Cycling, Happiness & Living Danishly

Training Diary 8 Comments

I was reading an article discussing life hacks to live a happier life based on the observations in the book “A Year Living Danishly” by Helen Russell.  The Danes are the happiest nation in the world, so Ms Russell decided to spend a year (which became 4) decoding the equation for a happy life. Who doesn’t want to know the secret to happiness? Besides, the article link was on Facebook, so I thought it was imperative reading.

My take-aways from the article (no, they don’t live on junk food – I don’t mean that kind of take-away) were that Danish society is based on:

  • Trust within the community
  • An effective welfare state, and no complaining about huge taxes to pay for it;
  • Work-life balance;
  • Embracing law and order,

But most importantly:

  • Candles and cosiness.

Yep – lighting candles and getting “hygge” (which doesn’t translate into any word in any other language, but it looks like “huggy” to me, but not in the sense of nappies) are important aspects of a happy life. As is having a nice house to get “hygge” in.

It struck me that the Danes are all about community. But there’s no mention of exercise or play. And everyone knows all community and no play makes Jack, or maybe Jens, a very dull boy.

Besides, I’ve been to Denmark. I know the Danes are not dull. (They might have a strange taste in music, and it’s the only place on earth that I’ve queued in a line waiting for the men’s toilets because the women around me were all “well, our queue is too long, and yours is shorter, so we’re just going to get in either queue”).

Thus, based on my whole 1 week’s worth of research whilst I was there, I have some thoughts.

  1. First things first, I agree that the Danes like pretty things for their home. But despite assertions in the article that they are prepared to pay a small fortune, I think they are happy because they are the home of IKEA. Which avoids the necessity to pay a small fortune.
  2. Plus, they know how to play. They invented Lego, after all. They are actually the original play nation…
  3. They have good, affordable beer, (demonstrated by the fact the Swedes day-trip across to avail themselves of it, much to the chagrin of the Danes, because they then just lie about drunkenly waiting for the boat back home).
  4. And they invented comfortable shoes (Ecco). So, you know, they’re not walking around with pinched toes, which always makes your day feel much better.

The article mentions some of the darker sides of Danish life – like violence. But as the descendants of the Vikings, it hardly seems surprising that they have sudden urges to bash things/people. It’s in the DNA.

In fact, I discovered a historically important fact whilst thinking about Denmark and the Vikings. Forget the fact that they are believed to have been searching for land. Well, they probably were. But it’s the topography that is significant: they were hunting for hilly land. Their own country is devoid of lumpy scenery, and I think they were just bored of the view.

Denmark has no hills. (Largely because the Norwegians stole them all and put big spiky Christmas trees on them, so the Danes couldn’t have them back without getting needled). And I think you need a good hill to really appreciate your surroundings.

Did you know the highest point in Denmark is 170m? In the whole country. (Wikipedia says so, so don’t try telling me different).


I think I have to go up a bigger hill than that just to get to Woolies from my house!

Oh, and the other big reason everyone is all smiley and happy is because everyone cycles.

With no hills, why wouldn’t you?

So, there they are, all cycling about because it’s flat as. And they are all full of endorphins, but no-one is talking about it because they don’t realise it. They are just busy cycling to work. Or cycling to the shops. To buy some more candles. Or an IKEA lantern. All full of endorphins. And happiness.  Therefore, I’m not saying that it’s a failing of the book not to point directly at cycling, and go: there you are – that’s the reason. I just think everyone cycled to work, (or cycled home), pulled out their “happy nation survey” and filled it in whilst full of happy hormones. How do I feel about life? Pretty ecstatic, actually…

Make them fill out the survey when they haven’t been on a bike ride, I say! Then see what happens…

So, I have been trying to emulate the happy Danes this week, and have got 2 rides in. I haven’t been doing anything crazy, like commuting. Good grief, no. I’d have to cycle up a hill the size of a Danish mountain, just to buy bread. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. But I have been to the criterion track and had a peddle round there, as well as completing the baby version of the river loop.

The club has a session called Work Hard Wednesday, so on Wednesday I hit the track which involves cycling round a 1.4km cycle path. But I realised that I can’t concentrate for 1.4km, as I start daydreaming and forget to peddle as hard as I can. My brain’s capacity has such a close resemblance to that of a goldfish’s, it scares me sometimes. Especially when I find myself going round and round in circles. Who even am I? (That’s when I have to go for a swim, to remind myself that I am a human, not a goldfish…Goldfishes don’t drown.)

And for anyone having a grammar paroxysm, wishes is the plural of wish, so I’m choosing fishes as the plural of fish. #justsaying

Today was Funky Friday. It’s actually FRIDAY THE THIRTEENTH!!! So, it probably should have been renamed Freaky Friday. Fewer people turned up today, so maybe everyone was avoiding impending doom. Or maybe it was because it was Freezing Friday this morning. (I think the car registered 15°C  as I was driving in, so for the Brits reading, it’s officially winter here now ;p)

I got some great coaching as we were riding along, which is one of the many benefits of group riding. (Others include my goldfish brain only having to concentrate on staying upright, not bumping into anyone, not falling off, etc). Turns out I have freaky feet. Not only do I turn my toes outwards when running, but I do it on the bike, too.

Looks like lots of single leg squats need to feature in my future.

Which might not make me happy….

On a positive note, cycling makes Lord Oscarmort happy. Or at least my cycling gear does. Apparently, it’s great for sleeping on…

cycle, happiness

Happy Friday the 13th!! xx

Look, I’ve copied and pasted some factoids about Denmark’s cycling habits, so you know that I’m not pulling your leg. (I think there’s a pun in there somewhere, but I’ve had a lot of early mornings and I’m too tired to find it today).
Happiness Danish Style

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