Are you in the UK? Even the most Ostrich of us must be aware that there is a real risk of a second national Lockdown. I’m just listening to Five Live’s phone in on the risk and the reasoning behind the imposition of one.
Whether you agree with the idea of a second Lockdown or not, it seems that there will be some degree of Lockdown imposed countrywide across England and Wales, and possibly Northern Ireland and Scotland if the devolved parliaments decide it’s a good move. The fear of a second wave has hung over the whole world since Coronavirus emerged at the start of the year. Historical echoes of past pandemics say that there is usually a second wave that comes along, and even third and fourth waves, until the infection loses its virulency or the population gains immunity. Hopefully both. So, in a weird year with a weird Spring and a weird Summer, we look set to have a weirder Autumn than we hoped for. There are, at least, some benefits to an Autumn Lockdown that there weren’t to one in a warmer season. Here are my top techniques for locking down and boosting comfort for you and your family.
Use the Outdoors Whatever the Weather.
It’s September here and the weather is just about hanging on to the last rays of a warm Indian Summer weekend, but colder days are ahead. Don’t let the temperature stop you from using the diminishing hours of daylight to boost your health. The power of sunshine for physical and mental health is important. Spend some time outside every day, with as much of your skin exposed as you can. That’s you topping up your Vitamin D, which has been put forward as a possible boost in the fight against Covid. If you can’t get outside in the sunshine, or the days are completely cloudy, then either consider getting a light therapy lamp to sit in front of for 20 minutes a day, or take a supplement of at least 10 micrograms per day. I have both, and fully intend keeping them up year-round at the moment.
Besides which, don’t the autumn colours and the changing seasons exert a magic over you that mean it lifts your heart? The sight of acorns and conkers, changing leaves, piles of drifted leaves to kick through, the keen smell of smoke on the air, the breath that mists as you walk in early morning…. there are so many things outside to be thankful for, time spent away from the TV, table or workdesk is time well-spent.
Invest in (or make) a good waterproof coat, a warm hat and gloves (I start with fingerless gloves just to warm my palms and graduate to thicker, more solid gloves as temperatures drop) and get out whatever the weather. Learn to embrace wet weather with as much joy as sun. And record the time you spend outside with a photograph, a gratitude journal, a nature journal or a small treasure brought home to sit on the mantelpiece and be a talisman of brighter, better days ahead.
Craft Activities Can Have a Real Purpose.
There are 95 days left until Christmas today (20th September). That’s 95 days of making to boost your mental health and bank balance. And be absolutely assured that crafting, making, owning your artistic side is a positive benefit on so many levels. It boost mental wellbeing, is an easy way to find a social group with no expectations and has physiological effects on the workings of your brain that can help delay or pushback the effects of dementia, ageing or stroke victims.
And, with Christmas in view, finding something to make becomes easier because there are so many little things you can make instead of buy for Christmas. Try papercraft to make some cards, potato printing on kraft paper for gift wrap, crochet to make a simple, snuggly scarf, or get really artistic and paint an advent calendar. Crafting is available to all whatever your skill level, so just do it at a speed and in a way that suits you.
With Coronavirus measure looking set to stop big gatherings, crafting is also a good soical activity for groups of 6 or less. Ask around family and friends if they, or anyone they know, want to meet up in a house (if possible) or an outside venue to crochet, draw, knit, make polymer clay models. Small group crafting is even better than large classes or societies because it gives you all time to talk, time to breathe, get to know each other and support each other through your shared life stresses. You and your group will know what level of social distancing/infection preventative measures you need to take or are happy with. And, if you meet up in a local pub or coffee shop they may well be glad of the boost on an early midweek night in a year when so many people aren’t going out.
Creating Comfort Food Becomes a Meditative Activity.
Peel, slice, dice, stir, sip, sigh.
Preparing good food can be one of the easiest meditative activities available to us. We need to eat, anyway, so why not use your daily food prep time as a way to be mindful, to be in the moment and to appreciate the gifts of health, wealth and welfare.
Being mindful while cooking is a practice as old as human beings. I’m prepared to think that as Cro-Magnon Man went out over the hills searching for a sabre tooth tiger, Cro-Magnon’s Mother was slicing the roots they had gathered, tending the meagre fire at the cave mouth and concentrating on willing her son safely home. That mindful thing of recognising the thought and then letting it drift away… I bet she did that over the image of a sabre tooth that found her Ugg before Ugg found it. Despite evolution, we are still human beings, and a lot of our worries are still the same: safe travel, healthy lives, where will the next meal come from. Taking a small space daily to let the worries drift and just be is a practice advised by many who find that ‘trdaitional’ still meditation is too…. still for them. Like knitting or crochet or any other repetitive craft, it lets you find a moment of stillness through action when time loses meaning… what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls Flow… and enables you to accept the thoughts that crowd your head as you also find a space to release them and move on. Choose your meal well: one with a lot of peeling and slicing helps, as does one that needs long, slow cooking such as a stew, casserole or soup.
