The CEO of the Copenhagen Happiness Research Institute gives advice on the bleakest day of the year

Meik Wiking laughs before answering the key question about his latest project. When is it open? “Well, we started setting up the museum in November 2019,” he says. “And then, in early March 2020, we announced that we would open it in May. The following week there was a national press conference at which the Prime Minister said we had to lock the country He laughs again “So May was postponed But we were able to open last July. Obviously we have opened up to a Copenhagen with far fewer people”

If there could only have been a few worse years than 2020 in which “The Happiness Museum” was launched – a year so free from joy that one can only laugh at the thought of having planned, throwing such an institution into the whirlpool – then the Danish capital is at least a fitting place Denmark, like its Nordic colleagues, is regularly at the top of the World Happiness Report – an annual index that ranks the countries of the planet according to their well-being. The 2020 report – which was just released when the pandemic broke out on Jan. March last year really started to burn – Finland had first place and Denmark second

In fact, Denmark is such a happy country that it is home to Wiking’s main occupation, Happiness Research Institute, founded in 2013 (com) is a Copenhagen-based think tank of which he is the CEO and which seeks to drive global wellbeing out from a scientific point of view “I know we sound like a fantastic place”, he grins and laughs for the third time. “People imagine we are an office full of puppies and ice cream. But we have a serious purpose. Our work consists of three subjects First, we try to measure happiness Second, we try to understand why some people are happier than the other three – we hope to shed light on how we can improve the quality of life. How should we design guidelines differently? How should we design cities – and societies – differently? “

This is clearly weighty stuff that cannot easily be translated into digestible chunks for public consumption Hence the Need for a Museum “In the early years so many people wrote to us wanting to come over and tour the office,” continues Wiking continued “But we’re only 10 people sitting in front of our laptops. That’s not very interesting to see. So we thought, why don’t we make a place where people can come and see some of the questions and answers we’re working on ? So we found a place in Copenhagen. A small place We would like to say that we are a small museum about the bigger things in life ”

In practice, the Happiness Museum – which is located in Indre By; The heart of the city – has eight rooms, each one reflecting on a different facet of joy. “The story of happiness is revolved – how the human view of it has evolved over time,” continues Wiking. “Aristotle has with worked on the same questions we have today 2,300 years ago Another deals with the geography of happiness Why are some nations happier than others? A third deals with the politics of happiness – which countries are using well-being as a new metric of progress and how are they doing it? A fourth looks at the future of happiness – how does technology affect wellbeing? A fifth looks at Nordic happiness and focuses on some of the region’s core values ​​- such as trust, collaboration and urban development – in relation to creating wellbeing. We examine many different perspectives on happiness. ”

Wiking is well qualified to address this latter, relevant problem. Why are Nordic countries so happy? “Well, I should say first that there is of course misery and of course misfortune in the Nordic countries,” he counters. “But also some of the main causes of misery and misery have been eliminated or reduced other countries You don’t have to worry about financial insecurity if you get sick – it’s one of the biggest causes of misery for people around the world. Good governance matters; a lack of corruption, the knowledge that you are paying into a common pool and in return receive quality of life. In terms of design too, we put people at the center of our design of the built environment and create cities for people instead of cars equality in general also seems to be a predictor of high levels of happiness and paternity and maternity leave is an important factor in Nordic countries parents tend to be happier than nonparents in Portugal and Spain it is the same – probably due to the culture, the grandparent generation to be used more extensively to get the family logistics to work ”

It may not come as a surprise that Wiking is optimistic about the immediate future, envisioning a world emerging from the pandemic and counting its blessings. “Of course, happiness levels went down in 2020 and 2021,” he says. “But Hopefully one good thing that could get out of this situation is a gratitude for the things we might have taken for granted before and also an understanding that bad things happen in every human life there will be good times – but there certainly will there are also bad times ”

He expects the immediate months after the pandemic to be a source of joy. “I think there will be an explosion of parties when this is over,” he continues. “There will be dinner parties, weddings and that is only the big events. We’ll enjoy seeing our friends for a cup of coffee too going to the pub for a beer I think many of us have realized the importance of the little things in everyday life – a hug with a family member or friend; a beer with your friends I think that’s what people really miss ”

Meanwhile, as Blue Monday – the third Monday in January; supposedly the bleakest day of the year – it’s dawning again, he has a few tips to feel more positive:

1 “Embrace the fact that this is not a happy time, and that’s okay. We can’t always be happy. There will be good and bad days, good and bad years”

2 “In Denmark we talk about ‘hygge’ The art of creating a nice atmosphere Hygge has also been referred to as ‘the perfect night in’ So you’re saying, “OK, it’s a bad year, but let’s try to make the best of the situation”We’re forced inside But we Danes are used to it so bring out the board games, bring out the puzzles, and connect with loved ones”

3 “Control the things you can control, don’t worry about the things you can’t understand and how to bring a bit of comfort and enjoyment into our home these days – that’s important to have personally I’ve spent more time in the kitchen I can’t control a global pandemic, I can’t control whether the virus has a mink-to-human mutation But what I can control is that I’m making pizza tonight and there’s half a bottle in the fridge White wine And I made banana pancakes for breakfast ”

4 “In Denmark we use what is known as the ABC for mental health This represents something active, something where you belong, and something you commit to so this is a little exercise of doing something together with other people and doing something meaningful.Of course, this can be difficult these days if we don’t really care meet lots of other people But being active is always a good idea ”

5 “Read, but don’t just read happy fiction. It is valuable to read about people who have had the same experiences Understanding that there was another pandemic 100 years ago, or that there was a person in Spain or Persia 400 years ago who experienced the same feelings about insecurity or unhappiness, we can find comfort in understanding through books that we are not are the only ones in the history of the world who have experienced these emotions – and books are a great socially distancing tool ”

6 “Connect with other people where you can This morning I had morning / evening coffee with some old friends. When I was 16, I was an exchange student in Australia. I was with a wonderful couple. That was 26 years ago and we are still in touch We spent an hour and a half this morning – her evening, my morning – talking virtually. It was great ”

7 “Try to think of activities that are cheap or free. These are great for mental health. Last November, I went to a forest north of Copenhagen with my girlfriend and a group of friends to eat mushrooms It met all the criteria It was active, it was with other people, it was meaningful We could do it even during the pandemic because we were outside and it was spreading And it was a nice activity that was free We could all enjoy without having to worry about the price That’s a good thing ”

Entry to the Happiness Museum (thehappinessmuseum) com) costs from 95 Danish Krone (£ 1130) for adults – and 65DKK (£ 775) for children It will reopen later this year

We strongly recommend that you disable your ad blocker for The Telegraph website so that you can continue to access our high-quality content in the future

Blue Monday

World news – GB – Blue Monday: Seven secrets for the happiness of joyful Denmark