What is HYGGE and how can it improve your life and well-being?

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Hygge (pronounced “HUE-gah”) is a Danish word that describes a lifestyle where we consciously focus on creating joy and cosiness in everyday life, or, in other words, it’s a ritual of enjoying and celebrating life’s simple pleasures such as family, good feelings, nature and friendships.

People who implement this in their lives respect others and try to be always warm, friendly and open. Surely, the world would be a much more beautiful place and our lives easier if everyone decided to implement this approach. 😉

Snuggling up in a blanket in your most comfortable PJs, with a big cuppa of your favourite coffee, tea or hot chocolate, and working or relaxing in such a comfortable environment, is something we should aspire to once in a while if we want to maintain or boost our well-being, according to Danes. They believe that this is the best way to fight boredom and depression too.

Some people describe Hyggeias a Danish way of looking for beauty in everyday mundane life.

Hygge means that we allow more time for things that we enjoy. It means that we are okay to slow down not because some activities need to be done more carefully but because they simply give us pleasure and put us in a good mood: simple, small, everyday things like making a coffee or preparing or eating breakfast.

To some it may seem like a lovely but awfully unproductive (yet nearly impossible) way of living which active and busy people don’t have time for, but actually…  is Hygge perhaps the answer to why Denmark is often in the top 10 happiest nations in the world?

Living a very active busy lifestyle is surely draining and not really a natural way of living for human beings. Hygge can help you to relax, slow down a bit, and make your life more enjoyable.

How can you implement Hygge in your busy everyday life? 

Everyone is different, so not every activity will feel ideal for you, but if you look at the ideas below, you may find something that you will actually really enjoy and may consider trying to implement in your busy schedule once in a while …

Why should you do it?

Better to ask: why not? Why not try it if it was found to be so beneficial for people?

    • For example, you could invite friends round for a chat (rather than a movie or playing games, or sitting together and texting) and put out some simple drinks and perhaps a fruit or cheese platter for you all to enjoy together.
    • You can consider what you have always wanted to try but had various excuses for not doing, and take up a new hobby that would help you to relax (painting, swimming?).
    • You could light some candles to create a soft glow during dinner time and switch off the TV and your mobile, so you can enjoy your meal more.
    • Go out and play and enjoy spending time with your dog or children outside.
    • Have a picnic in the park with a friend.
    • Go for a bike ride

The ideas are endless really. You can find your hygge where you find your inner calm, where you feel good. It doesn’t need to be nature or snuggling in a warm blanket at home. It may be a coffee shop in the city centre where you enjoy observing others while drinking caramel mocha. It’s an individual matter as to what feels right and makes you happier.

Everyone can find hygge in a different place and situation. Try to find yours. Do more of what you love and be open to new ideas for spending your time unwinding and relaxing, especially here and now – in this super busy world that we live in…

You have only one life. Live it well! Enjoy it!

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If you’d like to learn more about Hygge, I recommend this beautiful edition in hard cover (great as a gift!): Hygge: The Danish Art of Happiness by Marie Tourell Søderberg. Have a look here

This is a nice read too: Hygge Habits: 42 Habits for a Happy Life through Danish Hygge that take Five Minutes or Less by Helena Olsen (more details here).

… and to end in true Hygge style here are two quotes that perfectly summarise this post… 😉

 

7 Ways to deal with depression.

Depression is a real problem nowadays. According to recent studies, one in every two people will experience depression by the age of 60… That’s half of our population!

No-one really knows what exactly causes depression but…

  • genes are believed to be one of the factors that influence about 30% of the predispositions for depression.
  • stressful life events such as childbirth, loneliness, financial difficulties or unemployment can play some role in it too.
  • people with some particular personal characteristics may be more prone to have depression than others as well.
  • it is known also that some diseases and medications can contribute to depression a great deal.

So, how exactly do you or your relative or friend feel when experiencing depression? 

Surely miserable for most of the day. To be diagnosed with depression such symptoms need to occur nearly every day for at least two weeks. If you lose interest in your usual activities, sleep poorly, notice a decrease in concentration, have less energy, lose appetite, weight and libido, then you may be diagnosed with clinical depression.

How can you improve your mental health on your own?

  1. Many studies have shown that the best method of dealing with depression is exercising! A few decades ago we used to exercise… 4 hours a day! Nowadays many of us struggle to find 30 minutes for exercising a few times a week! Professors from the University of Toronto analysed over 26 years’ worth of studies on depression and confirmed that even moderate physical activity like a short brisk walk every day is very beneficial. Studies actually shown that people who exercise for 30min 3x a week felt improvement in their well-being equally well as people who were given antidepressants but did not exercise. What’s more, these who took antidepressants were 3x more likely to feel depressed again within the next 6-12 months after finishing their treatment! Surely it’s difficult to get motivated but once we manage to start doing it we’ll quickly notice a boost in general well-being levels, an increase in confidence and greater emotional stability. 

