When I moved to Sweden six years ago, I was pleasantly surprised to see that Scandinavians embraced the winter with gusto — skiing, ice skating, power walking — believing that a strong mindset can overcome a season of cold, dark days.
Instead of trying to distract themselves from the weather, they make the most of the daylight hours and maximize the cozy factor of every activity. For example, Swedes wouldn’t just read a book. No, they would curl up in a favorite chair with a book, a blanket, a mug of comforting tea, and a roaring fire.
Every Scandinavian country has a word to describe the cozy-making effort. The Danes describe it as hygge, a feeling or an atmosphere of warmth and comfort that involves being with loved ones in the evening, wearing handmade knitted socks, or enjoying candlelight on a dark night.
The Swedes refer to their particular version as mys, which goes a step further than hygge by being an everyday exercise, as evidenced in the Swedish practice of Fredagsmys — Friday coziness.
In Sweden, as in the rest of Scandinavia, executing mys is a true art form. It’s a sacred time that is all about intimacy, conviviality, togetherness. With their thoughtfully decorated and softly lit spaces, Swedes make time for each other. Arguments are left behind and controversial topics are not discussed. In no time, good feelings start flooding in.
One of the ways is through fika, the simple ritual of coffee accompanied by baked goods. Fika is a social phenomenon, an appropriate reason to set aside quality time with quality people. The company kept is as important as the coffee consumed (Swedes drink more coffee than almost anyone else). They take comfort in treasuring small moments of coziness everyday.
Could this be why Scandinavians are consistently ranked the happiest people on Earth?
Photos by Peter Boman.