Every now and then I come across a word in another language for which there is no English equivalent, but there should be.

Once such word is hygge.

Hygge (pronounced hoo-gah) is a way of living that the Danish people swear by. It focuses on friends, family, and appreciating the little things in life. Denmark is regularly ranked as the happiest country in the world, so they must be onto something here!

“Hygge is where you feel relaxed in the place you’re at and with the people you’re with,” says Danish anthropologist Jeppe Linnet, PhD. “It’s a good atmosphere for getting to know each other.”

I wonder if there is no English equivalent because it is not a concept that the English-speaking world regularly practices. We hurry hither and thither, wearing busyness as a badge of honor and exhaustion as a state of being. We shut the doors to our neighbors and rarely get to know our colleagues. Even meals are sped through, gobbled down in front of the TV or in the car.

It’s no wonder that Americans are stressed out and overweight.

We are innately wired for community. Not for simply living in a neighborhood or gated residence, but for real community. For people around whom we feel relaxed and comfortable because we’ve taken the time to truly get to know them. In a word, we are wired for hygge.

On their death bed, no one will wish that they worked harder or had a bigger house. They often, in fact, will wish that they had worked less, and will almost always wish that they had spent more time investing in relationships.

(For more on this subject, read Bronnie Ware’s book The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying“)

How often do you feel relaxed in the place you’re at? How often are you around people you feel truly comfortable with? If a large number doesn’t quickly come to mind, it’s time to make a change.