From hygge to kos: Nordic recipes for happiness

Kos, hygge, gluggaveður, lagom…No, these aren’t the names of some new bookcases at Ikea.  They are the words that contain the secret to the happiness found in the Scandinavian lifestyle in every country from Denmark to Finland.  If you like design, you might want to get into this philosophy that has placed these countries among the 10 happiest in the world.


Hygge – the Danish pioneer

Did you know that there is a Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen?  The director of the Institute, Meik Wiking, revealed the enticing concept on which Danish happiness is based in his book “The Little Book of Hygge”.  Though it is difficult to translate any of these terms, hygge is something like “the glorification of simplicity”, those moments where we can enjoy the calm, a happiness found in daily life based on homey comfort. Eating some home-made cookies or reading a book quietly are hygge.


Lagom – Swedish balance

We can’t just live on hygge alone.  That’s why the Swedes decided to share their recipe for happiness too: lagom.  It’s all about looking for balance in all areas of life, doing things in the best possible way without wasting resources.  It’s the wisdom needed to create a society where everybody can live in harmony.  Lagom can be anything, from eating in moderation, working just the right amount, or dressing understatedly.


Kos – the shared intimacy of Norway

The Norwegian tourism website makes it clear that kos is “the most important word” in the Norwegian language.  Kos is more social and is about sharing experiences with family and friends, creating moments of intimacy.  Solitude has no place in the world of kos, which instead seeks to bring people together so they can have a good time in each other’s company.  It’s got a lot to do with long winters and the power of nature, so a kos moment might be a dinner in front of a fireplace or a walk in a snowy forest.


Gluggaveður – admiring the Icelandic wilderness from your window

With long winters, freezing temperatures, and very few daylight hours, it’s only natural that the majority of Nordic words about wellbeing invite us to stay in.  The Icelandic term gluggaveður means just that: the type of weather that you just want to watch from your window. A cosy room, comfy clothes, and a hot chocolate in your hands are the basic elements you need to really enjoy it.


Sisu – Finnish resilience

The Finns learned to resist the harshness of the region thanks to sisu, or the courage to face complicated situations and overcome any obstacle.  This inner strength continues to be the foundation of their attitude to daily life.  Need a good example of sisu? How about taking a dip in a freezing lake after being in a sauna?!