Having close relationships is a good indicator of happiness. And we’re not talking Facebook friends; researchers found that overall satisfaction ranks the highest when friends share experiences. So someone with 2000 “happy birthday” messages are no happier than someone with five friends who get together for cake and cocoa. They may be less happy. There’s even data that says strong social connections are more happy-making than coming into a LOT of money.
The gap in happiness between Denmark and the rest of Europe may be because 78% of Danes socialize at least once a week, while in Europe overall, that figure is just 60%. Of course, that may be because Danes have more time.
Unlike go-go-go Americans, Danes leave work at a sensible time, and if there’s a life/work imbalance, it falls in favor of life, instead of work. Parents can leave the office at 4 p.m., while everyone else stays until 5. By 5:30, most offices are empty. A key element of hygge is people coming together, so it’s no wonder these gatherings are chill because it’s less stressful.
Instead of one person knocking themselves out to prepare a meal or snacks, everyone helps out with cooking, cleaning, and anything else. While hygge isn’t about physical touch, touch does happen. When we are soothed by a caring partner’s hand or hugged by a close friend, our bodies release oxytocin, which is the same hormone released during childbirth. Oxytocin helps bond mothers to their infants — even though those squealing little bundles of joy have just caused them great pain.
Instead of being drained by big groups, hygge encourages manageable small collections of friends that can prove invigorating. The danger of hygge is that people can get too comfortable in their small groups and don’t expand out and admit newcomers. Danes may be happy, but they are known to be slow-starters with newbies. However, once you’ve cracked a group, you’re in for the long haul.
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