Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Hygge Your Holiday Season

stress less Christmas

I just finished the Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living by Meik Wiking.  Meik is the CEO of The Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen. I figured with Denmark consistently topping the list for happiest people, and his job is to study happiness, who better to write a book on it?   

Nothing in this book was a real surprise to me.  However, it was well worth the two hours I invested.  It reminds me of what really makes up happiness.  As I'm reading it, and he is talking about warm woolen socks, curling up in a nook with a good book, a cup of tea, and some candles lit while eating cake, I couldn't help but slow down and feel happier myself (and I also felt a huge urge for cake).

Counter this with a sense of bubbling panic knowing the holidays are practically here, and there are gifts to buy and wrap, decorations to put up, gatherings to attend, more gifts to buy at the last minute for those you forgot to buy for, bank accounts to deplete, family disputes to mediate, and baking or faking cooking by swinging by the store to pick something up, all while still living your normal busy life.  Well, I need a little hygge in my life.

Here is what I got out of this book:
1.  Hygge is about making a little bit of happiness in your life everyday:
    • like warm socks, fuzzy blankets, the smell of cinnamon (or whatever smell gives you the warm fuzzies), and hot Irish Coffees while watching the candles twinkle. 
    • spending a stress free moment with loved ones  
2.  Happiness is a result of positive social networks, savoring and gratitude, meaning and purpose,  a feeling of love and security, and the pursuit of leisure activities.  

3.  Happiness is not an absence of bad things.  However, experiencing positive emotions matter more.  You want to keep the negative to a minimum of course, but a great way to counter balance is having these little feel good moments everyday throughout your day.

Positive Social Networks:
This is your friends and family, work associates, etc.  Here is the most important with them.  Clear your mind of where else you need or want to be, what else needs to be done, etc.  Hear what they are actually saying (seek to understand, not to respond).  Give the human across from you and yourself this tiny moment that you both deserve.  

Savoring and Gratitude
Stop.  Right now stop and really look around you.  What do you see that you can be grateful for or find beauty in? Look at the details of the orchid on the receptionist's desk.  Really look at your children's' faces when they are laughing.  Inhale the scent of that cup of coffee you just picked up. Listen to the sound of the wind in the tress or a Woodpecker finding dinner outside.  Put on the ugly fuzzy pajamas and curl up on the couch.  In other words, notice the life you are living right now without worrying about what happens next.  Not the next 5 minutes, 5 years or 5 days.  

Feeling Loved and Secure
Right after physical needs like food, water, shelter, comes this. You have to give to get, and the first place to start is you.  Love yourself.  We hear this all the time, but what does it actually mean? I look at it this way, how do you expect people to treat your child? How do you treat your best friend? We get all ready to put the battle gear on and lay waste to anyone who hurts those we cherish.  Do that for you.  Lovingly parent you.  Don't give that job to anyone else.  Be kind, and set boundaries.  Find people who love you for you and love them back.  

One of the best ways to get out of a funk yourself is to do something for someone else.  It does't have to be big.  Bake cookies for your elderly neighbor.  Ride scooters with a kid.  Ask your roommate what's going on with her and really listen (without giving advice).  

Meaning and Purpose
Honestly, these two words used to make me roll my eyes into the back of my head.  Mostly becaue I felt like I was lacking in both.  I didn't have this big "meaning" or "purpose", and what the hell must be wrong with me that I didn't even particularly want to have that?  Here is what I finally realized.  Meaning and purpose can be a small thing. It doesn't have to be Martin Luther King or Mother Theresa sized although it could end up being that way.  

Mother Theresa started out wanting to be kind to those no one else was kind to.  I can do this.  I can say, my purpose is to make a someone's day brighter today.  Maybe I'll let them out in traffic, maybe I'll notice and give a sincere compliment to the checkout clerk.  

My purpose (my main, but not my only) right now is raising my children so that they have the skills they need to thrive in this world.  Soft skills like communications, building quality relationships, developing resiliency and practical skills like doing laundry and cooking. If things go well, I will need a new purpose very soon.  

Still stuck? Listen to this TED talk

The Holidays
The holidays can be stressful, so make sure that you take care of you EVERYDAY.  Slow down, do something fun, stop doing stuff that you don't like if you don't have to.  

Let's talk about "Have to" for a minute.  Do you really have to go to every Christmas party you are invited to?  Ask yourself:
1. Do I cringe inside at the thought of going?
2. Is it for or being given by someone who means a lot to me?
3. If it's business, will this hurt my business if I don't go?  People say no to these things all the time and this is the perfect time of year to get away with it because everyone is so busy that no one questions when you say, "I'm sorry, I have other plans." It's almost to be expected.  No one has to know your "other plans" are with your polar fleece pj's and a cup of hot chocolate.
4. "Have to" often means "I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings with 'no'".  See "Feeling Loved and Secure"

Here are some of our favorite things that we do that are simple, low cost, low stress traditions.  Here are some things we do:
  • Decorate Gingerbread men or bake cookies, then deliver cookie packages to your neighbors (make sure you list if there are nuts).
  • Put some hot chocolate in a travel mug and walk around your neighborhood or drive to a neighborhood to look at the lights.  We do this every Friday evening. My kids ask to do this every year.
  • Pop some popcorn and make it special with butter, caramel, M&M's and watch your favorite Christmas movies.  Make it a once a week date night.  
  • Wrap presents together.  Let your kids wrap gifts too and be okay with it not looking perfect.  It will look instead like a joyous, excited, loving child wrapped it and I promise you it will bring a smile to the receiver's face.  
  • Make time to meet a friend for coffee once a week.
  • Host a few friends for game night, s'more making, Minecraft playing or movie watching.
My New Year's Resolution for 2018 is to keep on hyyge-ing throughout the year.  

Find Some Breathing Room

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