What is Lykke? A Danish Guide To Happiness

  • Written by Alicia Drewnicki
  • June 4, 2021
  • 6 min read
what is lykke

At Honestly Good, we’re always keen to provide you with nuggets of wisdom from around the world that can help you live a happier, healthier life. You might remember a while ago, we spotlighted the Swedish concept of ‘fika’ (which you can read about here), as well the Danish, Swedish and Japanese philosophies of ‘hygge, lagom and ikigai’ (which you can read about here).

Today, we introduce you to another Danish delight –‘lykke’. Read on to find out what it is and how it can make your life better.

What is lykke?

Pronounced ‘loo-kah’, in its simplest terms, lykke is the Danish word for ‘happiness’.


What should I pay attention to the Danish and their levels of happiness?

As well as being one of Europe’s most progressive countries, Denmark is home to some seriously content people. It consistently comes near the top of the list for the happiest countries in the world, according to the World Happiness Report– a self-evaluation survey given in 150 countries around the world, where people have to rank their happiness.

In case, you’re wondering, in 2021 Finland got first place, followed by Denmark in second, and Switzerland in third place. 

So how did the UK do? Hmm…not quite top of the charts – we were ranked 17th place this year.



What can I learn about the word ‘lykke’?

Meik Wiking, the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen (yes, it really does exist) has written a book called ‘The Little Book of Lykke: Secrets of the World’s Happiest People’, which describes his findings on what happy people have in common. 

Meik has identified six key pillars to happiness:

1) Togetherness

This is about feeling a bond and having others to rely on, and vice versa. In Denmark, there’s an incredibly strong sense of community spirit and it’s important for people to get to know their neighbours and embody the concept of having a ‘tribe’.  In fact, since the 1960s the concept of ‘cohousing’ has been common. 


‘Cohousing’ doesn’t mean living with others, it simply means that people have private homes that cluster together around a central, shared space. 

This shared space isn’t just a patch of grass like some blocks of flats have in the UK, it’s often a ‘common house’ which has a large kitchen, laundry room, dining area, play areas for children and places to relax. This means people can choose several times a week to cook with neighbours or share childcare duties. They can also plan parties, movie nights, play games or have meetings. These sort of housing structures are designed to encourage people to interact, form a community and look after each other. If you want to see what a common house is like, you can see a video here.

In case you’re wondering where the cohousing idea can from, it was inspired by the
West African proverb of ‘it takes a village to raise a child’.

In the 1970’s, there was an opinion leader who wrote that ‘every child should have 100 parents’.
At the time, people were looking for new ways of living and were experimenting with the concept of a softer boundary between ‘public’ and ‘private’ living, and so ‘cohousing’ developments were born.


2) Money

Many people believe in the old saying: ‘money can’t buy happiness’, and there is an element of truth to this, however it has been acknowledged that not having enough money can cause unhappiness. Therefore, it’s all about getting to the point financially where your core needs are met.

Having money can create happiness – but only to an extent. Our happiness won’t increase exponentially just because we have more of something. It’s all about ‘everything in moderation’. 

Money can be seen as an enabler for things that make us happy – such as food or travel. The thing to remember is that making money to keep consuming and buying more material goods does not make people more happy. Using money for experiences, memories and giving back is key.




3) Health

As the old saying goes: ‘health is wealth’. There is a strong link between health and happiness. We must remember the importance of hormones and chemicals in our body that can influence how we interpret situations and feel. 

Healthier people are happier, and being happy can boost your health. Self-care can play a big part in this, as well as exercise which releases serotonin, noradrenaline and dopamine (collectively known as monoamine).

Fun fact: 50% of all working Danes ride a bicycle to and from work every day.
Also, as well as physical exercise, it’s just as important to look after our mental health.



4) Freedom

To feel that we’re in control of our destiny, and have the ability to influence our life is very important.

Freedom is the knowledge that we are not restricted or limited by external forces and we have a choice. There are lots of different types of freedom – in fact, the Human Freedom Index identifies 70 different indicators, such as freedom of movement, freedom of speech and religious freedom.

Some important areas where freedom has been recognised as a source of happiness is freedom at work – such as arranging work around family life, and freedom to say ‘no’. Studies in Denmark have shown that those who are self-employed, and therefore have more freedom are happier. 

Another way that we can all give ourselves more freedom is if we adopt time-saving hacks and are more aware of what we spend our time doing (e.g. procrastination or commuting).

danish living


5) Trust

This is a key factor in all relationships – whether its a partner, a friend or a colleague. When we trust others, we feel happier.

The idea of trust is that we’re safe, we belong and we can rely on others.  In Denmark, the default is to trust each other when it comes to relationships, business matters or even government policy. Corruption is very rare as honesty is a given in society.

The country is also incredibly safe, and children as young as eight or nine can travel alone on public transport, as it is assumed that others will look out for their welfare. It’s also very safe to walk around the city at night.



6) Kindness

This relates to togetherness. It’s a reminder that there’s so much we can do on a daily basis to be kind. Whether it’s a random act of kindness such as paying forward the next coffee when we visit a café, or doing something nice for a loved one or the natural world. Kindness makes others (and ourselves) more happy.


To Sum It Up…

So there you have it, six pillars of happiness or should we say ‘lykke’.  If you’re officially sold on the Danish way of living…we’ll leave you with some more interesting facts about life in Denmark. 

Did you know that Denmark has some of the world’s highest tax? It can be up to 50% of someone’s income, and there’s 25% VAT on most items you buy, and a whopping 150% tax on new cars.

However, people in Denmark are happy with their high taxes. Why? Simply, because of what they get in return.

This includes:
– Free healthcare
– No college or university fees
– A monthly grant for students (around £680) to help cover expenses while studying
– Subsidised childcare
– 52 weeks of paid parental leave for new parents (which can be shared)
– The freedom to take time off work when your child is unwell
– 5-6 weeks of paid holiday per year
– Pensions and care helpers for the elderly
– A social safety net that supports those who lose their jobs for up to two years

Most Danes have a strong sense of work ethic and believe everyone is responsible to work if they can, pay their fair share of tax contributions and help support the common goals for the community.

Have you ever been to Denmark? Is there anything else we should know about this wonderful country? Feel free to let us know on social.
happiness photo of family

Written by
Alicia Drewnicki
Head of Content at The Honestly Good Smoothie Co.
Favourite smoothie: The Almond Tart One
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