Boost your happiness with a little hygge

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Have you expanded the amount of positive psychology you cover in Intro Psych? Here’s an in-class activity to get students to consider their happiness and the happiness of others around the world.

Ask students, “What is the happiness country in the world?” Before they answer, ask students to consider how such a thing could be measured. Give students a minute or two to jot down some ideas, then ask students to turn to one or two nearby students to share ideas. After a couple minutes of sharing ask for a few volunteers to share their ideas.

Researchers (Helliwell, Layard, & Sachs, 2016) looked at Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita (World Bank data), “healthy life expectancy” (World Health Organization data), social support, freedom of choice, generosity, perceptions of corruption, and self-report on yesterday’s positive and negative affect (all from Gallup World Poll data). From these data, researchers calculated scores for 157 countries. Ask students to guess which country is the happiest.

The answer: Denmark. Switzerland, Iceland, Norway, and Finland round out the top 5. Canada is number 6. The United States? Number 13.

Why is Denmark so happy? The Danes and Dana Dunn (2017) will tell you it is (at least partially) because of the concept of hygge (HOO-gah) -- cozy. “Danes burn 13 pounds of [unscented] candle wax a person a year, doing so even in classrooms and office buildings” (Green, 2016).

“How to get hygge? Go home and stay there, preferably in your hyggekrog – a.k.a. ‘cozy nook’ – wrapped in a blanket, drinking a cup of coffee and watching a Danish police procedural about a serial killer with your friends” (Green, 2016).

Ask your students to take a couple minutes to think about whether they have hygge in their own lives. If so, what does it look like? If not, what might it look like? Then give students a couple minutes to share their hygge experiences with one or two other students. Following this short discussion, ask for volunteers to share with the class.



Dunn, D. (2017, January). Quotidian positive psychology: Helping students seek strengths and apply what they learn. Paper presented at the National Institute on the Teaching of Psychology, St. Petersburg Beach, FL.

Green, P. (2016, December 24). Move over, Marie Kondo: Make room for the hygge hordes. Retrieved from

Helliwell, J., Layard, R., & Sachs, J. (2016). World Happiness Report 2016, Update (Vol. I). New York: Sustainable Development Solutions Network.

About the Author
Sue Frantz has taught psychology since 1992. She has served on several APA boards and committees, and was proud to serve the members of the Society for the Teaching of Psychology as their 2018 president. In 2013, she was the inaugural recipient of the APA award for Excellence in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning at a Two-Year College or Campus. She received in 2016 the highest award for the teaching of psychology--the Charles L. Brewer Distinguished Teaching of Psychology Award. She presents nationally and internationally on the topics of educational technology and the pedagogy of psychology. She is co-author with Doug Bernstein and Steve Chew of Teaching Psychology: A Step-by-Step Guide, 3rd ed. and is co-author with Charles Stangor on Introduction to Psychology, 4.0.