Two quiet chairs - blog

What’s Hygge?
Pronounced: HOO-GA

Hygee is a Danish term that according to Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen is the Danish secret to happy living. You’re probably asking me why I’m addressing this in Clariden‘s newsletter. Well, I’ve been so fortunate, over the past several weeks, to meet many potential new families. As I’ve toured and shared Clariden‘s program, the majority of the families mentioned how happy our students and teachers are. This does not just happen. Striving to create a happy experience and culture takes the work of many.

Although happiness is often underrated here in America it is greatly valued by many of our European friends, especially the Danish who are, according to the European Social Survey, the happiest people in Europe. Hygge is becoming quite popular. There are actually colleges that are teaching courses in Hygge. I wouldn’t be surprised if, in the not too distant future, we see Hygge beginning to spread within our culture.

So what does this have to do with Clariden? Well, Clariden is a happy place and as those touring observed our students and teachers are happy. As I reflected on the comments of these families and as I continue my own personal study of happiness, I discovered several parallels between what Meik Wiking states as the Hygge Manifesto and what we do at Clariden. Here’s what I’ve concluded based on Wiking’s work and book, The Little Book of Hygge – Danish Secrets to Happy Living:

The Hygge Manifesto states the following:

1. Atmosphere – Turn the lights down

At Clariden we often times actually turn the lights off within our classrooms. We are fortunate that our classrooms are rich with natural light. Low light is key in Hygge as it brings a sense of warmth and comfort.

2. Presence – Be in the moment  

Being that our class sizes are small, students have many opportunities to actively be a part of their learning. They are present, engaged thus connected.

3. Pleasure – Something that’s a treat 

At Clariden we follow the motto of work hard, play hard. We do both and celebrating each other and are accomplishments are a normal part of our environment. If you haven’t found the “Happy” jar at Clariden, ask your student they may know about it.

4. Equality – “We” not “me”  

We’re a community and learn that respect for self, others and our school is the expectation. We teach that we’re all important and that we all need different things and contribute in different ways – all of which is good!

5. Gratitude – Taking in what we have

At Clariden, we frequently talk to our students about being grateful and model what that looks like. We talk about our learning environment, stressing how they have a choice in how they contribute and that contributing positively creates for them more of what they are grateful for – a voice, freedom to move and express, the ability to participate in competitions and experiences that others don’t get to experience, and the ability to create. 

6. Harmony – We’re not competing. We already like you.  

Once you become a part of the Clariden community, you are one of us. There is an expectation that all members of the Clariden community are to be treated respectfully. We talk about this all the time. It’s an expectation and we hold our students and ourselves accountable.

7. Comfort – Time for a break – to relax

Just as adults, students need time to relax. They need brain breaks, just like we do. Our students have these opportunities throughout their day. A longer recess, a longer lunch, morning snack time, etc. All of this is important and valued at Clariden.

8. Truce – Respecting others’ opinions.  

We may not always agree and that’s okay. We just have to be respectful to each other. It’s that simple and that’s what we teach and model.
9. Togetherness – Building upon relationships – remember when…?
Through quality, challenging and fun experiences our students develop rich friendships that last into adulthood. How do we know this? We know and hear it from our alumni.

10. Shelter – One feels safe and protected. This is your tribe.

Clariden provides a safe environment where children are protected. Protected to learn and to grow to be all that they want and dream to be. And boy have we seen them go on to achieve great things!

Here’s to Hygge and the Clariden community that works daily to keep the Clariden culture — happy!

Source: The Little Book of Hygge – Danish Secrets to Happy Living by Meik Wiking


Sallie Wells, Head of School