The Little Book of Lykke by Meik Wiking [Book Summary]


Who couldn’t make use of a bit more happiness in their life? Well, where is the best place to go when seeking for happiness than Denmark, a nation that steadily ranks the top of the list of happiest countries in the world?

Author Meik Wiking has gathered the entire causes of Danish happiness. From charity work to community activism to transportation and education–these entire things are there with a lot of data and research to support it.

Therefore, if you’ve ever thought of relocating to Denmark to have a good life, why not learn the reason why Denmark is such a happy place, to start with.  Probabilities are you can live where you are, learn life lessons and make your present condition a whole lot happier.


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6 June 2017 – OECD Forum 2017: Discovery Lab, Meet the Author: Malene Rydal, Author, Happy as a Dane Meik Wiking, Chief Executive, Happiness Research Institute, Author, The Little Book of Hygge. With Martine Durand, Directorof Statistics and Chief Statistician, OECD. OECD Headquarters, Paris, France. www.oecd.org/forum Photo: OECD/Christian Moutarde

Chapter 1 – A sense of community and using time with one another, instead of being online, is significant to happiness.


From time to time, a list appears that ranks the happiest places on earth, and there’s a place that usually ranks the top: Denmark. However, what is the reason why the Danes really happy?

From the United Nations’ World Happiness Report, one of the responsible causes is a nation’s sense of community whereby the people are unified around a shared good. When people have a feeling that their country people will support and help each other out, it enables them to rest at ease and happier, particularly during hard times.

A Gallup poll that was done in 2014 revealed that nine out of ten Danes are glad to pay taxes, although the average national income tax rate is about 45%. Also, for those who make above €61,500, the tax rate is a huge amount of 52%.

The motive why Danes are really eager to pay is that they know the money is going to be used for a shared good. It serves as a safety net; every taxpayer understands that they’ll be catered for if peradventure they become get sick or lose their work.



In this way, Denmark was the first country to create bofælleskaber, which means “living communities” in English. These are voluntary cohousing measures where citizens and families create their own self-sufficient neighborhoods.

After writer Bodil Graae wrote an influential editorial, titled “Children Should Have 100 Parents,” the first-ever bofællesskab emerged. The editorial was a fervent commendation of communal living, and it motivated a group of families to form Sætterdammen, which is a community in Hillerød, found in the north of Copenhagen.

Moving forward to 2017, about 50,000 Danes became part of cohousing communities, with more hundreds establishing related arrangements in Europe and America.

Although a sense of community is proven to increase happiness; likewise there’s happiness to be discovered in disconnecting from the virtual world.

The Happiness Research Institute conducted research in 2015 that observed participants as they avoided Facebook for a complete week. As expected, the participant that took part in the research reported a decrease in loneliness and considerably higher levels of fulfillment in life.

Certainly, avoiding Facebook is easier said than done. However, you can enhance your likelihood of successfully staying away by getting your friends and family to agree with your idea. By working together and deciding on tech-free times during certain days of the week or specific hours of the day, you’ll make sure that the people around you will also be keeping their devices hidden and achieving greater things – together.


Chapter 2 – Riches doesn’t make you as happy as the eagerness of forthcoming experiences does.


What is your thought– does more money means more happiness? As it turns out, richer countries have a tendency to rank higher on happiness reports. However, don’t be misled into believing that there’s a direct association between wealth and happiness.

For instance, think of South Korea. In only two generations, it’s developed from being one of the poorest countries in the globe to one of the richest. However, it has the highest suicides rate per capita and it is placed fifty-fifth on the World Happiness Report.

Various studies reveal that what directly impacts happiness are the experiences we go through in life, with the eagerness surrounding these experiences being a vital cause.

After conducting several studies, researchers Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton discovered that 57% of people needed both the acquisition of the wanted product and the eagerness of making that acquisition for them to feel happier. Only 34% mentioned that the just product made them happier.

This information can serve as an edge for you by connecting your acquisitions to an upcoming incident, or to the instant you accomplish a specific goal.



For instance, if you wish to purchase a new recliner for your living room, don’t only request one instantly. Rather, makes use of the acquisition as a prize for completing a huge duty that is on your to-do list. By doing this, not only will you achieve the happiness afforded by having a comfortable new chair; also you’ll be reminded of the rewarding fulfillment of completing that task anytime you sit on the chair.

Another method to choose is to plan beforehand and maximize the pleasure that accompanies eagerness. Therefore, rather than being spontaneous, plan your fun ahead and, for the time being, enjoy understanding that good times are about to come.

Conversely, there are some happiness killers that you should evade, such as comparing your riches to that of other people.

This can be difficult since people like to show off their money, a practice that Thorstein Veblen the nineteenth-century sociologist named “conspicuous consumption” on time. As it was explained by Veblen, people will spend more than the money they can afford for them to come off as richer and more successful.

When everybody does conspicuous consumption, it’s just like an arms race, with someone attempting to beat the other person. However, the only thing this actually accomplishes is making everybody penniless and unhappy.

Therefore, do yourself a favor and resist comparing your riches to another person’s own.


Chapter 3 – A fit body and mind contribute to a happier life.