I like the little extra touch of a meal that needs regular stirring: three times, clockwise, thinking positive thoughts for whoever I need to at that time. Why not add a little extra positive energy to a meal? It’s a physical prompt to pray/send blessings, essentially, and good to do whether you have a Deity to pray to or not.
Embrace the Darker Nights to Cosy Up and Cwtch.
Hygge is so much about the small things in life, I find… the spaces between great deeds create our day-to-day life far more than the great deeds themselves, which create history. In a hundred years time the history books will focus on today, when a possible two-week circuit breaker Lockdown in England and Wales may be announced, the pictures of Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance announcing the facts behind the measure will be the ones that fill the history books and what impact the measure ultimately had will be discussed ad infinitum.
What we do is the bit that has the true impact, though. The steps we take to safeguard those we love physically and mentally will be the ones that move the nation forward. The willingness of the general public to adopt the recommended measures, the ability of us to balance the needs of the economy to keep going against the needs of the vulnerable (physically and mentally) to be safe and our willingness to put our faith in the facts that we have been presented with…. we have the choice to take the actions that the country needs or not.
We need to do our best to create a safe space at home where the child returning from school can relax and complain about the rules, where the office worker travelling in and out by bus or train can bathe, wash, change into their favourite hyggebusker and relax in a place that closes out the dark, the cares and concerns of the world, and lets them relax. The mental and physical health of the nation, upon which every other element rests, depends on us being able to close off outside pressure, to create a space for hygge and a place to just be. Now would be a good time to go back to any hygge books you have and reread them.
Set the rituals of hygge in place: a safe entry into the house, with washing, clothes changing and a chance to break our mood from the (understandably) anxious awareness of outside to a relaxed security from being inside. Take time with children to talk through their day. It seems likely that the Goverment will push to keep children in school as much as possible to protect their education. It’s our responsibility as parents to give them the resilience to face school every day and also provide a secure place at home to decompress, to release any pent up worries or pressures they may be feeling and then to let them be children. To provide a space where normal happens. Let their interests guide you, but providing good food, balanced activities and clean media habits is a good start.
For workers, the same principles apply. Leave the office/factory/workplace at the door, and decompress by showering, drinking tea, taking a short space of time to read, run, craft. Hygge happens where people can find warmth, security, and space to be.
Using the seasons here to boost the hygge is a good idea. Close the curtains, light candles or use ambient lighting to create a gentle atmosphere, boost family or group togetherness through carefully chosen activities. Play board games, watch great movies, read together, craft together. Most especially, eat together and use the time to enjoy each other’s company.
Take Care of the Vulnerable
The risk of a second Lockdown and the chance that impositions on freedom of movement and association will continue throughout the Winter means that many households will not be able to meet up in multi-generational groups. That means there will be vulnerable people at risk of loneliness, either because of their age, their physical health or their mental vulnerability. If we can’t meet them in real life, how can we support them?
Well, perhaps it would be more sensible to stretch the definition of your household. If you have an elderly relative or friend who would be left alone for the foreseeable and you feel there is no significant risk from your family group (perhaps nobody works in the NHS or other frontline service or your children are older/have moved away) then opening the family bubble to include them in yours for the purposes of food, shopping or boosting their mental health may be the right step for you to take. Mental health for people who are already mentally fatigued after a six months of measures that for many proved to be isolating, and a real test of resilience will be a big thing during any possible second wave that will run through winter, often an isolating time anyway.
If physical meeting is impossible or inadvisable because of the circumstances, are there any long-distance support measures possible? Daily phone calls, help with shopping by dropping off parcels or organising inline deliveries, teaching or learning how Zoom or Skype works to build a virtual relationship with them may not be as good as face to face physical contact, but will fill a space that they need.
And if you’re the vulnerable one? Keep in contact: use Facebook to join a group and find a tribe that will provide mental support and companionship either because of a shared interest (reading, crafting, sport) or because of location. Nobody should be alone, and you deserve to have a friend so don’t be shy: find a friend!
Start a Regular Writing Habit to Record this Time For Perpetuity.
Writing about your life acts as a way to look at life in better detail. Journalling, either by long and winding, detailed story versions of your day or by fast and easy five minute bullet points can clear your brain of issues that play on your mind, or provide a resource for future generations to look at and use as source material in studies of history.
Journalling encourages you to look at your life one step removed. It has proven therapeutic benefits, because it forces you to use your left side of the brain and frees your right side to be more creative in the process. It can have benefits for people with anxiety, depression and stress.
