Each new year warrants at least a glance in the rear view mirror and, for me, what leaps into focus is the Secret Santa present I was given during Christmas dinner hosted by my friend Debs.
I’d been daydreaming about taking The School of Play to Scandinavia for a while now so imagine my delight when I was given “The Year of Living Danishly: Uncovering the Secrets of the Happiest Country” by Helen Russell. The next thing you know, I’m practicing hygge, pronounced “hooga” loosely translated as “coziness”, by treating myself to a guilt-free Danish pastry on the way to work.
What more liberating way to start one’s day than with a sugary hug on a cold winter morning? A great antidote to the chronic zombiism to which many of my fellow commuters seem to have succumbed given the way they barge their fellow human beings out of the way in order to get a seat on the train or tube so that they can stay asleep for longer.
What’s more, fuelled by the comforting combo of cinammon and sugar, I’ve dared to experiment with living Danishly by trusting those around me more. According to Denmark’s ‘happiness economist’ Christian Bjoernskov what Danes really care about is trust: “In Denmark, we trust not only family and friends, but also the man or woman on the street – and this makes a big difference to our lives and happiness levels.” When asked “Do you think most people can be trusted?” More than 70 percent of Danes say: “Yes.” The average of the rest of Europe is just over a third.
There’s more. Research shows that intelligent people are more likely to trust others (http://psychcentral.com/news/2014/03/14/intelligent-people-more-likely-to-trust-others/67092.html) – possibly because they are better judges of character, a form of interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligences according to Dr Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences theory.
By setting myself the challenge and chance to be my authentic self, I’m re-discovering firsthand that trust engenders a sense of belonging and with it well-being that I’d only hitherto experienced back in my childhood days. And being congruent is so much more fun than wasting time and effort pretending to be something we’re not.
So where has practicing hygge got me so far? A special invitation to Denmark to present at Counterplay in March, a conference that summons the most playful community from around the world organised by fellow playmaker Mathias Poulsen. I’ll even be flying into Billund where The School of Play will warm up with a day out at Legoland on 29 March 2017 to rediscover many of the things we learned as children but have since forgotten… including trusting that strangers are simply friends you’ve not met yet. I hope you’ll join me and come out to play!
Watch this space for more fun and games… Meanwhile, wishing you a playful 2017! Here’s to happier adulthood through lifelong play!