How Hygge Have You Been Lately?

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I’ll be honest; it’s been a while.

After what has been well over a month since my last post, I have finally found the time to put pen to paper, or, rather, fingertip to key.

The last time I felt inspired to write was, right around the time of Blue Monday.

It’s that Monday, right smack bang in the middle January when the novelty of a fresh start has started to wear off.  The cold weather and dark days are no longer filled with expectant festivity but rather an impatience to see just a slither of sunshine.  The twelve day detox and celebrity fitness DVD has had no effect on your seemingly expanding midriff; your jeans are still too tight and appear to be mocking you with their “skinny” label on the inside of the waistband and, whilst we are on the subject of celebrity fitness DVDs, you are now starting to think that that money would have been better spent paying off the credit card bill you racked up in the run up to Christmas, all in the spirit of “‘Tis the season of giving”.  All in all, it’s what scientists and the media tell us is a pretty miserable day.  It’s also the day that you are most likely to give up your New Year’s Resolution.

In the past Blue Monday is not something to which I have given much credence.  Call me old-fashioned but, I thought every Monday post 31st December was rather blue.  Personally, my doldrums were not reserved for just one day of the year and, as for a designated day for giving up your New Year’s Resolution, well, just getting this far would have been an achievement.  This year however, it had my full attention.

Upon hearing the local radio DJ announce, much too chirpily for my liking at that time in the morning, that it was indeed Blue Monday, I was presently surprised and quietly confident.  Instead of shrugging cynically and muttering to myself “which Monday isn’t blue?”, I was revelling in the fact that I was anything but blue, I was practically orange (more about the pitfalls of fake tan later).  Hygge was working.  I was feeling positive and I was feeling purposeful.  I was enjoying the education of a happy lifestyle and writing about it.  I was enjoying blogging and was surprised and humbled by the fact that people were actually reading what I was writing.  Not only that but some people even liked what I was writing.  I had escaped the curse of Blue Monday, I had beaten the January Blues and it was all down to Hygge.  I had been converted and I was euphoric; nothing could stop me.  So convinced was I by the power of Hygge that I wanted to spread the gospel and so I turned to the all important medium that is Social Media. I sent my first tweet and popped my hashtag cherry and was even more delighted when said tweet was liked by none other than the Hygge guru himself, Meik Wiking (or, rather his publicist, my friend would later cynically tell me).  I had done what I had set out to do, I had embraced Hygge and as a result I was happy.  I had achieved my New Year’s Resolution and it wasn’t even Pancake Day yet.

But then something happened.  Something so perverse and unspeakable that, up until this point I have not been able to do just that, i.e. speak about it.  I was rudely pushed from my righteous position on Cloud Nine and brought crashing back down to earth by the lesser know cousin of Reality, also known as Work.  And so, to answer my own question How Hygge Have You Been Lately? the answer is not at all because, quite simply, work has got in the way.  And so, if I’ve been too busy to Hygge, what does that say about my current state of happiness?

The answer to this question does not probably take a genius but, surprisingly, it did take several geniuses from Princeton to tell us what we already know all too well: that out of daily experiences, work is what we spend the most time doing and yet yields the least amount of happiness; put simply, work is the biggest obstacle to Hygge. Whilst the love and respect that I have from Meik Wiking and his Little Book of Hygge, after reading his thoughts and observations on Daniel Kahneman’s Day Reconstruction Method, the phrase “No shit Sherlock,” springs to mind.

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Source: The Little Book of Hygge: The Day Reconstruction Method

But then, what would happen if we did something crazy? Something revolutionary which could break the mould?  What if we did something for a living which we actually enjoyed?

After growing up with the sit-com Friends, I often feel as though our generation has been programmed to do what you love and love what you do.  I always remember that episode when Chandler is looking for a career change and is disappointed to find that after several personality and cognitive tests, he is best suited to doing his current job.  He takes it on the chin though, citing that you’re not supposed to like your job anyway.  It is at this point that all five of the other characters interject and profess the love that they have for their jobs, even Joey, the out of work actor.  Fast forward a couple of years, the female generation was then inspired by four late-thirty-something year old women in Sex and the City.  Samantha was the ballsy and glamourous owner of her own PA company, Miranda was a successful and erudite lawyer, Carrie as the witty writer suffering for her art and for her penchant for designer labels and Charlotte … well, Charlotte, in this post-feminist society was the one you were supposed to relate to the least because all she wanted to do was marry a Wall Street banker and be a kept woman on the Upper East Side (looking back at it now, however, maybe Charlotte was on to something … ).

