I’m so pleased that February has been a lot brighter and less wintry than it could have been here in the UK. SAD, winter sadness, has been a real part of my life for the last 10 years and every winter I have to build in the actions that I know will help me to keep just off the bottom of the bottomless pit. Hygge helps an awful lot, and so does any form of self care, but it’s very easy to forget the actions that work best, or to let good habits slide.
I’m not a New Year’s Resolution kind of girl, but I do like a sort of Kaizen readjustment twitch throughout the year and March is one of those positive times when reasserting priorities and realigning with plans and dreams makes sense. The day grows longer, new life starts popping up everywhere and spirits start lifting for most people (I do know at least one friend who has the opposite form of SAD, and summer makes them low). It’s a good time to overhaul habits, establish new ones and set yourself up for a healthier, happier summer leading to a healthier, happier winter 2022.
So, here for your consideration is an A to Z of small actions, mindsets or advice to consider, take to heart, implement or ponder and see what small actions could improve your life. Being happier costs nothing and takes nothing but time and a commitment to improve your own happiness.
Admit you need help, and ask for it. If nothing is making you feel better, even after you have set up all the usual happiness boosters, then perhaps you need to get professional help. Contact your doctor, ring a friend for advice and take the action you need to feel happier.
Breathe. It really is the easiest way to slow down, relax and take a moment. Breathe in for 4, hold for 4, out for 4, rest for 4. It’s called Box Breathing. I have an alarm set for mid-morning and mid-evening to remind me to pause and breathe.
Concentrate on one thing at a time. We are so convinced that we can multi-task at work and home, and yet we cannot. Multitasking is distracting. As your mother used to say, if a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing well. Take one task, concentrate on it fully, finish it and move on.
Don’t just sit there. Standing for 10 minutes every hour is better than staying still. Take a break, take a short walk, climb the stairs or do a few stretches rather than stay stationary for too long. Even a quick dance around the kitchen while cooking is good exercise.
Eat well: Boost your vegetables and other nutrient rich food and cut out processed and fast food. Try to eat slow at every stage: buy local food, cook it from scratch rather than processed and eat it in a way that adds to the experience. See ‘concentrate on one thing above’ and make the same commitment to eating: set the table, turn off the TV (some background music works well) and enjoy the experience with or without other people.
Find your Flow: A craft, hobby or pastime that we enjoy doing and that means we lose a sense of time is good for your mental health. There’s a balance between ease of completion and challenge of creation that uses our whole mind and releases the same chemicals as relaxation or happiness. It’s worth persevering to find our activity that induces calm: or having more than one. For me, it’s crochet and painting.
Get outside and enjoy the fresh air. A walk in the woods or by the sea is wonderful, but even a short walk around the block can give you many benefits. Exercise of any form outside is good for you mentally, physically and socially.
Hug someone for between 20 to 25 seconds a day. Hug a family member, a pet or a friend. It’s good for your blood pressure, stress levels, quality of sleep and may be anti-aging! Make sure your hug partner is happy to hold for 20 seconds, ask first, and become known as a hugger. I have friends who know I will give really good hugs for tea and are prepared to meet up just for the hug!
Identify your trigger points. If you know what makes your blood pressure raise, your palms sweat or your teeth clench, then avoiding it or finding a way to deal with the issue is easier. Although avoiding the issue may seem the easiest solution, learning management techniques is better long term, freeing you to get on with life.
Join a club. Doing something you enjoy with other people who also enjoy it is a great way to build a community. Bookclub, craft club or walking club, you should be able to find one nearby. And if you can’t… why not start one? Find a local coffee shop with a quiet morning and ask them if they’d like you to run a group for an hour or two.
Kindness is good for the world, so be kind to other people… and to yourself as well. It releases the same feel good hormones of oxytocin as hugging, and it flows both ways so kindness benefits the person performing as well as the person receiving.
Laugh at something silly. This video had me in stitches last night, so here it is for you to enjoy as well. There’s always a funny video somewhere on the internet, or find your favourite sit com or comedy show to enjoy. In our house, The Good Life, Yes Minister/Prime Minister and The Vicar of Dibley always work. And if nothing else seems to be working… laugh anyway. The act of laughing *even if you don’t feel happy* still has the same physiological effect as real, automatic laughter. What have you got to lose? Fake it til you make it!
Mobile technology makes a poor master. Take time without your phone and spend an hour, a day or a whole weekend in the real world. Put your phone down or away (in a cupboard, a box, a different room or pass it on to a guardian who will keep it from you for an agreed period) and go find something else to do. Unplug from all tech, and feel the benefit.
‘No’ is a complete sentence. Don’t be afraid to use it and keep your precious time free for the things that matter. There are many reasons why we say yes, and as many to start saying no, especially the fact that we get control of our own life again, can set our own limits and can shape our own futures.
