A recent article from the Greater Good Science Center looked at research analyzing one of the main sources behind the high levels of happiness among the Danes: hygge. Hygge, the article explains,
is essentially drama-free togetherness time…Try to imagine going to a drama-free family gathering. There are no divisive discussions about politics, family issues, or Aunt Jenny’s dysfunctional kids. No snide comments, complaining, or heavy negativity. Everyone helps out, so that not one person gets stuck doing all the work. No one brags, attacks anyone, or competes with another. It is a light-hearted, balanced interaction that is focused on enjoying the moment, the food, and the company. In short, a shelter from the outside world.
The article also points out that high levels of inequality lead to unhappiness and that, according to one study, “rich Americans and Danes were equally happy,” but “low-income Danes were much, much happier than their American counterparts.” This could be interpreted as support for Danish models of social democracy. However, it is worth pointing out that family breakdown plays a major role in the lack of economic mobility among lower-income Americans, while wealth overall can have little effect.
Focusing on family and social ties is truly the key to happiness.