Occasionally, all of us could use an additional push in going to the gym or going out to jog. Therefore, here’s a fact to remember: being healthy isn’t only good for your health; it also brings about more happiness.

Also, the cause for Denmark’s happiness is its health, and a contributing aspect here is the number of people who use the bike instead of driving. As stated by a 2017 study that was conducted by the University of Glasgow, biking to work minimizes someone’s risk of untimely death by 41%!

Wouldn’t you understand it, in Copenhagen, 63 percent of the people use a bike to their place of work, and all through Denmark, 17% of the total journeys are done on a bike. Additionally in Copenhage, for each kilometer that is cycled, the city saves about seven cents through the reduction of traffic, air pollution, and destruction to roads and other infrastructure.

However, you can still travel happier even if you don’t own a bike. A study that was conducted by researchers at Montreal’s McGill University studied al the means of transportation to determine the means of transportation that makes commuters the happiest. The findings revealed that walking provided people the most fulfillment while taking the bus gave people the least satisfaction.

Therefore, if you wish to have a healthier and happier way of life, the best recommendation is to begin walking or biking to work, if you can do that.



However, good health doesn’t end with the body – also, a healthy mind is significant to complete happiness.

There’s a progressively famous activity called Shinrin-yoku, or “forest bathing” in Japan which entails absorbing the rich diversity of smells, sights, and sounds that a forest has to give. That kind of absorptions in nature has been proven to enhance both psychological and physiological health.

While a lot of people would admit that mental health plays a huge part in happiness, some cultures still look skeptically at the people who seek out psychiatric assistance. One of those is South Korea’s culture. Due to that, South Korea ranks close to the bottom for the number of people who get treated for depression, and close to the top of the list for the number of suicides per capita.

Luckily, the global view of mental health is transforming, with a lot of famous people in society being candid and truthful about their own experiences with mental health problems. The Prince Harry of the British royal family has spoken publicly about his own difficulties while inspiring other people not to feel embarrassed about asking for assistance when times become hard.


Chapter 4 – Extra spare time can raise your spirits.


On any kind of list of things that are significant for general happiness, freedom would most likely be close to the top of the list. However, although you might consider freedom in regards to making decisions and chasing your dreams, there’s a different, usually ignored, part to freedom: spare time. 

People have to take time off, and when we talk of nations with a healthy work-life balance, Denmark is part of the world’s best.

As a matter of fact, although the people of the United Kingdom and the United States see it as okay to work up until at least 5:00 p.m., to a Dane this would look somehow extreme. Actually, averagely Dane does about 300 fewer work hours yearly than the average US employee– 1,457 as opposed to 1,790.

One kind of person who’s really in need for some spare time is a new parent, and Denmark’s got you covered for that too, with 52 weeks of paid leave that can be shared between the two parents.

However, parents require more than only spare time work; they require assistance. This is important because of parental happiness different, which reveals that in  terms of statistics, new parents are typically less happy than their mates who don’t have any children

In order to understand this more, let’s examine Portugal, where you find the happiest parents.



Portugal is exceptional in the sense that 72% of new parents mention that the grandparents of the children play an important part in bringing up and educating their children. Obviously, with such type of assistance, parents will get more spare time and be happier than parents who don’t have that kind of support.

Due to this, Denmark formed the “Bonus Grandparents” which is a program for families where the grandparents cannot play an active part in the child’s upbringing. Families that become part of the program are associated with senior citizens in their community, providing the parents extra spare time and providing the seniors more activities in their life – it’s an actual win-win situation!

On paper, it might seem as if self-employed people would be a different category of people with less happiness. As stated by the World Happiness Report, self-employed people work more for small pay and have small in the way of job security.

However, in spite of all these truths, freelancers are usually happier, both in aspects of job satisfaction and general life satisfaction.

Although they have less spare time, people that are self-employed have a tendency to get more freedom in other aspects, such as the freedom to chase their passions, reject unwanted customers and change their plan to fit with their needs.


Chapter 5 – In a happier community, empathy and trust are significant.


If you misplaced a wallet that has a lot of money inside, do you believe that a  stranger would return it to you with all the cash still in the wallet; yes or no?

The people in Toronto were asked this question by the Canadian General Social Society, and below 25% answered “yes.” However, when this case was tried out, by putting twenty wallets around the city, 80% of the wallets were returned with the money still in it.

This shows that people do not have trust in their neighbors as much as they out to, which is a disgrace since when we trust other people more, we get to experience more happiness as well.

Think of the happiness-reducing effects of micromanaging. In Copenhagen, social-care employees were formerly tyrannically micromanaged. Any time they went to see elderly clients, all the tasks were planned down to the last second, in order for them just only use really long time on one task.

In 2011, adjustments were so that employees just had to clock in when they got to a client’s home, and clock out when they left. The amount of time they used on individual tasks was their decision. Meaning, the workers were trusted more; it was believed that they’d perform their task well, and they now had the freedom to pay attention to an elderly person’s needs and react with the best possible care.

As you might guess, the new project was a big success: prices stayed stable while levels of employee satisfaction increased. Before long, a “trust reform” was growing all across Copenhagen’s public sector and beyond it.

