Book Friday: The Happiness Year by Tara Ward (How to find Joy in Every Season)

What are your Winter Joys? In the Hygge Nook, we’ve had a few posts about Winter, especially this post-Christmas period of it, being hard on the happiness factor. And I’m quite honest that I have found it harder to be happy in January and February rather than during November and December in my past.

But I do know that I have parts of Winter that make me happy. I love the cosiness, the home-based nature of living and the creation of warm, welcoming and hyggely spaces for family and friends. Hygge has made me more mindful, more grateful for the beauties that Winter has. And, in a straight choice between a snow-filled Winter with a well heated room and copious cups of tea and a heat wave Summer with sand, ice cream and shade that barely cools…. I’d choose Winter every time.

I’ve consciously chosen to look for and remember the joys each season brings, and to live in each season. Life moves fast enough as it is, without wishing half the year away in a bid to rush through whichever season I don’t like to find one I do. I’m 55 this year, and on the slippery slope to ultimate mortality so every day has a precious aspect I need to find, enjoy and savour. As the great Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius said “You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think.” Live every day as if it were your last. Would I really want my last day to have passed in a bad mood because the stormy autumn weather stopped my plans, the winter snow prevented me from attending a theatre trip or the summer heat made a walk in the fields impossible? Or should I go with Nature’s flow and find the pleasure in a day well spent watching the wind and rain raging, playing in the garden and embarrassing my adult children or passed in the shade of a large beech tree reading and sipping cool iced tea?

We make our own happiness, as much in how we accept the inevitable snags of every day life as in how we seek for better. And we can help to make ourselves happier by seeking out the little joys in every season. Today’s book, The Happiness Year, is very much about looking at life, at each season and finding the hidden joys within.

It’s a sensible sized book, 8 inches by 6, and beautifully illustrated throughout by Anastasia Stefurak. You can follow her on Instagram here. I think the illustrations certainly make the book a pleasure to hold and read, with definite seasonal palettes and themes carrying through. The Chapter Headings themselves are a pleasure to look at and enjoy, while full page or half page illustrations throughout capture the sensual treats each season holds.

Tara Ward, the author, is on Instagram as well, and her books are available on Amazon. I haven’t read any others, but I’m interested in A Guide to Meditation and may well invest in the Kindle version to see what it’s like. Certainly, I have enjoyed reading The Happiness Year enough to want to read others by her.

Although each season is separated into the same sections (see paragraph below for full list) the way each section is handled changes each time. They’re completely altered by the season, so for example connection in spring focuses on the energies of spring and connecting with people, while summer asks you to make connection between common words, used for summer and how they relate to your summer happiness, autumn connection focuses on colour energy and how that can be boosted in Autumn (surely the most beautifully coloured season of all) while Winter’s focus for connection is on finding your personal winter happinesses. Any of these activities could be done for each season in turn, but I like how Tara has consciously tried to make the book more than just a list for each season, or just each section tweaked.

The sections are: Connection, Body, Touch, Wonder, Understanding, Movement, Scent, Nurture, Creativity, Breathing, Meditation, Reflection & intention, and Seasonal Affirmation. I like how Tara hasn’t done anything as easy as *just* the senses, or as straightforward as seasonal lists. Don’t get me wrong, I love books that do that as well, but Tara has set out to make you look at each season as an individual event, not just a quarter of the whole. Each season has a focus, such as Spring is about connection and reconnection with Nature, Summer is about relaxing through the flow of breath, creativity or water, while Autumn seems to have an undercurrent of connecting with childhood or past through our sense memory and Winter is about hibernating, creating a safe space or psychic shield to shelter us while we look within ourselves for strength and healing before coming out, butterfly-like again next Spring.

You don’t need to pick this book up first in the Spring. I would recommend reading all the way through it first, and then returning to the current season’s chapter. I got this out just after Christmas, and although I flicked through the Winter chapter first, I found it made more sense to get an overview of the year first. Not least because the activities for Spring or Autumn are also suitable for Winter… eating seasonally, for example, is an all-year round experience and I personally enjoy adjusting the colour palette I wear according to season (usually by changing the scarves or handbags I use!)

I appreciated that the entries were so individualised, and not just seasonally updated lists of things to do. I found myself reading and making notes of ideas, activities and books that I remembered I already wanted to do in Spring or Autumn, for instance, and will be sure to do this cycle as much as I jotted down Tara’s suggestions.

Although the Reflection and Intention section come at the end of each season, I’d recommend setting them at the start of the season in real life. Certainly, I am finding it useful this year, having read the book and turned to the Winter pages during Romjul, to set my intention to declutter life physically and psychically. I love that part of Tara’s advice is to learn to receive gratefully, and I have happily adopted that as one of my Winter Intentions this year.

If I have to make any complaint (and it’s not a fair one to make) it’s that I’d love a link to audio or video files for the meditations. I struggle sometimes with meditations, especially any that rely on me making mental pictures, while reading the instructions, and I would love for these guided meditations to be downloadable and doable while properly unfocused! Like I say, not a fair criticism, just the icing on the cake.

The Happiness Year is a good addition to any bookcase that aims to help its owner find a level of contentment and satisfaction with life as it really is. I like that it is completely unjudgemental, that it doesn’t preach and list what must or must not be done. There’s even openess for admitting you hate the seasons without prejudice, just a gentle encouragement to adjust your attitude and change your point of view to make the ‘hate’ into ‘gentle dislike’ instead. It would make a good present for a friend or relative who, perhaps, struggles with one or other season as part of a gift basket, say, with a small handcraft, a notebook and a bar of dark chocolate to nibble.

And, as usual, I’ll leave you with a flipthrough of the book.

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. Lent is a season of rituals and resets. 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.

And my Christmas books are still all available now to buy ready for next season: 

Have Yourself a Happy Hygge Christmas is the basic, all round Christmas hygge book, with advice and ideas on how to make hygge (the cosiest way to be mindful and live in the moment) a large part of all your celebrations.

Enjoying a Self-Care Christmas is about taking time to look after yourself at the busiest season of all and is only available in ebook, with its own advent calendar of selfcare ideas.

 Celebrating a Contagious Christmas was my answer to Christmas in Lockdowns in 2020 but might (sadly) prove useful for a few more years to come. It has advice on celebrating small scale, and keeping a Christmas flexible. I’m itching to write a new Christmas book, on simplicity, frugality, minimalism and making the meaning of your Christmas more significant, but time, time, time…

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 photo between post and promotions is a photo by Karen Cantú Q on Unsplash. I liked the scarf, the coffee mug held tightly and the hint of hope for spring to come with the little daisy. And the Header is simply the book again, no frills and no extras, sat on my desk and ready to read.

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