Advice on how to get started is available on many sites, but if you’re shy of writing longer paragraphs, list journalling may be for you. This can be as simple as lists of your favourite films, books, moments of life, music and things you use to keep you happy.
Keep Your Pillars of Health in Place.
There is no set amount of pillars of health, but mine are: Eat well, sleep well, move well, laugh well, love well. If I get all of those into place, and keep them balanced, then I know that whatever happens in the world, I stand a chance of feeling better with my life.
Good nutrition, including limiting alcohol, refined food and sugar, boosts my body’s imune system. Sleep, again, isthe body’s time to mend and is vital even when my body is under no pressure an deven more so when there’s a risk of illness. Exercise boost the heart, boost mental wellbeing and, at times of stress, is an immune boost when done sensibly and in moderation.
Laughing well seems strange, until you realise that the best stress relief available to us is a good laugh. Find your funny, the programme, series or joke that guarantees a belly laugh, and use it well. As a family we (shamefully, and unusually it seems) find Mrs Brown’s Boys, lewd and crude though it might be, gives us a massive laugh. We love when Brendan O’Carroll breaks the fourth wall and talks to the audience or the viewers, and the other massive laughs we have are when he ad libs and you just know the actor opposite him has to respond to some unexpected quip. Personally, I know people get sniffy about it, but part of the reason I like it is that the cast obviously get on well together, and some of them aren’t professional actors, so it has an amateurish, unpolished aspect. I just have the feeling that the craic after a show would be as much fun as the show itself.
Living well is living in hope, living free from fear. So much of 2020 seems to have been spent fearful of the virus, the Lockdown, the economic measures. If we can create a hyggely space where that fear can be set aside, we can move on, move past and move back into our lives. We will do that better if we work as a community to protect the vulnerable, support the workers that keep society going and maintain our own Hope that something will happen that means life, our glorious, normal, disorganised and chaotic life, will resume as normal as soon as possible.
If you’d like to support me….
I don’t monetise my blog. I don’t run adverts, take sponsorship for writing posts or use affiliate links. I want everything I do on this blog and in my hygge life outside to be truthful. If I promote a book it’s because I’ve read it and like it, if I point out an item it’s because it’s impressed me on its own merits and not because the publicist has talked me into it. It does mean I don’t run giveaways and I’m not chasing followers, but the drawback is that I need to find a way to support myself.
That’s why I write books. My thoughts are that if I ask you to buy a book not only does it support me, and let me keep writing as an independent writer, but you get something back for your bucks. I’ve written several books, some on Hygge, some on Christmas. If you like what you read here, or in the Hygge Nook, and you’d like to support a struggling writer, would you please consider buying a book? E-books give you the best value, since for 2 or 3 pounds you get the whole content of the book without paying the extra for paper production, but I’d be a pretty poor writer if I didn’t appreciate the beauty of a real book in the hand. If you buy even just one book, it all adds up in the end to support me, and I’d be so grateful.
My latest book, Cosy Happy Hygge is available as an ebook or a paperback on Amazon now. It’s about using rhythm and ritual to make your life a gentler, kinder place. Writing it has been an important part of my mental health recovery.
My first three books are hygge related, 50 Ways to Hygge the British Way was my first book, and is available in Paperback and Kindle version. It’s a simple look at ways to feel more hyggely in life and at home even though we’re not Danish and don’t have it in our DNA. Although it was inspired by the blog, it’s completely original work and not collected blogposts.
Happier is my fourth book. It’s about how I boost my own happiness levels. It’s full of hints, tips and ideas for you to use and adapt to suit your own situation. It is available in ebook and paperback version from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.
I have three Christmas books,
Have Yourself a Happy Hygge Christmas was released in September 2017 and is available again in paperback and ebook version. It looks at keeping the Christmas season warm and cosy, with ideas for activities and routines to keep Christmas happy.
A (Hygge) Christmas Carol is my look at Dickens’ immortal classic and the many lessons we still learn from it today. It contains the full text of the book as well as hyggely thoughts on the story.
Enjoying a Self Care Christmas is only available in e-book version. It’s about keeping Christmas simple enough and healthy enough to keep you sane in the process.
If you already have my books, or just want to support me as an independent writer, you can always just send me the price of a cup of coffee as a friend, to paypal.me/HyggeJem . I tend to use a lot (all) of my spare cash on books that I review for the website, so every penny donated goes towards building my happy hygge life.
If you buy any of the books or some of the items through the links on this page, I get a couple of extra pence per copy, as an Amazon Affiliate, in Amazon vouchers which go towards buying more books to review for the blog. I’d really love it if you’d support me monetarily, but I quite understand that cash is tight for many people, and I just love having your support via reading and commenting as well.
Truthfully, I’ll probably never make a living as a writer, but I do make a little extra income that gets ploughed back into books and magazines. One obsession feeds the other.