Mindful Eating with Hygge

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Natalie Le
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Having recently visited over spring break, I can say with confidence that Copenhagen is one of the most peaceful places I’ve ever gone. Everyone seemed so content and at ease, and the pace of life was far different from what I expected from a tourist hotspot: rather than bustling streets and crowded spaces, Copenhagen was quiet and expansive. Everyone went at their own pace, and there wasn’t an overwhelming sense of stress and urgency that is so common in the States. No wonder it’s one of the happiest cities in the world!

One thing that many often associate with Copenhagen is the idea of “hygge.” This is the Danish word for “intentional coziness and contentment,” and the practice of hygge became widely known after the publication of the international bestseller “The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living.” The book describes Danish practices to ensure that warm fuzzy feeling of contentment on a regular basis, and I found their practices regarding eating particularly wonderful.

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In Copenhagen, food is expensive. I think this is due to the fact that people don’t eat out often. Takeout isn’t super common either (except at shawarma vendors, which my friends and I frequented for their lower prices!). Instead, in true hygge-like fashion, the Danes often cook their own meals and, most importantly, eat with others. The grab-and-go, barely-present eating patterns of the United States would be out of place in Copenhagen…and I think there’s definitely something to take away from that.

It’s common to approach eating here as somewhat of a chore. And I get it - we all have homework to do, classes to attend, and deadlines to meet. Yet, there is something truly special about taking the time to appreciate your food and doing so in the presence of people you care about. Although Duke’s work culture seems to suggest the complete opposite, incorporating hygge-like dining practices can be beneficial to both our friendships and personal well-being.

So, next time you think about eating your West Union dinner to-go so you can work simultaneously….consider turning it into a social activity instead: allocate ample time to enjoy the meal, eat with friends, and not multitask. It’s self-care!

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