Gransnet forums


LucyGransnet (GNHQ) Thu 17-Nov-16 12:56:22

What's love got to do with it?

By now, most of us have heard of, or at least seen, the funny little Danish word, hygge (even if we don't know how to pronounce it!) But what is it? And why does it make us so happy?

Meik Wiking

What's love got to do with it?

Posted on: Thu 17-Nov-16 12:56:22


Lead photo

Do you hygge?

Hooga? Hhyooguh? Heurgh? It is not important how you choose to pronounce or even spell 'hygge'. To paraphrase one of the greatest philosophers of our time – Winnie-the-Pooh – when asked how to spell a certain emotion, "You don't spell it, you feel it."

Someone puts a hand on your shoulder, gives you a kiss or caresses your cheek and you instantly feel calm and happy. Our bodies work like that: it is a wonderful thing. Touch releases the neurohormone oxytocin, which makes us feel happy and reduces stress, fear and pain. But when do we experience the pleasure of having oxytocin flowing through our body?

A widespread saying is that hugs make us happier, and that is true – oxytocin starts flowing in intimate situations, and helps us connect to each other. Therefore, it is also called 'the cuddle hormone' or 'love hormone'. Hygge is an intimate activity often connected with cosiness and some company, which leads one to the conclusion that the body will make oxytocin flow during these events. Cuddling pets has the same effect as cuddling another person – we feel loved, warm and safe, which are three key words in the concept of hygge. Oxytocin is released when we're physically close to another person's body, and can be described as a 'social glue', since it keeps society together by means of co-operation, trust and love. Maybe that is why Danes trust complete strangers to such a great extent; they hygge a lot, and hygge activities release oxytocin, which decreases hostility and increases social connection. Also, warmth and fullness release this neurohormone. Good food, candles, fireplaces and blankets are constant companions to hygge – in a way, hygge is all about oxytocin. Could it be that simple? Perhaps it is not a coincidence that everything that has to do with hygge make us feel happy, calm and safe.

Maybe that is why Danes trust complete strangers to such a great extent; they hygge a lot, and hygge activities release oxytocin, which decreases hostility and increases social connection.

Being with other people is a key part of hygge but, as a happiness researcher, I can also testify that it might be the most important ingredient to happiness. There is broad agreement among happiness researchers and scientists that social relations are essential for people's happiness. According to the World Happiness Report commissioned by the United Nations, "While basic living standards are essential for happiness, after the baseline has been met, happiness varies more with quality of human relationships than income."

The importance of our relationships has even led to attempts to evaluate them in monetary terms. 'Putting a Price Tag on Friends, Relatives and Neighbours: Using Surveys of Life Satisfaction to Value Social Relationships', a study undertaken in the United Kingdom in 2008, estimated that an increase in social involvements may produce an increase of life satisfaction equivalent to an extra £85,000 a year.

The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking is published by Penguin Life and available from Amazon.

By Meik Wiking

Twitter: @MeikWiking

M0nica Thu 17-Nov-16 15:01:39

The emotions described above are feelings we all have when we are with friends and family happily together. There is nothing particularly Danish about them.

However, hygge, as peddled in the UK, is just a retail opportunity to sell us candle, soft furnishing and sweaters.

We already have words to describe 'Good food, candles, fireplaces and blankets'. It is called being 'cosy'. When we(in the general sense) are at home with friends and/or family on a cold wet miserable day like today, nobody needs to go out and the heat is up and everybody is snuggling down in the living room, we say we are 'warm and cosy' or 'snug as bugs in rugs'.

Why use a Danish word when there are perfectly good English words already there?

kittylester Thu 17-Nov-16 15:07:55

Quite, MOnica. And, why buy a book on what is natural to us all!

Cherrytree59 Thu 17-Nov-16 15:40:56

That sums it up beautifully MOnica
'Snug as bug in a rug' is what we said to our children and now say to our grandchildren.
Although I have been know to say
'Snuggly wuggly woo' smile

AlieOxon Thu 17-Nov-16 16:27:22

My youngest used to snuggle in her 'big brown furrydown' (remember Pooh, forget which book) which was a lovely furry dressing gown I found her. Sadly it became a smaller and smaller furrydown,as she got bigger....

grannypiper Thu 17-Nov-16 16:46:50

MOnica you are right, Hygge is a retail opportunity pushed by retailers following the Scandi trend.Snug as a bug in a rug sounds so much better.

