygge os!» (Come, let’s have fun”)
Adjective: “Hvor bor I hyggeligt” (Wow, you guys live really cozy”)
2 – Which are the more normal ways to have Hygge in Denmark
In Denmark it is normal to hygge each day! Hygge is, to me, about finding it in very little part of the day. Whether it is on the job or in your spare time. The more normal ways to hygge in Denmark, is with your family or good friends.
– A summer evening, the barbeque is on and you all sit in the sun, talking about everything.
– you feel glad and all worries have left your body.
– A winter evening, with your significant other. The snow is laying as a white carpet and you sit inside with a cup of tea.
For me, it is also to take a walk with my dogs in the forest. Just them and me, hearing the birds and the noise the dogs make when they sniff around. Hygge for me is also to sit with my family and talk or just play a board game.
3 – Is hygge just having a good time or goes much deeper than that?
Hygge is something that’s occurs, when the conditions are just right. Therefore, you can’t arrange for a good time. You can’t demand someone or yourself to have a good time.
You can create some good conditions by arranging a room in a special way or spending time with people you care about, but it does not mean that it will be nice. If you exert too much, it will be an awkward feeling and “hygge” would be affected.
So, to answer the question I would say it goes much deeper than that. You can have all the right physical conditions to have a good time – but in the end, it all depends on the situation, your mood and the mood your friends or family are in. You can’t force a good time to come, if the mental conditions are not right.
4 – How important is the trust in Denmark and do you consider is it crucial for your happiness?
Trust in Denmark is a big thing. If you live far out in the countryside, some people don’t even lock their doors or cars. Although this is not seen very often, it happens.
In the countryside, those people who do not lock their doors trust that their neighbors will not interfere with their private belongings. They also trust that their neighbors will keep an eye on their house when on vacation.
In the big city, parents have their children to sleep outside of their homes in a stroller.
If you walk in the street with your friends and talk, it will be normal to slow down the noise level as you approach the baby carriage. This means that in Denmark there is also a certain amount of respect for other people and their personal lives. It’s the same with the unlocked door in the countryside. Most people who live out there respect each other’s private property.
For another hand, some older Danes warn that the Hygge is no longer what it was. For them, now watching television and using smartphones are considered to be part of it.
What is the problem?
It is said that socializing is reduced, which formed much of this practice. As we discussed earlier Hygge emphasizes an emotional state and could even be called spiritual.
As we talked about in the last chapter, creating a connection with other people is more important, and nurturing our relationships will create greater happiness in our lives.
What makes us happy? The baseline? Be optimistic? Our relationships? The piggies?
Well maybe if we are hungry …
I think there is a general idea of looking for happiness in something as a result. Something that solves all our problems, as if it were something. That girl, being a millionaire, traveling … etc. But as we saw in this guide, happiness is much deeper than that.
Happiness is an emotional process in which we can learn the primary factors that determine it.
It depends on the creation of habits that are part of our lives. Happiness is simply that, a consequence in our actions, not the result.
Research indicates that genes determine 50% of the totality of happiness. If there is bad luck you will be more prone to feeling unhappy. Another 10% depends on the circumstances of life (being rich, having bad health, luck or love). The remaining 40% depends on our control which gives us the power to improve our happiness by making a conscious effort.
There is no pill for true happiness, at least not for a long-term result.
It requires a lot of work, effort and determination.