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Danish Happiness

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In Denmark equality is highly valued. We also like to be alike, not to stand out too much from the crowd. There is not as much pressure to perform as in the US where I live now. I will explain how this affects childhood, culture and maybe even happiness…

If you go to Denmark you might be surprised to see that most Danes don’t walk around with a big pearly smile all the time! Danish happiness should probably be translated into “being content”. It is more of an inner feeling of being satisfied with life than a constant bubbly happiness. It is ok not to be happy all the time which might be the very reason why people actually feel happy! There is no pressure. More on this later…

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So, does the Danish happiness start already in childhood? I think so…

Danish children have a lot of time to play – time to be children. Free play is highly valued and seen as an important skill rather than time wasted. Not only does the relaxed attitude make children less stressed, and probably more happy, it also makes them smarter. It teaches them to use their imagination and to think independently.

Family time is also highly valued. Most families I know have dinner together where everybody talk about their day. Weekends are generally not overbooked with sports and other scheduled activities. At least it is nothing like what I experience in the US. There is time to just be together, relax and have “hygge” together. I believe this is part of the reason why Danes put so much time and effort into creating cozy homes – this is such an important base for the heart of Danish culture. This is where family “hygge” is. More about this on my Interior Design pages to come…

And then there is outdoor time… From infancy Danish children spend at least an hour outside every day. Babies sleep outside in prams that can keep them warm even in the coldest months. They can be left outside sleeping because Danish backyards are typically enclosed by a hedge. When the kids get older they spend an hour or more playing outside every day in all kinds of weather! Rain, frost, snow all just add to the fun! “There is no bad weather, only bad clothing!” as Danish adults like to say! Many studies have shown how time outside reduces stress and increases wellbeing.

In the recently published book “The Danish Way of Parenting” the two authors, Jessica Alexander and Iben Sandahl, investigate exactly this topic: what makes Danish children so happy? They claim that the key to Danish happiness is in the upbringing and uncover this special Danish secret to raising the happiest children in the world in their book! You can read more about the Danish way of parenting on the website for the book thedanishway.com

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