There has been an ongoing trend of finding solutions to modern problems through formerly obscure lifestyle concepts and practices from different countries throughout the world.
Out of these emerging concepts, two tend to stand out the most: the Japanese concept of ikigai and the Danish concept of hygge (hew-guh) – both of which have undergone transformative reinterpretations to suit the needs and tastes of the modern tech-saturated world.
To understand why these concepts stand out more than most – as well as to see how both can improve your own life – you first need to understand how and why they’ve become so popular in recent years.
For one, it’s not exactly the first time for either Danish or Japanese cultural elements to bask in the mainstream limelight. The History Channel series Vikings has assured us that a large global audience will be at least familiar with Denmark and its culture’s relationship with the environment.
Likewise, shows like Marie Kondo’s intensely popular Tidying Up as well as the many memorable, animated movies by Hayao Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli, makes it unlikely for westerners to not be aware of Japanese practices. This is compounded by interpretations of both cultures across all media outlets.
Another case in point is Slingo and its games inspired by both Scandinavian and Japanese culture, which focus on each country’s myths, history and legends – the Norse gods which were once worshipped in Denmark, and the ninjas and samurai, which are part of Japan’s well-publicised warrior heritage.
And today, the increasing global interest in each country’s respective histories, cultures, and myths have culminated in the popularity of both hygge and ikigai. Danish and Japanese lifestyle practices are interpreted today as paths toward finding contentment and/or happiness amid the prevailing jaded notions of living in the modern world.
Although the modern interpretations of either concept tend to fall short of their traditional definitions, there’s no doubt that they have real value in terms of improving how you can live your life today. For instance, although there is technically no real way to translate the concept of hygge into English, there’s the fact that the Danish have the happiest workforce in the world.
Many attribute this to their balance of work and life, and how employees have 52 weeks of parental leave.
In short, the Danish tend to fare extremely well in the departments of cosiness and comfort. Meik Wiking who wrote The Little Book of Hygge states: “Danes are aware of the decoupling between wealth and wellbeing. After our basic needs are met, more money doesn’t lead to more happiness and, instead, Danes are good at focusing on what brings them a better quality of life.”
It may seem over-simplistic, but there is real wisdom to be gleaned from actually taking the time and effort to increase your quality of life rather than your wealth or the possessions that you own. As loose as this modern definition of hygge is, it’s definitely something that won’t fall on deaf ears in the modern, overworked, and over-stressed world of business. The same can be said of the Japanese concept of ikigai.
At its most basic definition, your ikigai is the combination of what you love, what you believe the world needs, what you’re actually good at, and what you can be paid for. What is that one pursuit that you can unequivocally consider to be your passion, mission, vocation, and profession at the same time?
While the Danish hygge has its own practical results in terms of life-enriching national policy and traditions, those who follow ikigai can refer to how its place of origin – Okinawa – has the largest population of centenarians in the world. Indeed, it is no secret that ikigai is actually linked to community longevity.
And that’s not all – Thrive Global reports that in other “blue zones”, or places where people live the longest, like the Nicoya Peninsula or Sardinia, the citizens have strikingly similar ikigai-like lifestyle concepts.
In conclusion, hygge and ikigai separately have the potential to be more than just passing trends in your life. If you feel that your life’s trajectory lacks purpose, it could serve you well to look further into ikigai and the specific rules you can follow in order to walk the path of contentment.
Meanwhile, if you’re more concerned about realising the simple and surprising comforts offered by your current circumstances, then hygge and its notions of survivalist comfort might be more up your alley. Either way, there is potentially great and life-enriching value in at least trying to understand and apply one of these concepts to your modern life.