  1. Another very important factor is to spend time with people who support you and who you can trust. If you have depression you feel like you want to stop socialising and sit on the sofa all day but this will only make things worse. Close relationships are a huge happiness booster! Unfortunately, as many as 50% of Americans report that they don’t have any close friends. Recent technology development and Internet usage leads us to social isolation. Studies shown that creating and maintaining relationships with others release hormones that are responsible for reducing stress and anxiety levels.

 

  1. Try to devote more time to your passions, things you really like and enjoy. This also has been proven in many studies as a great method for 
    improving well-being!

 

  1. Healthy eating is an obvious fact … and yet so few of us take it seriously and follow the right advice. Food and drink have such an enormous impact on our mood and well-being …

  • If you feel tired and you need to focus, eat a bit of dark chocolate, a banana or some walnuts.
  • If you feel angry, drink some green tea.
  • If you feel sad, apparently drinking some low-fat milk can make you feel better.
  • Upset? Get some bananas and oranges.
  • When you feel depressed, try  to have more fish oil (omega -3) on a daily basis.

And, of course, drink at least a few glasses of water a day – something many of us constantly need reminders about.

  1. If you feel overwhelmed and exhausted de-plugging, getting more sleep, disconnecting for a few hours, or a whole day, may be very helpful. However, withdrawing from your life for more than a day is dangerous and not helpful at all. Remember that even if it feels like the right solution, your depression symptoms will probably get worse. Get more sleep than usual if you feel like you need to, but don’t waste too much time in front of the TV avoiding people, your responsibilities and life!

  1. There are many ‘helpers’ that work but only very temporarily and you should avoid them particularly when you feel depressed: alcohol, the Internet, drugs, and medications to boost your well-being. Some people may need antidepressants but these may make you feel unwell for a while before they start to work. Of course, I’m sure I don’t need to tell anyone not to take any antidepressants on your own without speaking to your doctor about it! Try to take other steps first (such as exercising) before you and your doctor decide that you need to be on medication to cure your depression.

  1. What can also be very helpful is to plan your day to ensure that you have some structure, routine and things to look forward to; things you might enjoy doing even if you are not feeling 100% right yet. Remember to get some Me Time –  perhaps a trip to the cinema or a nice long bath with a book.

If you try these techniques and you still feel unwell, or your symptoms are deteriorating, you need to speak to your doctor. You may need antidepressants for a while. Just remember that they often take at least a few days to start to work properly, and they may make you feel a lot worse first before they actually start to work and make you feel better!

Self-talk and your well-being.

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Human beings have a tendency to negative thinking, especially about themselves. We are often afraid to do something—for instance, to change a job or start a business idea—because we feel that someone else out there is better than us or that we may not deserve to succeed, or … well, we surely can always find a different excuse.

We may not even notice how much negative talk we keep in our head on an everyday basis. Sometimes we don’t feel confident, good enough, smart enough, quick enough, clever enough, fit enough, beautiful or powerful enough … we just can so easily find a variety of drawbacks depending on the area of life, or of a discipline, that we are thinking of. Actually, we are super-creative when it comes to self-pitying and finding excuses.

We never will be ‘enough’ because there ALWAYS will be someone better at something; someone more beautiful, more powerful, richer, fitter or more skilled. It’s easy to compare ourselves with others and some people’s advice is that we don’t do it at all.

However, if you focus on your strengths and positive traits, and if you start to accept and love yourself more, then comparing yourself to someone who is better should be an inspiration, rather than a problem, frustration or disappointment.

Everyone has to start somewhere.

If you can’t achieve the same or better results, then maybe it’s not what you should be doing. Do what you love, where your strengths can be used, not what you’re supposed to do or what may give you slightly more money.

Love yourself because no-one has the same unique mixture of knowledge, skills, talent, grit, ideas and experience that you have!

Be proud of who you are. You never know who has been looking at you and wishing they were you!

How to be happier? And why we should think of others more?

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Make someone happy. Make someone smile. You’ve surely heard that good vibes and emotions, a positive mood and optimism are contagious. Studies from the University of Zurich in Switzerland, using MRI scans, indicated that people who spent money on others instead of themselves had more activity in the brain areas associated with happiness and altruism. In the research it was also highlighted that the amount of money spent on others did not matter.

The simple act of giving, not always expensive or material things, improves our well-being a lot.

In a different study, carried out by UK researchers, it was found that people who performed some acts of kindness regularly every day for 10 days had a significant boost in their happiness level. Such a short period of time as 10 days had made a huge difference! Again, the conclusion is: helping others makes us happier.

There is a popular Chinese proverb that fits here perfectly:
“If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. 
If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. 
If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. 
If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.”

How to reduce stress levels and feel more in control? 

Do you feel you are getting stressed too often? Let’s look at what studies say about dealing with this problem. Being aware that stress can affect our well-being enormously and how to deal with it is certainly crucial for our well-being!

Remember that your emotions are just emotions and they are temporary. Don’t let them dictate how you feel. If something is overwhelming and you feel stressed and you feel that there is no solution, just TAKE A BREAK.

Depending on the situation, different things may help: talk to a trustworthy and supportive friend, watch a movie (preferably a comedy!), unplug and disconnect for a few hours and take a nice hot bath, practice mindfulness or go for a run (take headphones and turn on your favourite music).

