We can’t all move to Denmark, but we can bring some of it to us

When adjusting to life in Copenhagen, I noticed that things were very different in Denmark from back home in New York City. Locals seemed more relaxed, less addicted to their phones, more present with one another. Streets were quieter, shops and restaurants played gentle music on low volume. It’s almost as if people there didn’t need distractions from their reality.

Was it just the famous work-life balance and social welfare system or were there other, lesser known, reasons for their contentment?

When America is more gloomy than ever, I decided to look at some small, and big, habits we could…

And what America can learn from them

A little over a year ago, my husband and his two daughters moved from Denmark, voted the second happiest country in the world, to America, the eighteenth country on that list. Here’s what they think so far.

American schools look like jails

When my 10-year-old step-daughter joined a (well-ranked) public school in Brooklyn, she asked me why schools in New York looked like jails. I got defensive, but I knew what she meant. Bleak corridors, colorless rooms, barred windows, lack of fresh air, metal fences around the building — nothing about her school was “cozy,” the word so loved in her home country.

Back in…

Cleaning out my life made space for happy changes.

A German-American architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe famously said:

“Less is more.”

What’s true for architecture is true for our lives, too.

Three years ago, I was an American running back home to New York from a foreign country, broke and scared for my future, wrapping up yet another unhealthy relationship.

I was 34 and shattered.

If I were to get better, I needed radical changes. Somewhere around that time, an idea that less is more got stuck in my head. …

And how I learned to apply them.

After a few turbulent years, I have finally landed in a place where things seemed to be going my way. Yet, raising a newborn aside, I noticed I just couldn’t relax into the happy feeling as much as I should have.

I wasn’t depressed. I was simply conditioned to want more, to need more, to wait for more. But, watching my daughter growing up so fast, I realized now was the time to stop and take a look at what life was all about.

I did, and I was able to pinpoint three things that seem to affect our levels…

When words are difficult, look for love in the smallest of gestures

My husband is not a chatty guy, especially when it comes to his feelings. He prefers logic. I’m pretty sure he understands computers better than he does women (luckily, he works in IT). He rarely gives compliments and he’s not a great texter. On top of that, he’s from Denmark, where gender equality is a reality, which means you can forget about doors being opened for you or your bags carried (unless you explicitly ask).

I, on the other hand, am a talkative and affectionate person who doesn’t hold her words or emotions back. Needless to say, sometimes I struggle…

Do happy people need less, or does having and doing less make them happier?

A tiny but mighty country of Denmark has been ranked among the top three Happiest Countries on Earth for many years — the difference I could feel as soon as I stepped off the plane into the calm, quiet and welcoming heaven of the Copenhagen airport.

The quietness remained throughout the city, and so did the overall sense of peace and well-being. People around me seemed naturally content and present. I was mystified.

After observing Danes for a year, I realized that one of the secrets to being more relaxed is in doing, and owning, less. …

After searching for the answers all over the world, I found them in my own backyard

My mom told me that she and my dad were celebrating their grand daughter’s (my daughter’s) first tooth. “You’ll take any excuse to celebrate,” I laughed.

“Sure,” she answered. “We don’t need much to be happy.”

And then it hit me: my Soviet-raised aging parents, living in a one-bedroom apartment, might be the happiest people I know.

After years of moving around and trying to figure out what makes us happy, I stumbled upon the answer right in front of me, and in one place where I never thought to look. …

And enrich your life by doing so

I moved to New York a week after graduating from college in my home country. I didn’t know a single person. Everyone I grew up with was gone in an instant. For the next 15 years, I learned how to make friends as an adult, through trial and error. Moving around a lot didn’t help. But I think I finally figured it out.

Friendship, studies show, has a direct effect on a person’s happiness levels. Sometimes, the most profound effect. Yet so many of us take our friendships, or lack of them, for granted. …

These cultural differences were the cure I needed

Five years ago, I arrived in London from Los Angeles, burned out and wanting desperately to regroup and rethink. I walked endlessly in London’s many parks and thought long and hard about why I was so bitterly disappointed in American ways and whether I could ever salvage that, and myself.

In my two years of living in London, I noticed that, while England had its fair share of problems, the English seemed to be more relaxed and easy-going than us Americans, once you got to know them.

I desperately wanted that myself, so I studied the people around me and…

And why I keep coming back to America

I moved to America from Eastern Europe 15 years ago, with $2000 and a dream, and I’m grateful for everything it has given me since. Yet after a decade of hustling to make ends meet, I was tired of the never-ending grind and needed a break. I found it in England, where I was lucky enough to pursue a graduate degree.

During my two years in London, I traveled Europe, observed, learned, and was stunned at a different approach to life it had to offer. Subsequently, I spent a year in Denmark, which took my idea of what’s possible even…

Anastasia Frugaard

Writing about Europe, America and learning to be a better self.

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