Organise your house and life for maximum effect with minimum effort. Don’t seek for perfection, settle for good enough. Do you have a routine or ritual for cleaning in place? Is your house tidy or a mess? How organised are you in work/personal matters? Read up on life hack and time management advice, set your systems in place and get on with living. Me? I’m a bad housekeeper but a good homemaker, truthfully, and trying to keep to a less-than-perfect Flylady system. Anything is better than nothing.
Prioritise what’s important to you. Plan your life accordingly, with time set aside for your important tasks, tasks you need to do and always, always include things that lift your spirit.
Quiet time: take time for yourself to meditate, pray or simply just be in the moment. As a mother, I’m very conscious that sometimes the first thing I lose is my Me time, as in that early half hour to read or journal, or my walk gets lost in extra work at the desk. I’m sure I’m not alone in that, so I know that good advice on happiness hacks includes marking off time for yourself and taking it. However you manage that.
Release regrets. Forgive the people you need to (including yourself), write down past mistakes, errors or regrets and burn them symbolically. Then get on with living free from the weight of worry about the past. If your brain takes you that way, nudge yourself a different way. Do something active, phone a good friend, list all 5o states and state capitals. Distract, divert and occupy. Regret sometimes resurfaces, so learning to deal with it and move on helps.
Sort your stuff out: Declutter, organise and arrange your house to create a space that works. This is different from organising the running of the house, although heavily connected. It is easier to clean a house that has already been cleared. It is better for your mental health and happiness to live in a house that supports you, isn’t full of past regrets or items for dreams that you truthfully can’t realise. If you have a serious hoarding problem, seek help. It’s beneficial mentally and physically.
Thank you is a very powerful word. Give thanks for all the good stuff in your life: gratitude, used correctly, boosts happiness. It makes you examine the life you lead, makes you identify the good stuff you have and, in the darkest moments, makes you look for the little sliver of hope in a dark, dark world. Like laughter, don’t wait for it to occur naturally. Cultivate it, like fresh flowers in the garden of your life.
Understand that change takes time. Be patient, persistent and practical. We none of us got to the point where we are in a day, or by reading one book. It will take time or effort or several books read, cogitated on and implemented to get us to our destination. Slow down, cultivate patience and enjoy the journey.
Verbalise what you need others to do to support you. And then repeat it a different way. It hadn’t occurred to me until earlier this year that my husband (who is a lovely man, and I do love him dearly) didn’t realise that when I said I needed a break, I meant solitude and he was included in the people I needed a break from. Or that I actually feel low every January. He just hadn’t noticed, or kept score. We had a heart to heart this year and, within reason, we’re working to put measures in place (I needed more time to declutter a couple of rooms that are beginning to prey on my mind and therefore needed time off working for the family firm to do that)
Work-life balance. Make sure you have it right. What’s that you say? You don’t have a job? You mean you don’t work outside the home. Everybody works, whether they’re paid for it or not. And everybody needs to find the balance of activity and inactivity that suits them. It’s also a matter of knowing that the balance between work and other activities may shift from time to time. Be adaptable, and make sure you switch off completely when it’s your time.
X marks the spot. Identify what your treasure is and go for it. That might be a physical treasure or the emotional treasure of a clear conscience. Whatever. Set your course, make small adjustments as time goes on to make sure you’re still on the correct path and aim for your ultimate goal. I love the idea of the Rocking Chair Test: what do you want to be talking about as your top life achievements when you hit 90 and that porch is calling you? (hint: it probably won’t be work related)
Yes. Say yes to things outside your comfort zone, feel the fear and do it anyway. I know this clashes with No is a full sentence above, but only you can decide where the line between yes and no is, and sometimes we need to push ourselves to try new stuff, go different places and experience new things. It’s about recognising our own dreams and doing the Bucket List stuff before we die, just because we can.
Zzzz….. take a nap in the afternoon now and again. Set a timer for 10 minutes, lie down on a couch or bed and enjoy time without guilt. Napping well can have mental and physical benefits, as well asproviding space for creative inspiration and, well, it just feels good.
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. February is a great time to reset routines and rituals, it simmers with unnamed life underground desperate to burst through. The calm before the Spring Storm, as it were. The book has small and easy ways to make your life flow with grace and happiness, which lead to more hygge.
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. And it’s always the little things.
Planning ahead, early, is How to Hygge Your Summer. It has ideas for taking your hygge with you out of winter and to any place you go in the summer… the beach, the park, your holidays. Hygge is an all-year feeling, so start preparing and let’s hygge the heck out of summer this year!
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.
The regular photo I’m currently using between text and my book promotions is a photo by Rinck Content Studio on Unsplash. I love the implied cosiness of the photograph: the two hot chocolate cups, the biscuits and squares of chocolate imply a good bit of chatting going on here. Plus I like the colours: red tartan and real wood. What’s not to like? And the header is a photo by Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash. I chose it for the colours… look at that sunset! The red! The pink! The gold! And it triggered memories in me of sitting in Wales watching the sunset. I have spent many happy moments watching the sun set over the Irish sea. Memories, good memories, are important for happiness.