What is Hygge? – from the Happiness Research Institute Copenhagen

Laura Veitch – Archway’s Communications Coordinator talks about The Archway Foundation and “the flip side of loneliness”:

Archway is a charity that “serves those hurt by loneliness” but in fact at Archway we spend so much of our energies focusing on the flip side of loneliness, that is togetherness, connections, warmth, friendship and comfort. When I was recently given as a birthday present “The Little Book of Hygge” by Meik Wiking of the Happiness Research Institute Copenhagen, I flicked through the pages and it struck me that hygge is in a way, the essence of Archway – a charity supporting people experiencing loneliness.

So what is hygge? The author Meik describes this Danish word as “An atmosphere and an experience… about being with the people we love. A feeling that we are safe and shielded from the world.” He describes hygge as a way of being social without being socially draining and so therefore it is ideal for introverts. Think the opposite of a fast-paced and instrumental business networking event. Hygge is somewhere between socialising and relaxing in smallish manageable groups – you don’t have to talk with others but you are still together. 

Results from the Happiness Research Institute suggests that we should consider the success of a society as being not just about high standards of living (GDP), but about about “quality of life” – “what makes life worthwhile”. This is why journalists from around the world approach the Institute in Copenhagen (the capital of the happiest country in the world) for insights in to the secrets of happiness. The Institute have found (perhaps unsurprisingly!) that “The factor that has the biggest effect on our happiness is social support – do people have someone they can rely on in times of need – yes or no?” Of course the answer for many who approach our charity Archway for support is “no.”

 As though reinforcing Archway’s mission as a charity, Meik writes how research “shows that when individuals experience social isolation, many of the same regions of the brain become active that are active in the experience of physical pain” in short loneliness really is painful. According to the Happiness Research Institute relationships cause happiness and happiness causes relationships. Therefore Meik hypothesises that hygge is a way of planning happiness and preserving memories of happiness, and this can be put in to practice every day. Along with Denmark’s strong welfare state, Meik argues that hygge is one of the secrets to the happiness of the Danes. 

Some of the many hygge suggestions that Meik makes are; planning regular activities with friends and family (weekly, monthly, annually) such as board game evenings, film nights; cook together, create a warm, cosy and relaxed atmosphere with low lighting, have warm drinks, be ‘in the moment’ give everyone the space to talk, don’t brag or get caught up with politics and importantly… eat cake!

Well Meik could just as easily be describing an Archway social event. These events are places where people can come to meet new people and form friendships. Archway’s Monday Evening, Wednesday Welcome and Abingdon Social every other Friday afternoon provides just that! tea & cake, board games, papers, warmth and friendliness – you can sit and chat or just ‘be’ amongst others in a safe and supportive space. Our New Social Space for young adults opens up this warmth and friendliness to a new generation in the perfectly ‘hygge’ Handlebar Cafe & Kitchen in Oxford every other Tuesday. So let’s not forget the pain of loneliness which motivates us, but let’s move towards connections and friendship, the light that draws people in when they feel lonely.

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Inspired? You can donate to The Archway Foundation here

Or you can apply to volunteer here

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