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Two Lessons from Scandinavia

June 20, 2016

Despite a long, dark winter, Scandinavian countries are rated as four of the top ten countries for happiness and are known for a high standard of living, human rights records and both better birth practices and support of new parents than most other countries. While there is a rich cultural and political tradition worth examining, here are two concepts that I learned from Nordic culture that I have found inspiring.

1) One of my favorite words from another language, hygge, has no English equivalent. I first heard it when I was visiting friends in Denmark. While it is sometimes translated as coziness and comes form the Norwegian word for wellbeing, the Danish explanation is that it means something like warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people. It may bring to mind images of a log burning in the fire place, candles glowing, twinkly lights, flowering branches in a vase, spiced wine and a gathering of good friends. It could also be a cozy reading nook, soaking in a hot tub, enjoying a sunset or a hot stone massage.

Certainly, all of these examples contribute to our wellbeing. What would add more hygge to your life? What could be appreciated, savored or elevated by sharing the experience? How would more hygge contribute to your happiness?

2) There is a Scandinavian saying that Forest and Waldorf kindergartens have borrowed: “There is no bad weather, only inadequate clothing.” This concept has changed my way of seeing not only the weather (I am much more likely to go out in the rain and cold) but situations, too. It allows me to suspend judgment and check in about what I need to feel taken care of in the moment. I don’t have to work so hard at resisting what is happening and instead, can discover how to work with it. That adds to feeling happier without needing to change what I can’t control (like the weather) or move to Sweden.

How can you apply the weather analogy to your life? What would change if there was no bad weather or bad situation? What do you need to feel adequately dressed or taken care of?

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