Creativity and Hygge

Wow, it has been a while since I posted anything. Basically, it has been a whirlwind since Thanksgiving since it was the end of the Fall term. I had a final exam and then a final paper to write…on top of editing my dissertation proposal for the umpteenth time. I am really excited today though because I just got the last of my grades. I was a little worried about my final creativity project because typically my professors find my projects to be too academic in nature…which how can you not when it requires you to write 20 pages?! This time was a win!

The course was focusing on Global Perspectives of Creativity and for our final assignment, we had to focus on one of the countries we read about and their approach to creativity. Since it is the holidays I decided to pick Scandinavia and write about how creativity is connected to hygge. The whole paper would probably bore you, but here is an excerpt that particularly talks about the connection between hygge and creativity:

The Hygge Connection

According to author Marie Tourell Soderberg (2016), at one time Denmark claimed much of northern Europe, even parts of Britain, as part of their territories. However, after losing the last bit which consisted of Norway in 1814, Denmark was left with nothing more than a small, flat landscape of a country. Therefore, they promoted a strong sense of community among people with shared interests. The characteristics of hygge are the epitome of the Scandinavian welfare state and Danish identity. Demark ranks as number two on the current World Happiness Report (2017) and was previously rated as number one in the world. Many researchers have pointed to hygge being the reason for this high rating (Soderberg, 2016).

Hygge (pronounced Hoo-ga) is a term that somewhat defies translation into English. In a sense, it is a feeling of family and friends, conversation, openness, and warmth (Soderberg, 2016). According to Bjornskov (Soderberg, 2016):

In hygge we also find a sincerity and comfort that means that we dare to express ourselves when we disagree. And when we, in a respectful and relaxed way, dare to discuss the bigger questions in life, we get the opportunity to see ourselves and the life we lead with a new perspective, becoming more aware of what makes us happy. At the same time this new perspective opens our eyes to what we are able to change in order to improve our wellbeing (pg.33).

This aligns to what Runco (2014) states about the creative environment being one that allows for a freedom to express ideas without a fear of negativity. It is also similar to Sahlin’s (2013) description of the creative environment being one where people come together as well as Ekvall’s Climate Dimensions with the two dimensions of debate and challenge (Puccio, Mance, & Murdock; 2011).

According to Brits (2017), hygge can be considered as a framework to support our needs, desires, and habits. These can be practical needs like shelter and safety; or more immaterial needs like comfort and togetherness. Author Meik Wiking (2017) makes the comparison to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs states that a person’s unmet needs serves as motivators of behavior; however, a person must first satisfy their basic needs before they can move beyond to higher-levels (Evans & Ward, 2007). After meeting the basic needs of food and shelter, the individual can then move on to the second level of this hierarchy which includes the needs of safety. However, if a person feels unsafe or not secure, then they will not be able to move on to the higher levels of self-actualization where creativity and innovation live (Huber & Potter, 2015). Safety includes more than just a physical protection from danger as it can also include morale, a stability, predictability, and understanding one’s place in the world (Evans & Ward, 2007).

Hygge and Mindfulness

Mindfulness often has a place in conversations about creativity (Runco, 2014; Sternberg, 2010). Sometimes it is referred to as Zen (Runco, 2014). It is this feeling of being aware and yet distant, here but not here, connected yet separate. This is a feeling that can also be attributed to hygge. Brits (2017) has identified three salient themes present in the hygge experience. These themes are as follows:

Hygge Themes

Interiority

This is an awareness of both inner and outer space. When the individual is aware of their surroundings and boundaries while also valuing this quiet stability. The focus is inside-out.

Contrast

There is a sense of distance between the individual and the outside world. However, there exist still an awareness of the outside world around the individual.

Atmosphere

In hygge, this is an environment that produces a feeling of warmth and a mood of contentment. There is harmony present.

(Brits, 2017)

As seen in the table above, the three themes have an almost mindfulness quality to them. According to Frauman (2010):

Mindfulness is expressed by actively processing information within one’s surrounding context, and it is more likely to become manifest when a setting or situation is varied, interactive, and involving; facilitates perceptions of control; appears relevant to one’s interests; and is perceived as unique, new, or different (Langer, 1989, 1997). According to Moscardo (1999), mindfulness is associated with greater learning, satisfaction, and thinking about new ways to behave in recreation and leisure settings. Langer and Moldoveanu (2000) suggested that the “feel” of mindfulness is that of a lively awareness and involvement in the present moment where consequences include an enhanced awareness that multiple perspectives are possible when interpreting one’s environment and when receiving new information (pg.226).

So if hygge is about processing the environment around you as well as looking at things from the perspective of others through discussions, then the connection to mindfulness seems to be present. If as Runco (2014) states that mindfulness can have profound effects on creativity, then with this comparison, so too can hygge.

