The Little Book of Lykke by Meik Wiking – Review
By Helen Johnston
To paraphrase Thomas Jefferson, everybody should be allowed the right to pursue happiness. But what does it mean to be happy? And how do we go about pursuing it?
We can all point to times of happiness in our lives – holidays, wedding day, birth of children, birthday parties – but existing in a permanent state of happiness seems like a pipe dream. Perhaps contentment is a better word to describe how we feel when all’s well in our own world.
Denmark has been called the world’s happiest country, so it seems only fitting that the Happiness Research Institute should be based in its capital Copenhagen. And who better to write a book about happiness or lykke (pronounced luuhkah) than the institute’s CEO Meik Wiking?
The cynic in me thought this would be a preachy book from some kind of hippy who would spout unrealistic nonsense about achieving utopia. But I’m happy to say I was wrong. Wiking acknowledges that we’re living in difficult times and many people are struggling, but he warns that now is not the time for cynicism and fear.
He had me gripped from the first few pages as he put forward everyday suggestions for making our lives happier, in easy-to-understand language and, perhaps most importantly, with ideas backed up by data.
This isn’t pie in the sky stuff, it’s grounded in real life, and he doesn’t preach about how great the Danes are either. He points out that, far from walking round with smiles on their faces, they are often accused of suffering from ‘resting bitch face’. They also don’t have the longest life spans – too much smoking, drinking, eating meat and sugar.
What they do have though is a strong social conscience. They pay high taxes so that everyone can enjoy quality of life, including free healthcare and free university education. As Wiking puts it, they see paying tax as investing in their community.
He has chapters on togetherness, money, health, freedom, trust and kindness, all of which have a role to play in our happiness. These chapters include statistics, case studies, and inspirational quotes.
In his concluding chapter he uses a Yorkshire example, Todmorden’s Incredible Edible food-growing project, to highlight the benefits of community spirit. He points out this has been achieved without any Government support or any strategy documents being drawn up, and brings happiness to many.
The book itself made me happy because of how pretty it is. Its pages contain beautiful art work, gorgeous photos, and different coloured pages, all combining to produce a thing of loveliness for your book shelf.
Wiking is asking readers to help with his research by using the hashtag #Look4Lykke on social media to spread the word about examples of what increases happiness in your own life or generally.
By some strange coincidence, no sooner had I finished reading this book than the following quote popped up on my Twitter feed: “The happiest people don’t have the best of everything, they just make the best of everything.”
It made me smile. If we #Look4Lykke, we’ll find it.
‘The Little Book of Lykke’ by Meik Wiking is published by Penguin Life, £9.99