December’s posts this year all share the theme of Mindful Christmas. There’ll be short posts each day encouraging us to pause and look at our celebrations in a more measured, mindful way. Every day has a concept heavily tied in to Christmas, and the plan is to look at them individually, examine what role they play in our own Christmas and, if we decide we don’t have enough of the secret ingredient, what we can do to have more of them. You’ll see what I mean as the month goes on.
Each day also includes a suggested film for the day and a mindful action, something small, fast and designed to give you the opportunity to pause and enjoy the season in its mad run down to The Day Itself. These are the films and ideas written in my advent calendar box, so I’ll be watching and acting alongside.
Today’s words are Community and Belonging.
I’m not a great joiner-in. I don’t like big groups, at least not all the time. I need a really good mix of time with others and time alone. I suspect I’m like a lot of people, neither an absolute extrovert nor an uncomfortable introvert. I like a variety of situations.
But I am passionate about having a group of people to call my own: a community that I belong to. I think we all benefit from a group of people with whom we share interests or experiences, people we trust and people we enjoy spending time with.
For a lot of us, that may well be our family. For others, family ties come with memories and bad tastes in the mouth that we would rather not dwell on. Either is perfectly normal. Indeed, our relationship to our families may well change during our lives and what was a close, intimate sibling bond become a tenuous, curiously formal and superficial connection. That’s the nature of human relationships: they’re not static. And if you get a good one that lasts and lasts well, thank your lucky stars.
Besides which, we are often so close to our families that we can’t see the rotting canker at the centre and it’s all too easy to cover it up with fine words and platitudes. Or there are members who get isolated, marginalised and left to cool because, really, people are people. It’s always worth having an alternate source of comfort and support. And by comfort and support, I mean a place to give as well as to get. That’s important in a community. The hardest rock and widest shoulder needs someone else to be their rock and shoulder to cry on at times of stress. Never worry that you find your best sense of belonging and support away from your wider family.
Where, then, to look for this feeling? I’ve found it in several places over the years. I belong to a church, on the outer rings rather than deep in the leadership. Places of faith can be intimidatingly full of eager believers, and I’m too much of a heretic to sign up to any creed completely. I do find that the friendships I have through church grow in proportion to how much I get involved in social events or aspects, though. Just turning up won’t work. You have to offer to make the tea after the service, run a stall at the fair or read a lesson now and again. You have to put time into a group to feel a sense of belonging, and you have to put effort in, too. Nobody likes a person who is only there for what they can get.
Large organised groups like Women’s Institute , sports clubs or charity organisations like Rotary or Lions (in the UK) can be sources of belonging. Again, belonging relies on participation and on a willingness to give as well as receive.
But my best sense of belonging, my deepest and (so far) strongest links are with a small and select group of friends. No more than 5 or 6 together, roughly the same age so that life events that one is going through are likely either to happen or have happened to others. Shared interests in sports, crafts, books or movies can be a first link in finding a group, but sometimes it’s just that these people are Those Sort of Friends, the sort you don’t see for a few months or years and then you all get together and it’s like no time has passed at all. In my darkest moments, they’ve been the ones I turn to and who speak sense to me. They tell me when I’m getting hysterical, they tell me when my response is inadequate. Most of all they tell me whether I’m on the right tracks. And they tell me when I need to forgive myself, a great gift when I am all too quick to blame myself for things I did or did not do right.
And the best thing? I don’t need to be with them to get that peaceful feeling. Just stopping, letting myself remember what life with the besties is like and I can feel the warm fuzzy happiness flow. I can feel my stress diminishing, and my brain releasing the happy hormones. Friends who are good for your health? That’s the best kind I know.
All the quotes this month share the same background, even if the headers are all different. Thanks go to Caley Dimmock on Unsplash for a very seasonal background ideal for all quotes, large and small. And today’s header is by Ross Sneddon on Unsplash. I chose it because I liked the idea of the friends, sitting out with a fire for warmth and sharing a drink. Hygge, isn’t it?
Today’s Film: Scrooge, the 1970 Albert Finney musical with music by Leslie Bricusse. The composer passed away earlier this year, so it’s well worth watching this, which is one of my favourite versions of A Christmas Carol.
Today’s Mindful Action: Today is a good day to just pick up the phone and call your oldest friend or closest relative, just to have a chat.
How to Hygge the British Way is my gift to the world. I don’t get paid for writing it, I’m not in it for the kudos, financial rewards, to become an influencer, work with brands or otherwise make any money from the blog. That’s why there are no ads, and any products I mention and recommend have either been gifted to me or bought by me with my everyday wages or donations from supporters. Every book I review has been bought and read by me, unless stated otherwise.
I do get a couple of pennies each time someone buys from the Amazon links on my page, as an Amazon Affiliate, but otherwise if you’d like to support me, I like to give something back in return. That’s why I write books. It always feels good if you get a book back in return for some money. You can find a full list of my books at my Author’s Page on Amazon, but especially recommended for this time of year are:
Cosy Happy Hygge: Setting up a rhythm to life and rituals to enjoy it to make for a more balanced life that handles waves and storms better. It’s filled with advice on a daily, weekly and annual basis to help you set up rituals and rhythms that boost happiness and work for you.
Happier: Probably my most personal book, it’s the story of how I used hygge and the little things in life to help boost my happiness. I still go back and reread to remind myself what I need to do to be a happy human.
Of course Have Yourself a Happy Hygge Christmas is an essential read at this time of year. Christmas is about the small things in life, much as hygge is, and establishing what you want from Christmas and then being able to say no to the excess is important. The book has hints and tips that hopefully will help you enjoy what is, too often, a frantic season.
Available as just an ebook, and a short, sharp read, is Enjoying a Self-Care Christmas: Easy Ways to keep the Joy of Christmas, and your Sanity, intact. It’s an easy read, with ideas and hints to keep you sane through the season. The self-care advent calendar is one I’ve followed for a few years now, and it really is a small daily dose of calm in a manic month.
And on the basis that we may well find ourselves in Lockdowns or unable to enjoy an absolutely normal Christmas under Covid regulations if numbers spike, why not read and plan alternatives? Celebrating a Contagious Christmas was written in response to the pandemic last year, and will need updating soon, but it is about celebrating whatever the situation, and does have good advice on stocking up an emergency cupboard, celebrating when travelling to relatives is impossible and putting the heart of Christmas back into the heart of the celebrations.
A (Hygge) Christmas Carol is my personal look at Dicken’s Immortal Classic through the eyes of a Christmas obsessive and hygge lover. It includes the full text of the book, as well as my short essays on why A Christmas Carol is a book full of hygge. I have no idea why, but Kindle version and paperback are on different pages.
If you’d like to support me, but don’t want to buy a book, I have a Paypal.Me account as Hygge Jem. Every little helps, so even a few pence goes towards the books, goods and courses I use and recommend on the site. I’m grateful for every little bit that brings me closer to my dream of full-time writing, and I know I couldn’t still be writing if it weren’t for the support of many readers and friends out there. Thank you all for every little bit of support, emotional, physical and financial, you give me.
If you’ve enjoyed this article, don’t forget to share it or save it so others can enjoy reading, thinking about and living hygge as well, and links to all the articles in this series are on the blogpost: Mindful Christmas 2021.