Health Connect Series: Togetherness – The Link Between Relationships, Hygge, and Happiness

When I close my eyes and remember times when I was genuinely happy, many thoughts come to mind. Road trips in the family minivan, being in my parent’s living room by the light of the Christmas tree, dinners on the patio taking in a Minnesota sunset. Is there a theme to these memories that puts a smile on my face? It’s togetherness. I’m not alone. Many of us can recall similar feelings. Togetherness is a pillar of hygge and why the Danes are some of the happiest people in the world.

Togetherness and the Danish People. On average, 78% of Danish people socialize with friends, family, or colleagues at least once a week. Danes believe that while you can hygge by yourself, most of the time it happens with small groups of close friends or family. Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, and author of The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living, shares “Being with other people is a key part of hygge, but as a happiness researcher, I can also testify that it might be the most important ingredient to happiness.”

The Togetherness Hormone. Oxytocin, is affectionately called “the love hormone.” It promotes positive feelings, reduces stress and fear, and plays a key role in human bonding. Whenever you’re in the company of people you care about, enter oxytocin and hygge, and a warm, tranquil feeling.

Togetherness and Equality. Equality is a trait deeply rooted in the Danish culture of valuing loved ones and quality time together. They believe no one person should dominate a conversation, and arguments are unlikely when no one wants to ruin the positive atmosphere of hygge. Equality during time together encourages modesty, harmony, safety, and ensuring those you are with are feeling as good as you feel.

Togetherness and Making Memories, Not Chasing After Things. In his book, How to Be Well, Dr. Frank Lipman shares, “When it comes to the pursuit of happiness, psychology research says that real-life experiences deliver longer-lasting satisfaction than material goods.” Over time, material things lose their excitement, but experiences and the forming of relationships bring contentment, and become meaningful parts of your life story. The best part of memories is making them.

Hygge Tip: Be present and fully engaged. Scrap the selfies. Phones are unhyggeligt in social settings.

Togetherness and Gathering Around a Table. Food brings us together. Since the beginning of time, cooking and eating together has been part of everyday life, and the mealtime table the heart of the home. At the table, relatives and friends from near and far and of all ages come together and connect. Gathering around a table is a chance to intentionally set aside time to check in with the ones we love. It’s important to remember that the food itself is not the key part and doesn’t need to reach gourmet status. Give your attention to the people, not the kitchen.

Hygge Tip: When gathering with friends or family, have everyone help in the meal preparation, instead of having the host alone in the kitchen.

Togetherness and Learning Something New. While nurturing relationships with meals is definitely hyggelit, research shows that stretching the mind to learn new things can bring a greater sense of purpose and fulfillment, leading to greater happiness and health. Grab a small group of friends and take a pottery or painting class. Join or host a book or cooking club. Learn to knit, paint, bake bread, or garden. Try a yoga or Pilates class. Study a new language. There are so many ways to enrich your life.

All of us, and not just the Danes, are social beings with a basic need to feel connected to others. As you continue to explore the hygge lifestyle, you will notice that hygge can be tasted, smelled, and touched, but most importantly, hygge is felt. Close your eyes and picture yourself with your people, the ones you trust, the ones who make you feel safe and loved, like a hug without touching. Now notice the smile on your face.


Heidi Kutz

Education Specialist, ViaroHealth

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