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At the tender age of eighteen, these characters, nay, people, were a beacon of hope.  They were what a middle-class Midlands suburbanite could aspire to.  It didn’t matter that they were living in one of the most expensive cities in the world, doing jobs which probably didn’t even cover the rent on their Brownstone loft apartment; they were doing what they loved and loving what they do, all the while drinking copious amounts of coffee and Cosmopolitans.

Of course, reality always has a funny way of telling you how it really is and for most people life isn’t about trotting up and down the streets of Manhattan in Manolo Blahnik’s.  I often wonder if my generation would benefit more from a jab to help ease the effects of reality rather than a jab for rabies because, let’s face it, in this day and age, you are more likely to be bitten by reality than a rabid dog.

John Lennon famously sang that he was a dreamer but that he wasn’t the only one.  And so, is it so crazy to do a job that you love?  Is it impossible to find work that you enjoy?  Am I a dreamer too and if so am I the only one?  Is there such a thing as the Holy Grail of work and if so, if work is Hygge’s greatest hurdle surely by loving what you do and doing what you love that’s one way to get over it?

Do what you love, love what you do; do what you Hygge, Hygge what you do.

Let there be light, but preferably candlelight.

 

I ended my last post hopeful that Hygge would lead to a lifestyle of happiness, not just for myself, but for those around me.  The following words from Buddha sum up this notion perfectly:

“Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened.  Happiness never decreases by being shared.”

Yes.  I have quoted a cliché. But, what is a cliché if it is not true (also a cliché).

However, as clichéd as it might be to use a quote about which one knows very little of either the orator or the orator’s beliefs, this one seemed rather apt, particularly since, as I continue my conversion to Hygge, the first chapter in The Little Book of Hygge is called Light.

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Lighting in our household has, over the past couple of months, been rather a sensitive subject.  After moving in to our first home, we have been haunted, not by a resident ghost (it’s a new build) but, by a distinct lack of lampshades.  Having spent a number of years in rented accommodation, these were obviously unappreciated luxuries which, until now, had gone unnoticed.  The same can be said of curtains.  To me, the process of buying curtains and lampshades is the true definition of growing up; a rude awakening as to what it truly means to be an adult.  Because, let’s face it, it’s only when you eventually leave home that you need to think about these things.  After spending so long staring at different lampshades, lightshades, eyelets and pencil pleats I began to start questioning the very point of these objects all the while continuously replacing my dropped jaw at some of the prices.  Needless to say, I had a new found respect for my mum and dad.

It turns out though, that many an argument in the middle of Dunelm between me and my better half could have been prevented because, according to this little book, instant Hygge and therefore instant harmony comes in the simple form of a candle.

Ah, candlelight.  That romantic, rosy, flickering hue within which many an amorous dinner has been taken and many a birthday wish has been made.  I have always had a bit of a love affair with fire and candles.  I suppose it’s the lull of something which can look so beautiful but be so dangerous (I have just asked my husband if this is what first attracted him to me.  He is laughing).  It was because of this fascination with the Third Element, my mother would later tell me, that when she got the phone call to say that I had had an accident involving a tea light, she wasn’t surprised.

After six weeks in hospital, during which I watched an obscene amount of day-time television and endured a skin graft, one of my nurses asked me if the accident had made me reassess anything.  She went on to explain that she had known patients quit their jobs and go traveling or leave their partners all in the name of crikey-life-really-is-too-short.  I told her that I hadn’t reassessed anything but instead had evaluated a few things.  The operative part of that word being value.  I often tell people the same thing that I told that nurse, that my accident was the best thing that ever happened to me.  It made me realise what is important, it made me realise that I was loved and yes, of course, it made me realise that life really is too short.  That, and the fact that it’s OK if you don’t look good in skinny jeans.

