Meik Wiking is passionate about happiness and well-being. He founded The Happiness Institute in Denmark so he could research and report on happiness, and he’s now an international speaker and author of several books. His first book ‘The Little Book of Hygge‘ was hugely popular and helped bring the Danish concept of hygge to the masses.
Hygge is a Danish word for creating the feeling and atmosphere of cosiness, connection, and happiness, through various means related to the senses e.g foods, textures, lighting, colours, etc.
In the last few years, the topics of what makes us happy, how to achieve work-life balance, and how to make our homes our havens have become more important than ever. And so the link between our homes and happiness is what Meik explores in this latest book, My Hygge Home. What makes a home cosy and comforting? How do homes influence our moods, productivity, health, and happiness?
The book is a beautiful journey through data and research, personal anecdotes, pleasing graphics, and practical tips. It would make a great gift for anyone who loves to style their home and learn more about how to create that happy, ‘hygge’ atmosphere and the science behind it.
We asked Meik to tell us more about this connection between home and happiness, how his research influenced the book, and what part of his home makes him the happiest.
Nordic Watchlist: How did your research at the Happiness Institute help to inform the book – did you have a lot of insight on the home specifically, and was your research global?
Meik Wiking: Yes, we did a large study at The Happiness Research Institute a couple of years ago, where we looked at what drives happiness in the home (or undermines it). We had 13,000+ homes in our study in ten European countries. What we found was that the most important factor for being satisfied with your home was that it was not cluttered (full of stuff, cramped).
In My Hygge Home I go into how we can make that happen – but quick tips are to think in vertical space, use correct lighting, and a strategy for pre-cluttering (how to make sure we don´t buy stuff we don´t need).
But the idea for the book came from a reader. in my first book – The Little book of Hygge – I wrote about the importance of candles for hygge and to de-stress. Afterwards, a Canadian reader wrote me to say he’d gone out to buy chandeliers to light at dinnertime after reading about hygge. His three teenage sons teased him, but then over time the boys started to light them and it became a family ritual. Suddenly, family dinners would last 15 or 20 minutes longer because the candles put the boys in a communicative mood. Instead of shovelling in their food really fast they took their time and talked about their day.
Of course, it’s anecdotal but it’s interesting to hear how a little thing like a candle can actually influence how a family interacts – so I started to look at how we can use our homes to impact our happiness.
Nordic Watchlist: How do you think the design of our homes and way we live will have to evolve to meet the challenges of climate change and the environment, and does the slower living and hygge movement complement these changes?
Meik Wiking: One key question in my research has been how do we decouple wealth from wellbeing. How can we experience happiness without consumption. That is a common thread in all my books.
Before I started the Happiness Research Institute I worked with sustainability and looked at, for instance, how we can create more sustainable cities – and it is interesting to see that there are a lot of similarities between the two. A greener city is also a happier city.
Nordic Watchlist: Now so many people work from home, the boundaries of work and home have blurred. How do we ensure that we have a happy work environment, but also create separation between work and home so they can happily co-exist?
Meik Wiking: Let me get back to you on that one – as I am exploring this currently.
Nordic Watchlist: Which spot in your own home makes you the happiest and why?
Meik Wiking: My favourite place is the dinner table. It is a unifier, a place of community. It is where we connect. It is where we learn about the world, where our language gets developed and where we reconnect with our loved ones. For the past decade, I´ve been interested in the question: How do we eat better? Not just from a nutritional perspective, but from a happiness one as well.
The good news is that there is a lot of evidence of the well-being value of family dinners. A range of different studies have shown that family meals are associated with higher average grades for teenagers, a stronger sense of belonging, better communication skills, less obesity, and fewer depressive symptoms, even after the study was controlled for family connectedness.
In the book I look at how we can get more time at the dinner table – without necessarily spending more time at the kitchen table. One hack is to cook artichokes from time to time. It takes less than a minute to prepare (however the cook for 35 minutes) but I really long time to eat.
Nordic Watchlist: There are so many great design tips in the book – where do you recommend a beginner start – where to focus first when making their home more hygge?
Meik Wiking: Hygge is the art of creating a nice atmosphere – and living the good life on a low budget. So do like our Canadian friend and bring out the candles for dinner and see how that impacts the mood.
My Hygge Home is available now at all usual book sellers.
For more information about Meik Wiking you can visit his website www.meikwiking.com
Interview by Claire Minnis