✨📖 The Key to Happiness (2019) by Meik Wiking📖✨
A while back, I read Meik Wiking’s The Key to Happiness. For those unfamiliar with Meik Wiking, he’s the Hygge guy. Or rather, the guy who popularized Hygge, the Danish art of coziness. I haven’t read his flagship book yet, but I quite enjoyed this other one that empirically examined what makes societies happy.
The book is very enjoyable. It’s a pleasant, cozy read and it was exactly what I anticipated. It’s the sort of cozy read, you read tucked in under a blanket and with cozy socks on. Except in my case, it was in the middle of summer (but it was also very cold).
So what’s the key to happiness? Meik explores six categories that lead to happiness: togetherness, money, health, kindness, trust and freedom. The book goes through each area with specific examples from how societies are run. Most of the examples (predictably?) highlight how well Nordic countries are doing in this regard. Except for one little detail.
One thing I’d like to focus on here is something the book awkwardly glosses over. Happiness aside, Denmark boasts one of the highest rates of prescribed antidepressants per capita. The author doesn’t delve much on this huge point, but he argues this is a good thing, because it’s a testament to Denmark’s destigmatized mental health. Maybe.
On the flip side, the book frequently makes mention of South Korea, as an example of a very developed country (doing very well in the category of money, if you will), but a very unhappy one at that in other metrics. Meik contrasts Denmark’s antidepressant prescription rates to those of South Korea, where they happen to be very low. This is due to stigma, he argues. Again, maybe.
To summarize, he draws the following comparisons, which left me asking: Is Denmark’s key to happiness antidepressants?
South Korea 🇰🇷
💊🔻 Low antidepressant use
🧠🔺High mental health stigma
💊🔺High antidepressant use
🧠🔻 Low mental health stigma
I won’t stigmatize antidepressants here, as they seem to be working for a lot of people, under the right circumstances. However, my shallow understanding of the topic is that they only treat the symptoms, and only really work when paired with talk therapy. A better question to ask myself would be, what is it about the world’s happiest country that drives people to antidepressants in the first place?
Whatever it is, it isn’t really fairly covered in this book. The Key to Happiness describes a Nordic utopia; a model to fit all societies around the world. Sprinkled in with the authors political commentary, it sometimes feels a little propagandistic.
Nonetheless, overall, this was still quite a pleasant read, and I would recommend it to anyone looking for inspiration. It’s full of little tips about how you can make your life happier, mostly through being there for others. And this is really what I wanted to do with my blog.
I hear an even better book to read on the topic might be The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Anchor. But before I get my hands on that, this one will do too.