Full disclaimer: I am not Danish. Not even a little bit. In fact, if the genetic profile company is to be believed, the closest I get is a small bit of Dutch on my mother’s side. (In all honesty, the coolest thing from that profile is that I am also a higher-than-average percentage of Neanderthal! That bit delights me.)

Brunswick resident Heather D. Martin wants to know what’s on your mind; email her at [email protected]

So … Danish … lifestyle. You know where I am going with this, right? Yup. Hygge.

For those of you who might not be fully up on this concept, Hygge (pronounced Hoo-ga) is a Danish word that translates, loosely, to “happy sense of well being.” But it is more than a word. It is a lifestyle.

Having listened recently to a series of programs about the Danes and the very essence of happiness itself, I decided to do a deep dive.

By “deep dive” I mean I bought some very cute books with very cheerful covers and adorable titles. I began, appropriately, with “The Little Book of Hygge,” by Meik Wiking. Not only is the author Danish, he is the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute of Copenhagen.

Let me say this: I am a convert. It’s not even a conversion really, more like discovering a label for who you already are. Candles? Yes. Fireplace? Check. Cake and good coffee? Don’t mind if I do. Oh, and cozy sweaters and socks and board games with family and friends? Hello, already loving these things!

So there I was, reading right along and making checklists of the simple things I needed to do in order to bring about a sense of deep and lasting “rightness” to my world (“create special nook: add window seats?”), when … oh, no.

It turns out, while Hygge is definitely associated with all of the above-mentioned items and more, it is fundamentally about something far deeper. Something one cannot purchase through an Etsy store from the specialty knitters on Faroe Island. Hygge is first and foremost about feeling safe.

Happiness, it turns out, is related to being cared for. In a big way. Wiking notes that Denmark is a welfare state and “The welfare state is really good (not perfect, but good) at reducing extreme unhappiness. Universal and free health care, free university education and relatively generous unemployment benefits go a long way to reducing unhappiness.”

By contrast, we are living in a nation of extreme hostility towards these very same concepts, where any attempt to create a compassionate “safety net for all” is met with rage. We elected a president who spent four years preaching hate and mistrust and an “us first” mentality.

We have barely finished sweeping up the broken glass from a violent attempt at a coup where people died. And yet, just weeks after – when I hoped those who supported him would be doing some soul searching – we see images from a Christian political convention showing a literal golden idol of this past president. Pick your biblical passage against that one; feel free to start with Exodus 20:4.

It does not seem, much to my chagrin, that a nationwide sense of caretaking is on the horizon, no matter how many candles I set around the dinner table. Hate and fear have not lost their acolytes.

But neither will they gain one. At least not this one.

I am redoubling my efforts to be aware, be mindful, be curious and, hardest of all, be compassionate to those who reject compassion. I am chanting the truth that you have to be – active tense – the change. I do, however, think a little cake and good coffee will help.

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