The Secrets of Lykke

Lykka (pronounced LOOKA) is the Danish word for happiness. Some studies show Denmark as the “happiest country in the world” so how do they define happiness and how do they achieve it? And, finally, what can the rest of us do to achieve Lykke?

Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Institute in Copenhagen, has written The Little Book of Lykke, which answers many of the obvious questions people have about happiness. He discovered there are several key factors that make people feel happy.

  • Togetherness (community)-are you emotionally connected to others?
  • Freedom-do you have autonomy to make your own decisions?
  • Trust-can you count on others to do what they promise? And, to keep your confidence?
  • Kindness-are you respected and do you respect others?
  • Money-do you have enough? People without enough money for basic needs are, understandably, not as happy as those with enough for food, health, shelter, etc. Wealth, in and of itself, however, cannot make people happy. So, having more than enough does not make people happier. It’s possible to become richer but not become happier. Money matters but it’s not all that matters.
  • Health-are you in good health and do you feel optimistic about your future health? In most cases happiness affects health, not the other way around.

Happiness Tip #1 Eat like the French Eat

Make time to eat lunch and dinner with friends. Eat slowly, and enjoy the food and the company. Use your best china and silver, and use cloth napkins every day. Enjoy every bite and every minute together.

Happiness Tip #2 Build a Community

Become friends with your neighbors. Create a sense of community through activities and relationships between children, adults and seniors. Share. Some communities have neighborhood lending libraries when you leave a book and/or take a book. Build a community garden or tool-sharing program. Barter. A retired teacher may volunteer to help a child struggling in school. An accountant may offer to help a neighbor with taxes. A teenager may offer to help a neighbor with technology. Feed and walk each other’s pets and water each other’s plants.

Happiness Tip #3 “Do It Like the Dutch-Celebrate Neighbors’ Day”

This tip piggybacks on Tip #2 because the Dutch believe “it is better to have a good neighbor than a distant friend.” Celebrate Neighbors’ Day on May 26. Have a street party, parade or neighborhood meal.

 Happiness Tip #4 Beware of the Illusion of Connection

Human beings are fulfilled when they are connected through love, friendship and community. However, although we are more “connected” than ever before, technology does NOT fulfill the need to BE connected. People tend to text people instead of calling them. Many prefer email or set up a Zoom call than to meet in person. While technology may be more efficient, it may not be as effective when it comes to developing and maintaining relationships. Do a digital detox, take a technology vacation, establish a no-phone zone, fast from the frenzy of your devices, and build real connections. If you can convince your neighbors to do the same, you can combine the first four Happiness Tips and eat outside with other families and create important relationships.

Happiness Tip #5 Take Time to Enjoy the Journey

It’s the process to reach a goal that can make people happier than actually meeting the goal. Wiling suggests looking for the perfect tomato may make you happier than actually finding the perfect tomato. He reaffirms that there is no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. But, seeking the pot of gold may actually be more meaningful than the pot of gold itself.

Happiness Tip #6 Look Forward to a Meaningful Experience

This piggybacks on Happiness Tip #5 because it’s about the expectation. If you could meet anyone in the world, dead or alive, who would it be? Think Big. Oprah? Beyonce? Jesus? If you could have a date with anyone in the world, who would it be? If you could go on a dream vacation, where would it be? The anticipation of your meeting, date or vacation will probably make you happier if you plan ahead for event, rather than experiencing it immediately.

Happiness Tip #7 Don’t Worry about the Joneses

Comparison depletes happiness. Conspicuous consumption does not buy happiness. One upmanship doesn’t make you happier.

Happiness Tip #8-Choose Experiences over Possessions

 Instead of buying possessions, choose experiences for yourselves and others. Lasting memories create greater, more meaningful, legacies than articles of consumption which devalue as soon as you leave the store.

For example, my grandmother used to take me shopping at Buttners, which was my favorite store in Sandwich, MA, when I was young. I cannot remember a single item of clothing she bought. BUT,I remember her taking me there, and choosing those clothes together. It was being together that is so memorable, not the clothing.

Happiness Tip #9 – Ride a Bike or Take a Walk

Cycling can extend your life cycle! Yes, riding a bike and walking are great exercise, keeps you outside breathing fresh air, you can be with other people. Exercise can reduce stress, be good for mental health, can improve your mood and walking and riding are fun.

Happiness Tip #10 Visit Nature

Coupling with Happiness Tip #9, Wiking suggests we find a place and visit the same spot in nature several times in a year to see how things have changed. Notice the ground, the water, the air and the sky. Observe living beings. Connect to the earth, wind, temperature, light and darkness. Listen for sounds. Breathe in the smells, touch things that are safe to touch and feel the temperature.

Happiness Tip #11 Try Brain Brushing

In 1972 the King of Bhutan declared “Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross Domestic Product.” The Bhutanese discovered that increased mindfulness practices in classrooms dramatically improved students’ academic performance and well-being. Brain brushing became a valuable part of the curriculum, and studies have been replicated with the same successful results.

Happiness Tip #12 Create Bonus Grandparents

Denmark already has policies in place to link senior citizens with families to provide intergenerational support for children. Even without a governmental policy, communities, religious organizations and neighbors can create opportunities to have more people loving your children.

Happiness Tip #13 Praise People to Establish Trust, Empathy and Loyalty

 Whether in the work place or in your family life, practice praising colleagues, friends and family. People will learn to trust each other. To establish loyalty, be reliable, tell the truth and prove your trustworthiness with others. Practice and teach teamwork, collaboration and seeing things from someone else’s viewpoint. Read books that explore other cultures, ethnicities, religious and perspectives.

Happiness Tip #14 Teach Cooperation and Kindness

 When teams work cooperatively, and all members are respected, social skills emerge. Practice 12 Random Acts of Kindness. Make them explicit in the work place and at home. Become a RAKtivist—someone who does Random Acts of Kindness.

Happiness Tip #15 Volunteer and Be Helpful

Make being helpful your superpower. Altruism can be taught and should be practiced every day. Volunteer opportunities abound in every country in the world. Seek a project and give of your time and talents.

Give an honest compliment, even to strangers. Observe what others need and listen. Don’t wait to be asked, see the need and pitch in.

A friend of mine whose husband died unexpectedly was so touched when friends came over bringing toilet paper because she knew there would be a lot of visitors. Another friend took her son’s suit to the cleaners so he could wear it to his father’s funeral. They didn’t wait to be asked, they observed a need and fulfilled it.

Final Thoughts

Meik Wiking doesn’t ask us to NOT feel our feelings. He doesn’t want us to pretend to be different that we are. He challenges us to learn from his research that we, as individuals, and as cultures, can practice behaviors that will lead to our personal and collective happiness.

If you want to follow his work check out #Look4Lykke. His mantra is. “there is no point in being a pessimist—that s#$t never works anyway.