Marmark1 Thu 17-Nov-16 17:00:19

Quite right MOnica

Marmark1 Thu 17-Nov-16 17:01:31

Never heard the word Hygge anyway

merlotgran Thu 17-Nov-16 17:13:13

We had our own thread on this a little while ago and most of us were of the opinion that it's just another marketing gimmick for selling books and lifestyle stuff hmm

merlotgran Thu 17-Nov-16 17:53:10

Maybe Denmark could direct a bit of hygge towards Greenland which has severe social problems including unemployment, alcoholism and AIDS.

Oh, hang on....They're unlikely to be rushing out buying the books and probably depend on fires, candles, rugs and blankets far more than the Danes will ever need to.

Iam64 Thu 17-Nov-16 18:48:54

The author was interviewed on radio five today. He sounded liable and positive.

hilary1 Fri 18-Nov-16 20:05:35

This takes me back to when life was simple, in terms of very little technology, and I used to grab my book and a drink, sit on the sofa by the fire, by a dim-ish lamp, all cosy, without the tv on and read for an hour or two - this was at least 40 years ago - think hygge is a reinvention of a British way of life - still love my calm time.

Candlefran Fri 18-Nov-16 20:18:53

hilary1 that took me back to when my DDs were tiny. I used to sit snuggled up to the radiator while they were napping after lunch. These days the mums would all be Mumsnetting. smile

etheltbags1 Fri 18-Nov-16 21:36:15

A load of rubbish , we all like to snuggle up on a sofa and relax with book/tv/hot drink in the winter, been doing it for over 60 years.

Rigby46 Fri 18-Nov-16 21:57:35

*In 1973, Greenland joined the European Economic Community with Denmark. However, in a referendum in 1982, a majority of the population voted for Greenland to withdraw from the EEC which was effected in 1985.

In 1979, Denmark had granted home rule to Greenland, and in 2008, Greenlanders voted in favour of the Self-Government Act, which transferred more power from the Danish royal government to the local Greenlandic government. Under the new structure, in effect since 21 June 2009,[15] Greenland can gradually assume responsibility for policing, judicial system, company law, accounting, and auditing; mineral resource activities; aviation; law of legal capacity, family law and succession law; aliens and border controls; the working environment; and financial regulation and supervision, while the Danish government retains control of foreign affairs and defence. It also retains control of monetary policy, providing an initial annual subsidy of DKK 3.4 billion, which is planned to diminish gradually over time. Greenland expects to grow its economy based on increased income from the extraction of natural resources. The capital, Nuuk, held the 2016 Arctic Winter Games. Greenland leads the world in renewable energy. 70% of its energy is from renewable sources, particularly hydropower.[16]* This s from Wikipaedia - seems like the Greenlanders have been shaping their own destiny for some while - unfair to blame Denmark

trisher Sun 20-Nov-16 18:56:07

Happiness researcher! What on earth is a happiness researcher? And it seems there is more than one of them and they are agreeing with scientists. Who knew this went on?
The 'hygge' thing must be the result of their research, how ever did we survive without them?

Jalima Sun 20-Nov-16 19:02:00

Didn't we have a thread about hygge a few weeks ago

Or have I been snuggled up under the throw and dreaming?

Jalima Sun 20-Nov-16 19:02:49

oh merlotgran remembered it too, thank goodness for that. smile

Jalima Sun 20-Nov-16 19:06:32

Do the Danes cuddle up on the sofa with complete strangers and hygge with them then?
Maybe that is why Danes trust complete strangers to such a great extent; they hygge a lot, and hygge activities release oxytocin, which decreases hostility and increases social connection

Ana Sun 20-Nov-16 19:13:58

Has anyone on here visited Denmark?

I know at least one GN poster has Danish connections, but it would be interesting to hear first-hand how the the Danish hygge compares to the British idea of 'cosiness'.

kittylester Sun 20-Nov-16 20:49:26

My sil has long standing contacts in Denmark and doesn't notice much difference!

Aslemma Mon 21-Nov-16 01:36:08

I've been to Denmark several times to visit an English friend who has been married to a Dane for over 40 years. She is not at all happy there and, at 84, is seriously considering divorcing her husband and coming back to the UK. I got another phone call from her late last night pouring out all her troubles, including the fact that her husband hadn't spoken to her for 4 days, which is not an unusual occurrence. I have known them for years and, however he was in the early days, he certainly hasn't got much hygge now.

Phoebes Wed 23-Nov-16 21:28:47

Our daughter, son-in-law and two little grandchildren live in Copenhagen. We have been over a few times and I honestly haven't noticed any difference between their lifestyle and ours, except that they have cow skin covers on their dining chairs and they ride bikes to get around. They have a car as well but ride their bikes more often, with the little ones on the back.
Incidentally, I noticed that the Bravissimo catalogue was trying to jump on the hygge bandwagon but when they had it printed on the cover, they spelt it hygee! Oops!