Danish author shares ways to make world happier at SIBF 2019
SHARJAH – In conversation at the Sharjah International Book Fair, Meik Wiking, the author of The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well, that put the magic of Danish living in the global spotlight, unraveled what lessons countries could take away from the Nordic experience, and how to create a little bit of ‘hygge’ in everyday life.
As a happiness expert, he looks at it from a scientific point of view “to help countries create better policies, better work places and thereby create better conditions for improved quality of life. So we try to understand how to measure happiness, why some people are happier than others, and how do we improve quality of life.”
One reason why Nordic countries have a high happiness quotient is because “they have reduced causes for unhappiness,” he revealed. “This comes from investment in hospitals, education, infrastructure, urban design – all of which allows people to enjoy a good quality of life. There is also a large focus on equality – between men and women, and rich and poor.”
“Schooling in Denmark is free and the government offers a stipend for higher studies,” he said. “So, your education is less based on how much your parents make and more on your merits and skill.”
And yet, Denmark is also learning from other countries such as France where mealtimes are seen as a social activity and Bhutan, a country where all political decisions are made based on whether it improves citizens’ well-being or not, he added.
As he researched the concept of happiness across countries and cultures, Wiking came to the realisation that “we overestimate how different we are when it comes to happiness. The more I talk to people around the world, the more I see how similar we are. People everywhere are searching for the same things as we are humans first and foremost.”
Wellbeing and good quality of life should be top priorities of governments, he said. “We are using data we have amassed to look at cost-efficient ways countries can boost wellbeing of their citizens. New research is underway into finding how the burden of disease and satisfaction levels in life can be used to determine better allocation of resources healthcare.”
The author of three books, Wiking shed light on his first book which made ‘hygge’ an international obsession.
Hygge (pronounced Hoo-ga) is a quintessential Danish word that translates to moments where we experience togetherness, or a feeling of comfort and coziness, he explained. “In other words, it is about savouring the simple pleasures in life.”
‘Hygge’ is the reason why Danes are obsessed with soft, warm lamps, in general, and candles in particular, he said. “A soft, warm ambience instantly changes the mood in a room.”
SIBF 2019, the 11-day literary and cultural extravaganza organised by Sharjah Book Authority (SBA) is being held at Sharjah Expo Centre, until November 9, under the theme ‘Open Books… Open Minds’. The fair’s programme is packed with literary, cultural, educational and art-themed events.
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