Hygge Family Bonding: 7 Things I learned from the happiest people in the world

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Denmark has constantly been voted as one of the happiest countries on earth for over 40 years in a row. As an American married to a Dane, I always noticed the calm, serene, and happy nature of Danish children. I was convinced that Denmark’s happiness results had something to do with the way they raise their kids.

When my children were born, I found that I preferred the advice of my Danish friends and family over all the parenting books I had read. I felt happier as a result, and much more connected to my children. One of the biggest Danish parenting pillars that changed my life was incorporating a concept called hygge(pronounced hooga) into our family routine. The now famous unpronounceable word, which made it into English dictionaries in 2016, is essentially cozy time together with those you love.

While many people talk about hygge in terms of what it looks like — candles, warm tea, cozy blankets — it is so much more than that, which is why it creates more connection and happiness. I see hygge as more of a psychological concept than a physical concept. When you enter into a hygge space, just like taking off your shoes and coat when you enter someone’s house, you take off your stress, negativity, and preoccupations. You enter into this space with the aim of being present in the moment, and valuing this time together with your children or family. It’s making a conscious effort to give up a little piece of yourself for the whole. It’s “we time,” not “me time”.

It sounds simple and straightforward, but it takes some effort to make it work. Here are seven things I’ve learned about how to implement hygge to foster more connection.

  • 1) Decide when and how long you want to dedicate to “hygge.” Knowing it is time limited helps with being present.
  • 2) Light candles if you are inside. This has become our signal that it’s “hygge time” in our house.
  • 3) Turn off your technological devices.
  • 4) Leave drama at the door. There are other times to focus on your problems. Hygge is about creating a safe place to relax with others, and leave everyday stressors outside.
  • 5) Make a conscious effort to feel gratitude for the people around us whom we love, and who love us.
  • 6) Play games and sing songs. Singing together has been proven to be extremely beneficial for our well-being, and it is extremely connecting. Once you stop feeling silly, you start to realize how great it feels.
  • 7) Tell and retell funny and uplifting stories from the past. This is a wonderful way to bond in the moment in a positive way.

Sometimes it’s hard to shut out the world for our loved ones, but it’s so worth it. I often take 10 minutes in my car to meditate before I come in the house to let go of my stressors so that I can be present for my kids when I enter. Remember, it’s quality, not quantity. Even if it’s 20 minutes, it makes a huge difference. Hygge may sound easy, but it takes awareness to value this drama-free togetherness.

There is so much hype about mindfulness these days, and how good it is for you. I believe hygge takes mindfulness to the next level. It’s not mindfulness, it’s “we-fulness.”

Judging by all of its benefits, it could be the most important “home” work there is.

As Featured in Thrive Global.

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Jessica Joelle Alexander

Jessica Joelle Alexander is a bestselling American author, Danish parenting expert, columnist, speaker, and cultural researcher. Her work has been featured in TIME, The Atlantic, Salon, NPR, Huffington Post, NY Times and the Greater Good Science Center Berkley.

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