Thursday, 14 December 2017

5 Habits of Hygge

Having come across this word some time ago, I recently finished a book that's all about it and wanted to share some of what it taught me. Hygge was a recent word of the day over on Facebook for anyone who's missed it and the beautiful definition of the word that I got, came directly from that book:

'Hygge is the removal of things that cause stress in our lives - it is the ongoing pursuit of a simpler, healthier, more fulfilled and happier existence.'

42 Habits of Hygge is Helena Olsen's easy to read guide on incorporating hygge into daily life, through easily applicable five minute habits.

Funnily enough, a significant amount of these are ones that I have the pleasure of being able to practice everyday living in Milford Sound without realising their contribution to my general sense of contentment. It's cool to see just how easily these can add up to create a strong sense of hygge. And of course, anyone anywhere can begin to adapt these hygge heightening practices, so here's just some of those suggestions to consider:

1. Decluttering

Clutter to me is chaos. I genuinely find it irritating and stressful to be surrounded by clutter or excess. So this makes obvious sense to me - decluttering will bring clarity and space and a more relaxed environment. The Minimalists and those with similar thinking of course have popularised this increasingly recently and it's not surprising to find that it's also recognised as pertinent to a more hyggeligt lifestyle.

Get rid of clutter, let go of anything that is not adding value to your life and wellbeing. This may not just be physical items either - social media, email subscriptions, toxic relationships - these can all add up to an overwhelming culmination of chaos. Take the time to trim the excess wherever you feel necessary, challenging though it may be initially, it's actually a very liberating process and can give a wonderful feeling of lightness and thus contentment.

2. Reading

I was a serious book worm as a child. Piles of books would return from the library and within little time at all, I was eagerly awaiting more. I always loved exploring the writing of others, delving into new ideas, worlds and the minds of those who are experts in their fields. But, when stress and a distracted mind came into play, the books went by the wayside, ironically at the time when I probably could've done with their stress-relieving capabilities most.

In the last year I've managed dive back into reading and can definitely advocate the benefits, I'm delighted to be enjoying again.

Reading is a known relaxing habit and with the above definition in mind, a clear way towards hygge. In whatever form it may be - novel, blog, autobiography, poetry or textbook, give reading a chance. Let yourself get truly immersed into a good book and see how it feels. It's such a solid source of learning, idea-inspiring, mind-opening, calming and enjoyment - once we give it our focus and commitment.

3. Music

Listening to music is something we may not consider to be overly important, but again it's actually a proven stress reliever and can have powerful effect on our emotions and mood. Spend time just listening to music, but give it that valued attention, engage mindfulness and thoroughly listen to and enjoy it.

Another practice that I particularly enjoy from this book that ties in here, is singing and dancing. Genuinely, not a day goes by that I don't burst into song or bust a few moves wherever I am (neither of which I have any actual skills for) but it 100% improves my mood, my day or even just gets my energy up. Singing releases endorphins and oxytocin, both of which lower stress levels. And dancing, regardless how it looks, feels good, reduces anxiety and stress and can boost self esteem. Get the tunes on and get into it, in the name of hygge ;)

4. Gratitude

In probably anything I've indulged in that has the pursuit of happiness at its core, gratitude will be a part of it. When something comes up that often, it is obvious that this is one to take on board. Active practice of gratitude is something I'll always recommend and stand by. It'll only ever have positive results.

An easy habit to begin that will have profound effect is to kickstart a gratitude journal. This need not take any more than a few minutes each day, but could have the potential to significantly transform our mindset. It doesn't require any elaborate explanation or even that many words but just a conscious acknowledgement of 3+ things we're grateful for each day. It can be done mentally either any time, anywhere. All that's required is to start - choose to adapt an attitude of gratitude and contentment will no doubt begin to soar.

5. Connected Time

One of the standout messages I got about hygge is the value of togetherness and connection. There's a strong value in social interaction, belonging and community. This is crucial for any of us to give more of our time to. We get so easily caught up in busyness, loneliness or screen time that we forget the fundamental grounds of connection and belonging.

Whether it's family meals, playing games together, socialising, laughing, telling stories - all of these are hygge habits we need to ensure to include. Be present and truly connect with those that are close, give them time and attention and regain enjoyment of the company of others. Be a part of the interaction, include yourself and let go of whatever has been keeping you away.


There are so many things we can do to enhance our own feelings of hygge and these will likely be quite personal and individual too, but these are simply some to get started with and try to boost all those positive feels in our lives. 

