Get Your Fika On!

I’m back again with a new Scandinavian life hack! When I wrote about hygee a while back, I thought it was a one and done topic, but it turns out that our Northern friends have more than one thing we should be aspiring to in our daily lives. This time, we turn our attention to our friends in Sweden for a lesson on Fika.

Fika is a Swedish cultural concept that literally translates to ‘coffee break’. Now I’m sure some of you are sitting there going, ‘Is she insane? Americans drink coffee like water. What’s so special about this?’

Well friends, I may be insane, but fika is unique to the typical American lifestyle. Americans typically use coffee to jump start their day or to reinvigorate themselves during an afternoon slump. In my experience, coffee is a vehicle for forward momentum and moving as fast as we can to get as much done as possible. In Sweden, fika is synonymous with a break. The point is to savor the moment, enjoy a beverage with a pastry or cookie, and allow yourself a chance to relax. People engage in fika with friends, family, significant others, and even just themselves, in cafes and parks across the country.

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Fika is particularly important in a work setting in Sweden. It is common to have 2 fika breaks a day in corporate Sweden, one mid-morning and one mid-afternoon. Fika has become an integral event that allows employees a chance to disengage from work, while also engaging with co-workers on a more personal level. Often the entire office will break together and bond over fika. This seems like an incredibly simple, but powerful addition to any company. I find that when I have a chance to get to know people on a personal level, and take a second to break out of my normal routine at work, I am more productive and my communication is better. Granted, I don’t drink coffee, but I’m a big fan of tea, and when I’m at work, I really don’t tend to savor and enjoy my tea, but rather I drink it like fuel- propelling me onto the next thing. I want to try and incorporate fika breaks into my work week.

The Scandinavian lifestyle has a lot to be admired. That region is exceptionally productive with strong economies, and the people who live there tend to be happier and more satisfied with their lives. That’s a pretty strong case study, and I for one would love to incorporate some of what they’ve found to work into my own life.

So, get your fika on! See if you find yourself more relaxed with an uptick in productivity and empathy for the people around you. See if your work days move a little faster since you have something small to look forward too each day. See if you find yourself more contemplative and content. Can’t hurt, right?

 

Get Your Hygee On

Happy December!

As you may or may not know, I have some Danish heritage. My maternal great-grandfather immigrated from the land of the Danes back in the day, and I’ve always felt a kinship with the Vikings. I have ALWAYS believed Leif Erikson was far superior to Christopher Columbus. Brief history spotlight: my boy Leif was the first European to step foot on the North American continent, and he didn’t brutally decimate the indigenous cultures he found (point Erikson). But I digress… Scandinavia is the most feminist area in the world, and Denmark is the happiest country in the world (coincidence? I think not).

A month or so ago, I came across a Danish concept called hygee (pronounced: hoo-gah). It’s a difficult concept to define properly, but essentially hygee is the feeling when you take genuine pleasure in making each day just a little bit more special or meaningful. I’ve heard it translates literally to ‘internal coziness’ or the ‘art of creating intimacy’. It’s not dissimilar to the French concept of ‘joie de vivre’.

So why am I rambling about the Danes? Well, Denmark deals with an incredibly dark and cold winter and still manages to maintain their happiness (and avoid that pesky seasonal affective depression disorder). As Americans, who tend towards the negative, we can get a lot out of our lives by incorporating some hygee into our day-to-day.

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Relaxing with green tea by the fire

We tend to remove ourselves from some of the simple joys in our lives. Technology is amazing, but having access to pretty much everything immediately makes us a little less present. It’s a weird, dark time in the world (as I’ve discussed previously and will be sure to continue to discuss), which just makes it that much harder to take a beat to make small moments just a little bit more magical.

It’s important to remember our lives are not chores and routine doesn’t have to be something to ‘get through’. Ordinary tasks can be special and enjoyed. Maybe you take a second to light some candles or take a bath or read a book by the fire. Maybe its drinking and savoring a glass of wine or whisky while you cook dinner. Or waking up a little earlier to watch the sunrise. Maybe its going to dinner with friends and acknowledging the moment. Make the perfunctory pleasurable! That’s what I think hygee is really about- savoring moments and activities, not just ‘getting through it’.

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Prince on vinyl, homemade scones, candlelight, and tea

This is my favorite description:

“Hygge isn’t just a middle-class thing. Absolutely everyone’s at it from my dustbin man to the mayor. Hygge is so crucial to living Danishly that the other day on the motorway, I saw a camper van driving along with lit candles in the windows. This is probably illegal but Vikings don’t tend to be too hung up on health and safety.”- Helen Russell

Take a beat and enjoy yourself. Relax. Be kind to yourself, spend time on your soul.


So I wrote the above throughout this past week- I had spent time working to really appreciate smaller moments, and to take the time to enrich the perfunctory moments. However, I just had the most perfect hygee experience. I ran myself a peppermint scented bubble bath and brought out the candles and prosseco. I spent 2.5 hours in that bath reading a book that spoke to me, and I was almost giddy by the point the water turned cold. Yes, I was drinking, but this was so much more than that- it was being at peace, and being not just content, but happy. I’m not sure I’ve ever been more relaxed and present, so a serious THANK YOU to my Danish people.

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Hygee on!