A Happiness Expert’s Top 4 Tips For Building A Fulfilling Community
Meik Wiking, the CEO of Copenhagen-based Happiness Research Institute and author of the book that helped fuel last year’s hygge obsession, is back with a new Danish concept we should all get behind: lykke, or “true, lasting fulfillment.” The Danes believe that when it comes to finding lykke, celebrating community is key. Here, Wiking lists his favorite ways to foster community in your own backyard.
1. Establish a book-lending cupboard.
A simple way to start the conversation in your community is to establish a mini-library built on the “take-one-leave-one” principle. The library doesn’t have to be anything fancy. In my stairway in Copenhagen, I’ve just put books on top of the rack of letterboxes. It makes the stairway more homey, it’s fun to watch which books get picked up, and it encourages interaction between the neighbors. The current collection in my stairway includes titles like A Concise History of Architecture, The Great Gatsby, and Introduction to Statistics. For some reason, the first two seem to be the most popular.
2. Use the soft edges.
There is a bench in my courtyard right outside my kitchen window where I often sit and read. From the bench, you can see a tall chestnut tree and hear the wind in the leaves. The bench also functions as a semiprivate space—I can be by myself, but I am still close enough to the public space that people will say hello and ask about the book I’m reading. You won’t ever get to know your neighbors if you never see them.
Spaces like this—front gardens and porches—are called soft edges, and studies show that streets with soft edges feel safer and people tend to stay in them longer. Just being out in front of your house gives a welcoming vibe that encourages interaction. Few people would dare come into your kitchen to say hello, but if you are in your front garden, people may get to know you and you them. Because of my outdoor reading spot, I’ve learned that upstairs from me live Peter and his daughter Katrine, and farther up lives Majed, who has a fruit store (with delicious peaches). Interestingly, noise from neighbors ceases to be annoying once you get to know their names and stories.