Others I particularly liked in the book are; watching wildlife, using photos as decoration, having hot drinks and lighting candles - they all just remind me of the true contentment and warmth that comes from connecting to our senses and world around us. Pick and choose and see what works, and remember that habits require repetition to form.

Most of all enjoy it! And feel free to let me know how they work for you or if you have any habits of your own that have worked the same magic :)

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Belief in the Blue

The lashing lullaby put me to sleep
The rainforest's favourite composition
A gentle roar, impossible to ignore yet by no means an imposition
Its energy seeps through its Sound, recharging the slumbering soul
Unmatched in its ability to dissolve the day's tiring toll.

Awakening to a softer silence, the sun radiates through,
An open armed embrace of the sky's beautiful blue
The backdrop of a happy commute,
Illustrates the resolve of the night's dispute -
Nature's message as usual, ringing true -

Gently reminding us to continue that blue sky pursuit.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Word of the Day: Resourceful

Resourceful: 'having the ability to find quick and clever ways to overcome difficulties.'
antonym: unimaginative

I love the word Resourceful and was just reminded of it by an old blog here where I explored how to bring it into our lives more.

To me, being resourceful is empowering. It means taking responsibility and action in your life. It's not a passive word, it's not about sitting down and wallowing in our troubles, instead it implores that we use what we have and know to overcome our challenges.

In recovery and life in general, it definitely pays to be resourceful. Instead of accepting defeat, we decide to optimise our resilience and resources. We take control and ownership and find our own path through. We help ourselves create this path, using what's available to us in the given moment.

It's a valuable skill; a word that can transform obstacles into opportunities.

I left in the antonym of 'unimaginative', with the definition because blunt as it may seem, being resourceful also means channeling our imagination, our creativity and our curiosity. It means keeping an open mind and seeing possibility instead of problems. Being unimaginative makes me think of stagnation whereas resourcefulness promotes progression, development and change.

Today, use your imagination and a resolve of resourcefulness to seek your solutions. Take responsibility, power and control over making your own way through whatever challenges life throws at you 😊

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Recommended Reading: Braving the Wilderness

As may be noticeable throughout this blog, Brené Brown has been a particularly inspiring influence to me. Since I first heard her Ted Talk on shame and vulnerability, I've sought out, enjoyed and benefited from just about anything she's publicly created.

The work that she dedicates herself to is not only of great interest but also significant importance to anyone wishing to live a more whole, authentic life. Her natural flair for storytelling makes her years of thorough research easily accessible and her genuine, honest humanity always shines through to make her work relatable and applicable.

So yeah, basically I'd recommend all of her Ted Talks and every one of her other books.

But the one I'll stick the spotlight on for now is her latest which is titled, 'Braving the Wilderness'.

Having just re-read her book, 'Gifts of Imperfection', I refreshed the concepts of embracing our imperfect, unpolished selves and knowing and believing that we are enough exactly as we are. This ties in nicely with Braving the Wilderness' call to become aware of our need to connect, genuinely feel as though we belong and have the courage to contribute.

She defines True Belonging in Braving the Wilderness as:

'The spiritual practice of believing in and belonging to yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being a part of something and standing alone in the wilderness.'

We're meant to connect, to both ourselves and others and glean a true sense of belonging wherever we are. That can be such a tough thing to harness and I know I've definitely found it challenging to cultivate true belonging for a long time. But Brené beautifully shows how it's done and the path we can take to get there.

As a bit of an enthusiast for words, I love her many definitions throughout the book too. She has a brilliant way of explaining her understanding and translation for the key concepts she uses.

One of these lovely definitions was that of spirituality which I thought was helpful, as that can often be a tricky one to define:

'Spirituality is recognising and celebrating that we are all inextricably connected to each other by a power greater than all of us, and that our connection to that power and to one another is grounded in love and compassion.' 

Her book calls us to become brave in finding our feet and place in the world we live in. She implores us to 'step out from the barriers of self preservation and brave the wild.' She makes a strong case for overcoming our differences, strengthening our capacity for compassion and ultimately finding a way to navigate through conflict towards connection. 

As usual she shares very relatable insight into our behaviour around belonging and loneliness, our unwillingness to lean into emotions and vulnerable experiences and the ways in which we can take the steps to overcome these. She encourages finding more helpful methods of communication - 'We have to listen to understand in the same way we want to be understood.' and 'the most courageous, is not only to be open-minded, but to listen with desire to learn more about the other person’s perspective'.

