We hate to break it to you, but if we’re to believe recent reports, “The Happiest Place on Earth” isn’t Disney, our favorite theme park destination—it’s Denmark.
According to the latest World Happiness Report published in 2016, Denmark holds the crown, while Sweden brings up the rear as the 10th happiest country. So, what do they have that we don’t? Is it the fact that Danish citizens have access to free education and health and child care? Not exactly. It’s the fact that both countries have mastered coziness and, oddly enough, coffee. Yes, the secret to the Danes and Swedes’ innate happiness lies in the the tradition of “hygge” (pronounced hoo-ga) and “fika” (pronounced fee-ka). Although both Scandinavian terms look and sound more complicated than they actually are, what the Swedish and Danish people are showing us is that we don’t need lemons to make lemonade—we need more fika and hygge in our lives.
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During winter solstice, when the temperature can drop several degrees below freezing and the sun offers very little sunshine, the Danes create a space of intimacy with loved ones to beat the winter blues and foster a sense of community—of course, surrounded by dimly lit candles (or sputtering fires) while sharing coffee and cake. This is the common practice referred to as hygge, or what I’ve come to learn is pure bliss. That same principle extends to Sweden, where the Swedes engage in a daily ritual of gathering together with family, friends, or co-workers for...gasps...coffee breaks and Swedish pastries such as fikabrod and cinnamon buns, or kanelbulle.
Okay, we know what you’re thinking: We, coffee lovers, do this all the time here in America. Sure, but fika doesn’t involve a quick run to Starbucks after work or chatting briefly with co-workers by the office coffee machine. In Sweden, fika is all about pausing for a moment to appreciate the best (and free) things in life, like joy, family, life, friends, and love. Whereas in America, we’re grabbing our venti lattes to-go. There, fika symbolizes a true break and really slowing down. Here, we seek out coffee to fuel up and get through the day much faster.
In fact, for many people and companies there, fika is mandatory. Yep, you read that correctly—mandatory coffee break, not lunch break. In fact, the Swedes often take two fika breaks a day. For them, it’s an everyday part of life, just like our frenetic busyness here in America. No wonder Sweden is one of the three largest caffeinated nations in the world.
Here’s where you should be asking yourself, how can I incorporate more fika and hygge (a.k.a. much-needed calm) in my life?
Well, it starts with committing to taking time out of your hectic schedule to drink a cup of coffee or tea, paired with a sweet delicacy. Whether you opt to do it alone or in the company of friends, it’s just that simple. You can do it at home, in the break room at work, at the bookstore, or at the nearby park. The most important thing here is making a conscious decision to take a break and savor the moment. If ever we needed an excuse for slowing down and turning off our phones, it’s adopting the fika lifestyle. And to get you started, here are our best coffee cakes and cinnamon rolls to enjoy with your cup of coffee and first attempt at fika.
No more asking if you’ve had your break today. Choose it! Brew up some coffee, grab a seat, and embrace fika. Who knows? If more of us do it, we may just find America besting Denmark and Sweden as one of the happiest places on earth, bar none to Disney of course.
And, when you're enjoying fika with the ones you love, we'd definitely recommend sharing some Southern hospitality – like a nice, tall pitcher of sweet tea or a plate of Nana's famous Hummingbird Cookies. Because after all, isn't the best part of sharing community the food?