Therefore, how can you form more trust in your life? Begin with the practice of empathy.

As revealed from a study that was done in 2015  and published in the American Journal of Public Health, when preschoolers showed more empathy, they were proven to have more rate of success in future education and employment. Also, their mental health was better, with lower rates of crime and drug abuse.



This is the reason why in Denmark’s school system it is important to enhance a child’s social and emotional abilities. For instance, a class occupied with young students might be displayed pictures of faces showing different kinds of emotions and then talk about the reason why a person might experience the kind of feelings.

As stated by New York’s New School for Social Research, another effective method to enhance sensitivity to people’s feelings is to read stories together. And definitely, this is another popular classroom activity in Scandinavian nations. Also, it is assumed that childhood growth of empathy is the reason these nations have really few cases of bullying.


Chapter 6 – The foe of happiness is inequality, both economic and perceived.


This is another yes or no question to think of: Do you think that the majority of the people can be trusted?

When this question was asked, most people who replied with “yes” were people who stayed in nations or states with more economic equality. This is a result of, in a more equal society, people feel secure and they view other people as cooperators and not rivals.

So, as the level of inequality changed, our feelings of trust changes as well. Presently, in the United Kingdom and the United States, social inequality is increasing, while feelings of trust are reducing.

As you can assume, this has extreme consequences. Researchers from the University of York and the University of Nottingham have discovered that high rates of inequality are not just the cause for less trust; however, it also responsible for reductions in empathy and health, and increases in teenage pregnancy, crime, obesity, and violence.

Therefore, it’s okay to say that feelings of inequality can severely impact our happiness.



As showed by Frans de Waal a primatologist, these feelings can be primal. In an experiment with capuchin monkeys, de Waal created a system where a monkey would give him a stone and get cucumber in return.

But, when he offered a capuchin a much-preferred grape rather than a cucumber, the other monkeys were instantly furious at the injustice, as far as even throwing the formerly rewarded cucumbers back at de Waal.

You may probably have seen a similar reaction in people who experience “air rage” when things don’t go as plan during airplane travel. In these cases, rage flares up and can even lead to violence.

Researchers Michael Norton from the University of Toronto and Katherine DeCelles from the Harvard Business School, have discovered that feelings of injustice can increase air rage and that the worst contributor is the presence of a first-class division. It allowed passengers to be four times more likely to become angry, which is a greater intensifier than a nine-hour delay.

It’s particularly correct if the passengers from the economy division need to pass through first class to reach their seats. This further increased the already amplified chance of a person having air rage.


Chapter 7 – Being generous and nice is a gift that you benefit from.


Are you aware of that fuzzy, warm feeling that can happen to you when you do a thing that is kind for another person without expecting any reward for it nice? This is called the helper’s high. You can easily make this become a habit in your life.  

The pleasant feeling that comes with doing something nice and generous for someone stems from the nucleus accumbens, a part of the brain that is also the cause for the good feelings that come with eating and sex.  As a matter of fact, researchers at the National Institute of Health in the United States have discovered that when people consider donating money to charity, this part of the brain lights up just like how it would if someone were thinking about delicious food or having sex.

Somehow, this makes evolutionary sense, because the survival of human beings relied on people assisting one another.

Therefore, while you might consider volunteering as being totally selfless, it is really helpful for you too and for others.

In other words, the people who volunteer are happier than people who don’t, even when you think of other influencing aspects in someone’s life.

You might consider that the people who volunteer are most likely happy already; however, it’s also possible that the people who volunteer feel more thankful for the things they have, because they’re usually exposed to people who are less privileged in life.



Notwithstanding, there are various studies that also reveal how people that volunteer possess more friendships and social relationships than the people who don’t. Also, if you’re deducing that Danes are active volunteers, you’re right. As stated by the Danish Institute for Voluntary Effort, 70% of Danes have volunteered at a point in the last five years.

Therefore, with all these advantages, what is the reason why more people aren’t volunteering?

As stated by Jill Loga of the Norwegian Institute for Social Research, extra effort has to be made to emphasize the personal advantages of charity work, as well as the extra friendships and the helper’s high.

If all this is beginning to seem really attractive, you have a lot of resources at your disposal:

The name of the activists who do random acts of kindness while inspiring everybody to be better people is called RAKtivists. You can learn more about it at randomactsofkindness.org.

Be My Eyes is a free app that links sighted users with visually impaired people who require some help in reading or finding something.

Also, there is a good probability that you have an organization in your community that needs people to volunteer for them, and it might even be dealing with a problem you feel passionate about.


The Little Book of Lykke: The Danish Search for the World’s Happiest People by Meik Wiking Book Review


It may look as if Scandinavians have a monopoly on happiness; however, there are a lot of things every one of us can do to make our lives and our communities better. If we form healthy, trusting, just and generous communities, we will all gain from it.


Attempt these easy steps for making your community come closer together.

Create a take-a-book-leave-a-book library by establishing a little collection of books in a communal space. You could put up a sign explaining to people that they’re free to borrow provided they leave as much as they take.

Begin a community garden and enlist some green thumbs in your community to assist sustain it.


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