health

We're stealing some habits from the happiest people on earth.

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I’m a paradox.

This week it really hit home to me how badly I want to live in Wandin Valley. I want life to be like the Cheers theme song where ‘everybody knows your name’. I want community and connection and a feeling of belonging.
But I also want to be left the hell alone like Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino.

This week on The Well was life changing for me. Actually genuinely I CHANGED MY LIFE BECAUSE OF IT type-of-life-changing.

There are no tears. No massive Oprah-style ‘ah-ha’ moments. But this is the episode that that has truly made me happier. And it’s thanks to Princess Mary. Well, her and the 5.614 million other Danes.

Listen to Bec and Robin talking about how the Danes do it:

You see, for the third time in five years Denmark has been ranked the happiest country in the world. BY THE UNITED NATIONS. That’s right, the UN. This isn’t some dodgy Cosmo survey. We’re talking data and Ban Ki-Moon, people.

So naturally my well co-host (97.3FM’s Robin Bailey) and I wanted to know what the hell those Danes are doing over there that’s making them so joyful? Because they’re clearly doing something right to be taking top place in the World Happiness Report.

With some guidance from Helen Russell’s book ‘The Year of Living Danishly: uncovering the secrets of the world’s happiest country” we unpacked some of the key Danish behaviours, rituals and beliefs that’s fostering a high sense of well-being and happiness.

My favourite was the Danes commitment to Hygge. It’s a word that apparently defies literal translation but here’s how they describe it on the Visit Denmark website:

“Hygge is as Danish as pork roast and it goes far in illuminating the Danish soul. In essence, hygge means creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people. The warm glow of candlelight is hygge. Friends and family – that’s hygge too. There's nothing more hygge than sitting round a table, discussing the big and small things in life. “

Also cake. Hygge is about cake. Cake. Candles. Friends and family. Cosiness. I’m in!

So yes I’ve adopted more hygge into my life. More cake, more candles. More being kinder to myself and less deprivation. I’ve also stepped up the family rituals (since that’s another key to the happiness of Danes too apparently).

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But the one tip that really has made me happier was taking a leaf out of the Danes' book when it comes to creating and nurturing community.

They’re big on community, those Danes. Big on fostering that sense of belonging and being a part of something. And what we know – what we research tells us– is that belonging is as important to us as human beings as food and shelter.

Okay but how do you foster community? How do you create that Wandin Valley feel when you’re an introvert who works from home and hates talking on the phone? #askingforafriend

You get off your backside and start building it yourself.

So this week I went out on a limb and I started trying to grow my own community. The first step was asking the names of the people in the shops I regularly visit. The butcher. The Woolies checkout staff. The post office ladies. I wanted to know them and for them to know me. I wanted to be able to say “Hi Gavin!” (that’s my butcher whom I introduced myself to yesterday) because it makes me feel like I live somewhere where we’re all looking out for one another.

It wasn’t easy. I won’t lie. I stood there for 10 minutes at the butcher trying to work out how to say, ‘Hi I’m Rebecca” But I did it. And the truth is introducing myself to the people in my ‘village’ has made me happier than any other happiness tip so far. (Look sure getting the extra sleep after episode 2 has been awesome but knowing my butchers’ names are Simon and Gavin still trumps it).

I hope you get as much from this episode as I did. Listen to it while you eat some cake. It’ll do you good.

Listen to the whole episode of The Well, here: 

Do you know your neighbours? Do you know the names of the local businesses you support? What other ways have you found to help foster a sense of community? Let me know because right now, I’m in the mood to take them on!

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