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The Art of Happy – A Little Lykke

A Little Lykke

Continuing with the Scandinavian theme, we move on to The Little Book of Lykke the second book by Meik Wiking, author of The Little Book of Hygge. Lykke (pronounced loo-kah) is the Danish word for “happiness,” and as a happiness researcher, Wiking should know what he’s talking about. Plus, we could all use a little lykke in our lives, right? Now that we know how to cozy up our homes and lives, let’s move on to bigger things, and demand happiness!

(We have a cameo today! Follow Grrrs’ adventures on Instagram.)

 

Happiness is broken down into three types:

  • Affective/Hedonic. This is what we experience on an everyday basis. “Were you depressed, sad, anxious, worried? Did you laugh? Did you feel happy?”
  • Cognitive. This is our overall satisfaction and happiness. “Think of the best possible life you could lead, and the worst possible. Where do you feel you stand right now?”
  • Eudaemonia. This is based on Aristotle’s perception of happiness. Have we lived a meaningful and purposeful life?

We will focus on cognitive happiness. Affective happiness fluctuates too frequently, and therefore is not a good measure of how happy we are. In the same vein, eudaemonia takes a higher-level view of happiness. So cognitive happiness is just right (which we will be discussing in the next post). It also makes sense to use cognitive happiness as our metric because that’s usually what we consider when we are asked about our general happiness in life.

There are six determinants that affect our happiness. They are: togetherness, money, health, freedom, trust, and kindness.

TOGETHERNESS

We discussed togetherness in the last post about hygge. Spending time with people and deepening relationships increase our happiness. Helping our friends and neighbors give us more fulfillment than doing things for ourselves. As mentioned previously, sharing a meal is one of the easiest ways to build bonds. The book also suggests taking a collective digital detox to be more present when spending time with others.

MONEY

Money is important to our happiness, because we live in the real world and have bills to pay. Happiness is not a priority if we are struggling to survive. But money and happiness does not grow at the same rate; once we hit a certain level of financial security, more money does not equal more happiness. It’s the concept of the hedonic treadmill: we have an equilibrium level of happiness that we return to. Different events will spike our happiness or our misery, but eventually we will return to an equilibrium.

The book suggest that, to maximize the happiness we buy with our money, we should:

  1. Increase the time between when we pay for the experience and when we consume it (sound familiar?). This gives us time to look forward to it; anticipation increases our happiness.
  2. Save big purchases for noteworthy events. This will make the item worth more than its cost. For example, if we buy an expensive antique desk for our home office when we get promoted at work, every time we sit at the desk, we will remember the pride and sense of accomplishment we had when we got the promotion.
HEALTH

Being healthy makes us feel better in general, and contributes to our happiness. Have you ever noticed how short-tempered people get when they’re in pain? Even mere discomfort makes people more snappy than they normally are – hence the existence of the word “hangry,” and all the “Eat a Snickers” commercials.

Exercise releases endorphins that make us feel good. Taking a walk through nature makes our problems seem smaller. The book also stresses the importance of mental health; we should not accept “fine” at face value in response to “how are you?” Instead, we should be more open about our own problems and lend an ear to friends who need someone to listen.

FREEDOM

Autonomy plays a part in our happiness. If we feel we have no control over our lives, we easily get overwhelmed. This can take many forms: new parents feeling like their lives have been taken over by a newborn; employees in strict work environments who have no input on how many meetings they need to attend, emails they need to answer, overtime hours they need to work; people in abusive relationships. Even our phones limit our autonomy. How often do you hear your notifications ping and feel like you need to respond immediately? This is why digital detoxes are recommended; we can take control back from our devices and be free to do whatever we want, if only for a few hours.

TRUST

Trust fosters cooperation, which in turn fosters more trust. This also builds community and togetherness. When we have people we can trust, it gives us a sense of security, that someone has our back. We can build trust by being empathetic to each other, and giving praise when it’s deserved.

KINDNESS

Empathy should lead to kindness. Doing things for other people increases our happiness and life satisfaction. We can volunteer, or just smile and chat with strangers while we’re waiting for our coffee orders. We can even do someone a favor before they ask. Sometimes, it’s hard to ask for help, so if we see someone who needs help, we should give it.

The book mentions Be My Eyes, an app that allows sighted people to help blind and visually impaired people with little things. The author takes pride in the fact that it was started in Denmark. A little kindness might not be worth much to the giver, but it might mean the world to the receiver.

Thoughts

I love the little bits of humor scattered throughout the book. There’s a slight hint of irreverence, very fitting for a book on happiness. We can’t be happy if we’re serious 100% of the time, can we? I enjoyed reading this book on lykke more than I did the book on hygge, though by only a bit. They’re both fun and easy reads that remind you to take pleasure in the little things in life. A lot of the things Wiking mentions in the book makes sense; we often just don’t pay attention to them. It’s good to have a reminder to live life more intentionally, in the moment.

Get your copy here:

 

What are your tips on experiencing a little lykke in your life?

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