What motivated you to write The Little Book of Hygge, exploring the concept of ‘living cosily’?
I wanted to share what works well in Denmark, and one thing that is integral to our happiness levels is the conscious decoupling of wealth and wellbeing. While being poor naturally leads to a decrease in happiness levels, there also is a point when a higher income does not correlate with a higher level of happiness.
I have also been curious about understanding why Denmark does better than the other Nordic countries when it comes to the happiness rankings – and here, also, the Danish culture comes into play.
Readers of the book could be surprised by your role in academia and policy in Denmark. Can you describe the type/range of research that takes place in the Happiness Institute?
We try to inform decision-makers of the causes and effects of human happiness, make subjective wellbeing part of the public policy debate, and improve the quality of life for citizens across the world. For instance we are now working on guidelines for a city that is being built in southern Europe and how can we create the best possible conditions for the citizens to enjoy a high level of quality of life. Another project is around understanding the impact on happiness of people living with psoriasis (see our PsoHappy study website to find out more about our work with people living with psoriasis).
What do you see as the relevance of The Little Book of Hygge and the work of the Happiness Institute to the discipline of psychology?
The institute was founded out of the development in psychology – especially positive psychology. Why shouldn’t we try to understand what drives happiness, in the same way as we try to understand what causes depression or stress? I am obviously inspired by Martin Seligman and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. In essence, hygge is the implementation of the theory described in positive psychology.
Why might many psychologists be interested in reading the book? How could they use to content in their work?
One of the most interesting things coming out of happiness research at the moment is that positive emotions drive higher levels of satisfaction than merely the absence of negative emotions. Hygge is about trying to build some positive experiences in your daily routine.
Photo: Chris McAndrew.
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