The main ideas that emerge I think are authenticity, love and compassion, connection, open and honest communication, perspective taking, understanding and another beautiful definition in the form of civility:

'Civility is claiming and caring for one’s identity, needs, and beliefs without degrading someone else’s in the process.… [Civility] is about disagreeing without disrespect, seeking common ground as a starting point for dialogue about differences, listening past one’s preconceptions, and teaching others to do the same. Civility is the hard work of staying present even with those with whom we have deep-rooted and fierce disagreements. It is political in the sense that it is a necessary prerequisite for civic action. But it is political, too, in the sense that it is about negotiating interpersonal power such that everyone’s voice is heard, and no-body’s is ignored.'

Overall, I think again she definitely presents an important and necessary movement, one in which we could all very much benefit from investing in.

Monday, 16 October 2017

3 Musings on Meditation

You might have seen recently here that I've decided to dip my toes into the world of meditation. It's something I keep coming across both recently and in the past, thus far without getting particularly into it.

So I'm giving it another go. This time, using some guidance from Buddhist monk, Ajahn Brahm's book 'Kindfulness'. This is his method of kind mindful meditation and an overall kinder, more compassionate outlook on life and our experiences of it.

I've been giving it a shot over the last week and in tune with the teachings in my book, here's what I've learnt:

1. Priorities

So I did that post about exploring meditation, got myself all ready to really commit to it, had my book to hand and then, well, nothing really happened. I was thinking a lot more about how I should start trying it than actually doing it. I was putting it off til later or just not getting to it at all.

Like anything, if we genuinely want to achieve it, we need to prioritise it. We need to make space for it and incorporate it into our day to day. Even if that means just doing it mechanically until it feels natural, cultivating new habits will require us to create space, time and a place of importance for them in our day to day.

2. Compassionate Vs Controlling Mindset

Probably the most common (and frustrating) obstacle in meditation is trying to quiet the mind. I've found once I start trying not to think, I just think about how much I'm still thinking. Brahm addresses this saying, 'What if you meditated by treating your mind like a best friend?'

"Treating your mind like a best friend involves approaching it with warm, engaging attitude: “Hey buddy! Do you want to meditate now? What do you want to watch? How do you want to sit? You tell me how long.” When you treat your mind with kindfulness, your mind does not want to wander off anywhere. It likes your company. You hang out together, chilling out, for far longer than you ever expected."

3. Payday 

The third thing I noticed was the potential impact of impatience. Expecting quick results can put pressure on the process hindering our enthusiasm for it. Brahm resolves this frustration with a payday analogy, saying we have to work to earn our paycheck.

"Why can’t every meditation be a payday? During the difficult meditations you build up your credit, the reason for your success. In the hard meditations you build up your strength, which creates the momentum for peace. Then when there is enough credit, the mind goes into a good meditation, and it is a payday. But you must remember that it was in the so-called bad meditations that most of the work was done."

* * *

This week I want to ride out the difficult meditations and continue towards the meditative payday.

Have you had similar experiences or other challenges when getting into meditation? How have you overcome them?

Monday, 25 September 2017

Belonging: Brave the Wild

Thought for today: "Step out from behind the barriers of self preservation and brave the wild" ~ Brené Brown

Relieve yourself of the restrictions of saving face, avoiding vulnerability and attempting to 'fit in'. We expend so much energy trying to​ dodge discomfort in these ways that we're actually keeping ourselves stuck.

Get into it, get real and raw and open to life. Let the guard down and ditch all the attempts to be something you're not. Trying to protect ourselves from uncomfortable emotions and experiences is not helping us, it's just denying our own humanity, the validity of our authentic emotions and the person we truly are.

Embrace the imperfect self that's living behind that barrier. Let yourself be seen. We're not all meant to be robots or replicas of each other.

We're here to be human, to live humanely and to enjoy that experience. Exactly as we are, we belong here as much as any other human. Belonging does not require us to bullshit, it requires us to brave the vulnerable territory of being who and what we really are.

"You will always belong anywhere you show up as yourself and talk about yourself and your work in a real way.” Steve (Braving the Wilderness)

Cultivating Kindness: Accept Compliments!

Treat compliments as gifts. People are not obligated to say nice things to us, so when they do, take note! Without thinking, we often dismiss compliments, we don't believe them to be true and we reject what they say. How kind is that..?

Compliments can build us up and make us feel good, it's time to start treating them as truth.

On wonderful advice, I actually used to keep a notebook of compliments I received. This gave me the opportunity to take them on board, be grateful for them and read over them when a reminder was required that I'm not all bad 😊

Compliments are valuable, beautiful, and very kind things definitely deserving of our attention and appreciation.

From now, begin to enjoy and believe in the compliments you're given. And if you're really feeling kind, start dishing them out too 😊