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Seven Ways We Should All Try Living More Danishly

20/07/2015 17:45 BST | Updated 20/07/2016 10:59 BST

We're regularly told that Denmark is one of the happiest places on earth, though having watched The Killing, The Bridge and Borgen, I'd never been able to work out why.

So when my other half was offered his dream job there and I was faced with the prospect of swapping one grey, rain-soaked country for another, I wasn't immediately sold.

But after some research, I found out that there was more to Denmark than endless winters, Nordic Noir and bacon. They also had a great work-life balance - something lacking in our fast-paced London existence - as well as a welfare state that looked after everyone. And pastries. And beer.

Under the influence of both, I agreed to give living Danishly a go, on the understanding that if we didn't like it, we'd come home. I resigned from my glossy, occasionally glamorous job and moved to Sticksville-on-Sea, in Denmark's rural Jutland.

We didn't know anyone, I didn't have a job, and the language appeared utterly impenetrable.

To stay sane, I set myself The Year of Living Danishly challenge to understand what makes Danes so (supposedly) happy.

From someone who would have placed herself at a respectable six out of 10 for happiness back in my old life, I wanted to see if embracing the best bits of the Danish lifestyle could nudge my number any higher. And, sickeningly, it did.

From great design to insanely good Danishes, and family-friendly working culture to national celebrations every month, Danes have the good life licked. It's not perfect (think Lord of the Rings' style Mordor in winter), but spending 12 months living Danishly gave me a whole new way of looking at the world and taught me some happy-life lessons that can be put to use - wherever you are. Here are a few:

1 - Get hygge

This special Danish word is all about remembering the simple pleasures in life and treating yourself kindly. Light a candle; brew fresh coffee; eat some pastries with friends - see? You're feeling better already.

2 - Use your body

50% Copenhageners commute to work by bike and the average Dane is a member of 2.8 activity clubs. Exercise not only releases get-happy endorphins, it'll also make you look hotter - Danish style (think Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Helena Christensen. Nuff said).

3 - Address the aesthetics

A typical Danish home looks like something out of a weekend living supplement and Danes are universally houseproud. Studies show that making your environment beautiful can make you happier - so invest in yours.

4 - Streamline your options

If living in Sticksville-on-Sea has taught me one thing, it's that limiting your options can take some of the stress out of modern life. Too many choices can feel like a burden rather than a benefit, so Danes specialise in stress-free simplicity.

5 - Value family

National holidays become bonding bootcamps in Denmark and family comes first in all aspects of Danish living. Reaching out to relatives and regular rituals can make you happier, so give both a go.

6 - Play

Danes love an activity for its own sake and in the land of Lego, playing is considered a worthwhile occupation at any age. So get building; create; bake - just do and make things as often as possible.

7 - Share

Life's easier this way and you'll be happier too according to studies. Can't influence government policy to wangle a Danish-style welfare state? Take cake round to a neighbour's or invite someone in to share your hygge - and let the warm, fuzzy feelings flow.

For more on getting happy, Danish-style, The Year of Living Danishly, Uncovering the Secrets of the World's Happiest Country is out now, published by Icon.