Hygge and Mindset

According to Kaufman (2006), creativity from a Scandinavian perspective is understood to be an attitude toward life and a way to understand the problems of existence. Instead of focusing on the creative product, Scandinavians focus instead on the creativity within the system, or rather the creativity within the community. Brits (2017) states that, at least in Denmark, life is rooted to the community. There is a strong connection to home, community, and country. So hygge is their way to reflect that sense of interconnection to not only each other, but also to place. There is a certain mindset that the Danish people have when they gather together. Pera (2013) describes this social creative mindset best when describing the act of small c creative tasks:

Mini-c creativity highlights an important relationship between learning and creativity. Knowledge development (Popescu, 2013) and later forms of creative expression have their genesis in mini-c interpretations. All contributions judged to be creative by others have their genesis in mini-c. Mini-c creativity focuses on the individual creative processes involved in student knowledge construction and development of new understanding. (Beghetto and Kaufman, 2007) Significant creations are almost always the result of complex collaborations. Distributed creativity refers to situations where collaborating groups of individuals collectively generate a shared creative product: the distributed creativity perspective locates creativity in the symbolic social interactions (Paraschiv, 2013) among members of a group. In collaborating creative groups, creativity is an ongoing social process. (pgs. 208-209)

This mindset that everything is connected extends beyond the home and can also be seen in the Scandinavian workplace. Brits (2017) describes a working environment that promotes open communication, collaboration, and a flat hierarchy. There is a sense of belonging and acknowledgement that every individual has a place on the team. This mindset promotes the freedom of self-expression, and a knowledge that every individual on the team will have a voice and their opinion will be taken seriously. These elements of hygge in the workplace are also important markers when it comes to promoting creativity in the workplace. The debate over the importance of creative industries to the Scandinavian economy is a much discussed one. At one point, it was even part of the Swedish cultural policy that the creative industries should be fostered:

to safeguard freedom of expression and create real opportunities for all to use it; to work towards ensuring that all have the opportunity to participate in cultural life and cultural experiences as well as their own creativity; to promote cultural diversity, artistic innovation and quality and thereby discourage the adverse effects of commercialism; to allow culture the conditions to be a dynamic, challenging and independent force in society. (Power, 2009, pg.447).

Certainly, there is something to be said of promoting a cultural policy with its roots in creativity. As the economist article stated, the Scandinavian region is experiencing a cultural revolution and part of that is rooted in their creative approaches to their participation in these cultural experiences (“Cultural revolution”. 2013). In many ways, it embraces the creativity component of adaption (Runco, 2014).

Conclusion

Hygge is a practice that is commonplace for the Danes; however, it is rarely taken for granted (Brits, 2017). It is the meals that are eaten together, the routines that make up our days at work, the conversations that are had with our children. Hygge is the everyday atmosphere or the environment that we create when we promote that concept of creative environment.

References

Brits, L.T. (2017). The book of hygge. New York, NY: Plume.

“Cultural revolution”. (2013 February 2). In Economist. Retrieved from https://www.economist.com/news/special-report/21570839-one-worlds-blandest-regions-has-become-one-its-most-creative-cultural-revolution

Evans, G.E. & Ward, P.L. (2007). Management basics for information professionals (2nd edition). New York, NY: Neal-Schuman Publishers.

Frauman, E. (2010). Incorporating the concept of mindfulness in informal outdoor education settings. The Journal of Experiential Education, 33(3), 225-238. Retrieved from http://ezproxy2.library.drexel.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy2.library.drexel.edu/docview/804231789?accountid=10559

Kaufman, J.C. & Sternberg, R.J. (2006). The international handbook of creativity. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Pera, A. (2013). The role of social factors in the creative process. Contemporary Readings in Law and Social Justice, 5(2), 207-212. Retrieved from http://ezproxy2.library.drexel.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy2.library.drexel.edu/docview/1475144131?accountid=10559

Power, D. (2009). Culture, creativity and experience in Nordic and Scandinavian cultural policy. International Journal of Cultural Policy, 15:4, 445-460, DOI: 10.1080/10286630902893690

Puccio, G.J.; Mance, M.; & Murdock, M.C. (2011). Creative leadership: skills that drive change (2 Edition). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Runco, M.A. (2014). Creativity. Theories and themes: research, development, and practice (2nd ed.). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

Sahlin, N. E. (2013). Creating Creative Environments [PDF]. Kungl. vitterhets historie och antikvitetsakademien. Konferenser, 80-87. Retrived from http://www.nilsericsahlin.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/139.Creating-creative-environments.pdf

Soderberg, M. T. (2016). Hygge: the Danish art of happiness. London, UK: Penguin Books.

Wiking, M. (2017). The little book of hygge: Danish secrets to happy living. New York, NY: HarperCollins.

World Happiness Report. (2017). Retrieved from http://worldhappiness.report/ed/2017/ .

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