A friend of mine, L, lives by herself. Every evening she sets the table for dinner and pours herself a small drink to accompany the meal. She completes the sense of occasion by lighting the candle on the table. Needless to say, regardless of whether it is a ‘proper’ dinner or simply a last minute effort of cheese on toast, the food and drink is consumed slowly.

Why go to all this effort, you may well be asking yourself?  My friend would reply that she gets enjoyment from it. Maybe she would offer more in explanation and say doing this ensures a time for her to just be.

While at work the other day, the book ‘Overwhelmed: work, love and play when no one has the time’* caught my eye. The title piqued my interest and as the cover was cool – believe me, this matters – I took it home to look at. Written by Brigid Schulte, a Washington Post journalist, this tome is a serious read which covers the topics of work life balance, especially the rise in the number of hours taken up by work and the impact this has had on leisure time over the years.  Although its focus is mainly on parents with dependent children, an area which no longer applies to me, I read it from start to finish.

While researching the book, Brigid went to Denmark; a country where mothers and fathers enjoy one of the largest amount of leisure time in the industrialized world. The Danes are also the happiest people on the planet according to a number of international surveys.** I will let you form your own thoughts about whether this is purely coincidental or if there is, in fact,  a correlation between the two.

It was during the author’s time in Denmark that she came across the Danish concept ‘hygge’ (pronounced hue-gah)

Although there is not a direct translation of the word ‘hygge’ in English, it loosely means coziness and is in simple terms, a feeling or mood that comes from taking pleasure in making ordinary everyday things simply extraordinary: it is flowers on the table or using the best china for an ordinary dinner.   It is the art of being present and enjoying the moment.***

Reading about hygge brought my friend, L, to mind. Through very little effort, she has made what is often a mundane meal into an occasion every night.

The ordinary can with ease become extraordinary. It is a way of living, I think, worth adopting.

*www.brigidschulte,com

** ‘Overwhelmed: work, love and play when no one has the time’ by Brigid Schulte

*** Happy Danes blog – Sharmi Albrechtsen