I suppose over the years, the clarity that my accident allowed me has somewhat become blurred and whilst I still feel very lucky, my appreciation and gratitude for the simple things has perhaps waned.  This is why I am so keen to embrace the lifestyle that is Hygge.

And so, whilst the concept of adding instant Hygge to the home by way of candlelight may have seemed simple to Meik Wiking, for me, it posed as slightly more problematic.

That said, all was not lost.  Being fortunate enough to be living in the 21st century we are blessed with advances in technology which have made the movie Minority Report look positively dated.  Recently we have seen even further advances in AI if the CES tech show in Las Vegas is anything to go by.  However, Alexa, Cortana and Siri can all step aside and make way for the ex-pyromaniac burn victim’s best fried: the LED tea light.

Sceptical as I was, I was pleasantly surprised to see how effective and, dare I say it, Hygge, they were.

My husband has since started littering the kitchen with aforementioned LED tea lights in a bid to support me in my Hygge conquest of perfect lighting.  And, whilst I might not be able to light thousands of other candles with these LED imitations at least the arguments in the middle of Dunelm are a thing of the past and we are once again a Hygge couple.

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Hygge New Year

Healthy. Happy. Hygge.

When two of my nearest and dearest haphazardly gave me the same present this year for Christmas, it felt like more of an intervention rather than a gifting coincidence.  The gift was The Little Book of Hygge, The Times’ beautifully illustrated Top Ten Bestseller which, at first glance, I thought would be the missing piece to getting that perfect Shelfie.  That was, until I opened it and began reading.  The first chapter is called The Key to Happiness and it was at the end of the first paragraph of this first chapter that I got to thinking that my husband and my mother, i.e. two of my nearest and dearest, may have been hinting at something.  Either that, or they were definitely on to something.  After all, who doesn’t want to be happy?

The British obsession with Scandinavian culture is not something I am new to.  The Killing? Loved it.  The Bridge?  Check.  Borgen?  Not yet, but after becoming gripped on Netflix’s House of Cards, I feel as though I may be ready to flex my political drama muscles even further.  I am one of those people who do not jump on the band wagon enthusiastically but rather climb upon it laboriously and defeatedly only to find the the ride is quite enjoyable.  As a child I refused to read Harry Potter because everybody was reading Harry Potter and at university I continued to use My Space in protest against its much more user-friendly successor Facebook.  I do this in the vain effort to not follow the crowd and be my own person, something which Grayson Perry might call the curse of the Middle Class. It was only after giving in to that wily boy wizard and getting tagged in an unflattering profile picture that I realised on how much I was missing out.

To a certain extent, my conversion to Hygge followed a similar pattern.  It was a word that I had heard banded around on TV and radio and amongst colleagues at work and, without really giving much thought to the word I appeared to know what it meant but dismissed it as a fad much like I did Brexit.  Being cosy was something I had down to a fine art; the majority of my free time was spent curled up on the sofa binge-watching a box set and pyjamas were the black-tie du jour post 5pm and weekends.  Who needed a book to teach you that?

As it turns out, I did.  Netflix and Chilling (in the most literal sense) cosy? Maybe.  But was I happy?  Not so much.

It was therefore, within that foggy part of post-Christmas Day and pre-New Year’s Eve, that never-ending week where you’re not sure what day it is but you definitely know that you’ve eaten too much, that I made a decision.  I decided that 2017 was going to be different.  I wasn’t going to make the same resolutions which I made year on year only to never achieve them; lose weight, dry January, stop smoking, keep a diary … I wasn’t going to make a resolution at all.  Instead, I was going to name 2017 as the year of H (no, not Ian Watkins of former British dance-pop group Steps, although, I do wish him a very happy New Year, should he ever read this).  In 2017 I was going to be healthy.  I was going to be happy.  I was going to be … Hygge.

This is therefore what this blog or, blygge will be all about; one woman’s quest to adopt, implement and document a lifestyle that has proven to pave the path to happiness in the hope that this will be the designation of not just myself, but those around me.