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  • Kateri Kramer

The Scandinavian Guide To Happiness: Review

I've been wanting to read The Scandinavian Guide To Happiness: Balanced Living with Fika, Lagom, Hygee, and More by Tim Rayborn (published by Whalen Book Works) since I first learned about it a few months ago. After the challenge that was all of 2020 and the rocky start to 2021, I felt like these Scandinavian ideas came into my life at just the right time. I read the whole book, cover to cover, in one sitting, with a snuggly cat on my lap (very hygee!).

The book covers seven different philosophies from Scandinavian countries that, when implemented can help to create a happier and more fulfilling life. At first they may seem simple, but it's no surprise that these Scandinavian countries are happier for good reason - these philosophies work. The book is full of helpful advice, scientific fact to back up the philosophies, recipes that I can't wait to try, and on top of all of that, it's gorgeously designed. It's filled to the brim with beautiful, paper-cut-esque illustrations and fantastic colors. The Scandinavian Guide to Happiness is the perfect gift book for really anyone!

As mentioned above, the book covers seven different nordic philosophies. Below are four of my favorites.

The book begins with the philosophy of Lagom- just the right amount, not too much not too little. This one really hit home as I think I'm still somewhat recovering from job burnout after months and months of working too many hours and not being able to leave work at home. This section suggests that simply taking a nice lunch break, going for a walk outdoors, or reading a good book is a great way to begin to implement that balance in your life. There are suggestions for ways to carry out lagom in work, with family and friends, with your health, at home, in the larger world, and my favorite- when you're working at home. They're all very simple suggestions, but that means that there's no excuse to not do them!

Next up is Fruluftsliv, my personal favorite philosophy from the book, connecting to nature by being in nature. The word literally means free-air-life and the concept was invented by Norwegian poet Henrik Ibsen back in 1871. It first showed up in his poem On The Heights:

Here in this deserted dwelling
I have housed my wealth of treasure;
There's a bench, a stove, sweet smelling
Air [fruluftsliv], and time to think at leisure

I recently got back from a short trip to Moab where, after what felt like a very long hiatus, I got to spend lots of quality time outdoors and experience fruluftsliv first hand. It really does make a difference. As outlined in the book, it's not necessarily about doing anything in particular it's about how a "one-on-one experience of the natural world is a true food for the soul." Sometimes Norwegians refer to this as naturrensing, or "nature cleansing."

Rayborn utilizes various studies to back up the claim that these interactions with the natural world can enhance one's happiness. This section of the book offers suggestions of ways to experience fruluftsliv, meditations, and exercises to make the most of your free-air-life.

Fika is probably something that anyone who has spent anytime on Pinterest is already aware of. It's the idea, according to the Swedish proverb, that "seriousness and pleasure should thrive together." This has always been something that I missed about my time in London. Although maybe not as present as in Scandinavian countries, there's a cafe culture where sharing a drink with a friend and having a conversation is an important ritual. The Swedish really take it to the next level and I LOVE that!

"In Sweden, fika is a whole concept, a state of mind. Instead of giving you a boost to speed things up, it's all about slowing things down for a while and taking the time to savor a great cup of coffee, along with some sweet treats." The Scandinavian Guide to Happiness provides a wealth of information about how to implement fika into your daily life, whether it's setting the scene, or recipes for sweet treats and coffee- it's all there for you to start this ritual yourself.

Last, but certainly not least is Hygee, another concept that Americans are probably already aware of. Meik Wiking, head of the Institute of Happiness says "Hygee has been called everything from 'the art of creating intimacy,' 'coziness of the soul,' and 'the absence of annoyance,' to 'taking pleasure from the presence of soothing things,' 'cozy togetherness,' and my personal favorite, 'cocoa by candelight." It's a philosophy that's hard to pin down, to describe in words, because it's more of a feeling. "It's about reveling in the cozy, the familiar, and the safe, about having a personal space to retreat to and cocoon- or having a few friends over for a great evening of good times and good company."

When very little in our world feels comforting or safe or cozy at the moment, I think hygee is more important than ever. I'm making an effort from here on out to implement hygee into my life now to hopefully make this unpredictable year feel a little safer.

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