Hygge me

In my ongoing quest for hygge I have realised that hygge and happiness are closely related. So, because I enjoy discovering things I signed up for The Happy Course offered by 42courses.com and conducted by The Happiness Research Institute. Soon I will have my own Certificate of Happiness! I can’t wait to put that on my business card.

The course itself is informative and fun but above all else it makes me think more deeply about happiness and how I have the choice to be happy. In the first chapter, the most interesting thing I discovered is that governments are taking practical and serious steps to increase the well-being of their citizens. The United Arab Emirates are aiming to be the fifth happiest country by 2021 and have appointed a Minister of Happiness. This is such a fabulous idea and as European countries move towards similar departments within their governments it made me wonder where South Africa ranks on the happiness scale. To my distress, we are ranked 105th out of 156 countries. Is it any wonder then that I feel that life is getting me down?

How is happiness measured? Six factors are considered: relationships, money, health, freedom, trust and kindness. On the surface I immediately rate my life 10 out of 10 in all of these factors but upon closer contemplation and being completely honest with myself, I’m closer to a 6 out of 10. Worldwide, happiness declines between the ages of 35 to 45, and I am in the shadow of 35. I will not spend a decade of my life feeling mildly satisfied when it is my choice to be happy.

So how to fix this?

I have appointed myself as Minister of Happiness in my life. It’s about baby steps right now, my search is still new and blinking in the harsh light of introspection. It’s hard not to close my eyes and stagnate in the waters of denial, to get caught up in a facade.

I am a believer of “fake it ’til you make it” and the academic term for this is synthetic happiness [which sounds like an oxymoron] but is really just deciding to be happy despite your circumstances.

Step one is to be kind. To myself, to others, to my country.

Be kind to each other, the night’s coming on – Charles Swain

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I need a hygge

Things are starting to get me down. My career has incrementally crept into every aspect of my life. My body aches and I have developed an aversion to Winter. My attempts at creativity are desultory, my flat lays are … well, flat. I thought I needed a hug, turns out I need hygge.

It’s a Danish way of life. Danes are the happiest people in the world and I want to get in on it. Hygge is a feeling of coziness, a feeling of warmth and comfort. The last time I truly felt like this was a century ago. Superficially, I can feel coziness all the time. My bed is made with linen with a high thread count, my pajamas are snug, my book is well read and worn, my electric blanket is on and the cat purrs in a puddle at my back. On the surface I couldn’t be more cozy but my mind is not even registering the bed that I have spent so much time and effort curating. It is darting in a million directions and when I fall into a restless sleep I dream of a never ending To Do List that highlights my failings as a wife, mother, friend, colleague, daughter, sister and human being.

It’s hard being a human.

I anticipate that this search won’t be as simple as enjoying every cup of tea or moment with my family. Life is busy and overwhelms a person so fast, often the first breath I take is when I fall into my cozy bed and am overtaken by the crushing weight of stress. I recently discovered that I am fueled by adrenaline, my adrenal gland is constantly pumping out fight or flight messages because my stress levels are sky rocketing. I will break my body and I will break my heart.

I have ordered my guide, Meik Wiking’s The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy LivingĀ is flying towards me nestled in plastic and cardboard and I hope that we become good friends. Until then, tonight I will enjoy my bath with my favourite soap, enjoy the sight of my sleeping son curled up with his soft badger toy and wrap myself around my husband, enjoying the warmth of his body and feeling his beating heart. That’s all I can commit to right now.

It’s a small step in mitigating the damage that I have caused myself.

But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep – Robert Frost

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