According to World Happiness Reports, Denmark consistently ranks in the top three happiest countries on earth. Their practice of hygge (pronounced "hyoo-ga") may be the secret to their exceptional happiness. But what is hygge, and how can you gain happiness from it? Read on to find out.

What is Hygge?

There is no direct translation for the word hygge. Meik Wiking, author of “The Little Book of Hygge,” explains, "hygge has called everything from 'the art of creating intimacy,' 'coziness of the soul,' and 'the absence of annoyance' to 'taking pleasure from the presence of soothing things,' 'cozy togetherness,' and 'cocoa by candlelight.'"

You experience hygge when you relax by the fire amongst friends on a cold winter's day, chat happily with family over a dinner of comfort food or curl up with a blanket and an enjoyable book.

Hygge is not about things. Instead, it's about experience and atmosphere.

Danes like to create warm pools of light, and they will typically decorate their homes with candles to assist in creating hygge environments during the long winter months. They are known for their designer lamps and are, arguably, one of the biggest candle consumers in the world, burning as much as 13 pounds per person per year.

In the summer months, Danes practice hygge by getting together for meals at seaside cottages. Gardening and eating fresh food with friends are important aspects of summer in Denmark.

Those seeking to emulate Danish culture in pursuit of happiness frequently turn to hygge. Case in point: Urban Adventures offers a 3.5-hour Hygge & Happiness tour to teach tourists how to replicate aspects of Danish culture that contribute to their national happiness levels, hygge being one such practice.

Hygge and Happiness

It's no mystery why hygge contributes to happiness. Spending time with family and friends in cozy environments with nourishing food lets Danes slow down and enjoy the company of others. Studies have discovered that eating together can reduce depressive symptoms and increase feelings of connectedness. So, hygge works!

What tends to allude non-Danes in the pursuit of happiness through hygge is the conscious part of hygge. When Danes practice hygge, they're practicing it with acute awareness. They deliberately enjoy the coziness. They neither feel guilty about relaxing nor nourishing the soul.

How to Practice Hygge

You can practice hygge all year round. In the winter months, focus on creating a cozy indoor atmosphere, eating comfort food, and spending time with people you like.

Use lamps and candles to create pools of warmth for added ambiance and comfort. Adorn furniture with plenty of blankets and throw pillows. Invite friends and family over for get-togethers. Cook and converse together or have everyone bring a dish to share.

In the summer, get outdoors and spend time enjoying nature in the company of others. Check out public parks or hike in your backyard. If you are near water, go for a swim. Invite people over to have a picnic and serve fresh ingredients. Barbeques and garden picnics are popular in Denmark.

The Key Ingredient to Hygge Happiness

Be conscious of your hygge practice. Put away distractions. Focus on getting as cozy as you possibly can — make getting cozy a sport! Instead of feeling guilty about spending the afternoon curled up on the couch reading a book with your kids or significant other, feel good about it!

Embrace the coziness of the afternoon. Let the coziness replenish your energy and nourish your soul — because that’s the ticket to happiness through hygge.