When it’s difficult to deal with problems and we feel overwhelmed, it’s best to do some physical activity. Getting more oxygen to your brain, making your muscles tired – this always does the trick and will make you feel better, more confident and calmer!

Diverting your attention to your passion can also be very helpful but it may not always work, for example, if your passion requires quite a lot of attention and focus, because your mind may just not be in the right state, with lots of meandering and not-so-constructive thoughts.

It’s been proven that reading (a minimum of 6 mins) can reduce your stress levels by as much as 70%!

Whatever you decide to do, just don’t withdraw from your life, society, or work. That’s not a solution or a good method to deal with stress. It actually increases anxiety, stress and depression instead of giving you an opportunity to focus and find a solution.

One of the most helpful techniques that you can use on a daily basis to improve your resistance towards stress is to work on your outlook. The way you perceive different situations impacts on how you feel and how your body reacts. Studies found that perceiving difficult tasks more positively, as challenges rather than problems or threats, improves stress levels and makes us feel more in control and calmer. Try to avoid self-pitying, blaming others, and pessimistic and critical thoughts.

And remember. EVERYONE has problems, large and small, now and then. You are not the only one!

How much your happiness can be affected by a major event?

When psychologists talk about happiness, they don’t mean a temporary emotion and people who are happy just in a particular moment in their life (although of course ‘being happy’ is also considered as a short-term state of mind). Positive psychology as a science perceives happy people as those who are optimistic and content with their life more in general and in the long term. They use the terms life satisfaction or SWB (subjective well-being) to cover this in their research.

There is a term called the hedonic treadmill in psychology (which I mentioned in one of my previous blog posts) and it basically means that we get used to new things and situations quite quickly and come back to our usual happiness level after big events have happened in our life – which are significant in either a positive or negative way. Thus, lottery winners and people who lose a limb in an accident are on average, after around a year, as happy as they used to be before these major events took place! It sounds quite unbelievable but there is a lot of evidence that external factors, situations and events, even if significant, don’t have that large an impact on our well-being as we think they would have.

Happiness can be achieved and enhanced by using the power of your mind and inner abilities! We now know, for example, that a change of habits is possible. Our mind is a lot more powerful than we think it is. We often underestimate what we can achieve just by changing our mindset, setting goals and taking actions; and we overestimate external factors. Maybe because that’s easier? What do you think?

Have a look at my recent video about science & happiness: https://youtu.be/xd0KT9gJask and let me know what do you think about it! Thank you!:)

Science & happiness: Does having children make us happy?

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Do you think that having children can increase our happiness or subjective well-being as scientists like to call it?

According to science having children who are up to 5 years old or teenagers makes us actually LESS HAPPY! However, children can make our life more meaningful and what’s interesting (in spite of all the stress and worries), parents live on average longer!

One of the reasons for the drop in happiness levels is that many people who have children feel less happy because they believe that if they were only more organised or could improve their work-life balance they would be better parents. They feel that this is an individual problem but nowadays it’s a bigger social issue particularly in developed countries where people seem to work longer hours and take work home.

In 2016 The Independent indicated that according to studies in the USA parents report they are 12% unhappier than non-parents. In the UK the number is slightly smaller as of 8% parents feel less happy. For Poland, the result was nearly a 5% drop in happiness level compared to non-parents. There are however a few countries where people feel happier when they have children, for example, in France, Norway, Spain or Portugal.

Researchers looked at differences between the countries to try to find out why in some countries parents are happier than in others and they found that government policies or lack of them, and less support from the government contribute a great deal to the increased cost, stress and anxiety felt, for example, by American or British parents.

It was estimated “that a middle-income American family is likely to spend $234,900 to raise a child to age 17.” If the teenager then decides to go to college, that figure may even double.

What makes parents happier in other countries? For example, in Norway or France there are more supportive family policies. In Spain and Portugal extended family networks seem to be very helpful in taking care of children.

I must say as a person who is about to start maternity leave in the UK, I feel happy but at the same time quite anxious about the lack of sufficient support for parents.

How does it look in the UK then?

  • for most women (depending on if and where they work)– very low maternity leave pay (around £500 a month) that is given only for 9 months (then you can have 3 months of unpaid maternity leave if you like)
  • only 2 weeks of paternal leave (for fathers)
  • unpaid parental leave (4 weeks a year, max. 18 weeks in total)
  • in many companies unpaid sick leave/careers days
  • no support from government in terms of childcare until the child is 2 years old
  • although the country is regarded as a developed one, in some companies taking sick leave by women during pregnancy is perceived negatively by employers because some believe that (although we assume that we all know that every pregnancy is different) “pregnancy is not a disease” and women should “get on with it!”

To compare it with Poland, mothers there receive:

  • 12 months paid maternity leave
  • 500 zlotych per month per child for parents who have more than 1 child (imagine that you live e.g. in the USA and receive $500 for every child except the first one on a monthly basis and this doesn’t depend on your earnings at all)
  • paid sick leave during pregnancy

Are you a parent or planning to become one? Are you satisfied with the support given by your government in your country?