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!

Kaizen – how to dramatically improve your life?

We know that changing habits such as getting up earlier, stopping smoking or implementing daily meditation or exercising routines is POSSIBLE (but surely not easy). We also know that it takes on average 61 days to change a habit. This is only an average, though, because it can actually vary from 18 to 254 days(!) depending on the individual. Many people get frustrated if they can’t get used to new habits quickly and then give up on them.

The Kaizen approach is used in companies such as Toyota and Ford but can also be applied in personal life.

So, what is it exactly?

It is often called a Japanese technique for improving the quality of life and work; however, as a matter of fact, the theory was created and first used in the USA. The main point of it is to make small changes. You can make little improvements in ANY area of your life.

Trying to take big ambitious steps to improve our lives may be a good idea sometimes but, according to science, most people don’t really know how to stick to their goals in the long-term. Many of us tend to get easily discouraged, change plans and give up on aims when we meet too many obstacles.

If you want to achieve something, try to focus on breaking the goal up into lots of little steps, for example:

  • If you want to start to exercise, why not do 1-2minutes of exercise today, and then add an additional minute every day instead of signing up for a gym and paying upfront to a fitness coach for a few hours of intensive training?
  • If you want to read more daily, set up a low target and add to it a page a day or every other day until you reach your upper target. One page doesn’t take much to read so this small change shouldn’t require too much effort, even if you are busy.

What’s interesting is that the Kaizen technique doesn’t have an end point, last step or final target. It is a continuous development and improvement of ourselves and our lives. For example, if you want to read 30 pages a day and, after making some small changes, you finally reach your goal, after let’s say a few weeks, then this process or aim doesn’t need to end right there. The next step in your personal development in this area could be learning how to do speed reading. The next steps all depend on our needs and ideas.

The Kaizen approach was first used in industries in the depression era in the USA because making greater improvements simply wasn’t an option. The Americans started to look at how little changes in various areas and departments could be made, and realised that, although they took small steps, they eventually added up and had a bigger impact in terms of bettering their businesses. So, they looked at how to make improvements in money, time, material waste, resources and policies.

William Edward Deming (an American engineer, professor and management consultant; 1900- 1993) is believed to be the Father of the Kaizen approach. He was known for introducing and teaching this method.

The result of implementing Kaizen wasn’t just bigger productivity. It also eliminated hard work and taught everyone in an organisation how they could constantly improve themselves and the things around them; and how the work they were doing could be more rewarding.

It was a very successful strategy and after the Second World War, when the Japanese needed help in maintaining their factories and industries, a group of American business advisors was sent to Japan to teach the Japanese how to make improvements there.

The Japanese gave a name to the approach: KAIZEN where KAI means GOOD in Japanese and ZEN means CHANGE. So, KAIZEN literally means good change, but more generally it is understood as a CONTINUING IMPROVEMENT. The Japanese expanded the theory further making it somewhat into an art of living and working.

Sometimes the simplest solutions are the best, aren’t they? Small changes are more manageable than huge steps, and although they may seem tiny and meaningless at first, they do add up and lead to great improvements.

If you want to try Kaizen in your private life or at work, look at an area (or areas) which you’d like to improve and think what could be the SMALLEST possible change that you could make to create a little difference, especially if done consistently and expanded further step by step in the future.

Kaizen can be applied to various bad habits, for instance, you can decide to waste a little less time watching TV or on social media every day until you reach a goal that you feel happy with.

Are you going to try to implement this approach in your life?

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!

THE THREE BIGGEST PRODUCTIVITY MYTHS – Time management 2/3

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THE TIME-MANAGEMENT MYTH

Time can’t be managed, bent, given, multiplied and modified in any way. So don’t try to fight with time and treat it as your enemy! Perceiving time more positively will help you to be calmer and happier with your life. You can’t manage time but you still can do a lot in order to improve your productivity.

  • You can manage your energy levels by exercising, sleeping better, drinking more water and eating well.
  • You can choose to limit distractions by turning your phone off or onto airplane mode or by getting up earlier and doing some meaningful work before everyone else will have a chance to bombard you with questions and queries.
  • You can manage your attention better by doing something to improve your focus. I’d recommend green tea, fresh air (open windows for a while) and practising mindfulness.
  • You can say no to invitations, meetings and some people sometimes. It seems very difficult but remember that you can’t allow others to decide how you should live your life.
  • You can manage your tasks and decide to, for example, check emails less often.
  • You can devote some time to planning and reviewing your goals and analyse the progress to become better every week.

Don’t look at the passing hours and minutes. Focus on what’s important, plan your steps and take actions. One of the most important things is to have a flexible approach. You may need to change your plans, your techniques and methods but you don’t need to give up or change your goals. Challenges are good for us – they help us grow. Be open, positive and flexible.

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What discourages (instead of motivating) us in the field of personal development?

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We know that one of the problems is of course our time usage. I don’t like to use the phrase ‘time management’. Time management used to be SO important for around a decade or so, and yet it’s vital to realise that THIS IS MORE crucial in terms of physical work (especially for example with targets in a factory) but in most jobs, such as admin or management, time isn’t as important as other aspects, such as:

  • being innovative
  • having creative ideas
  • managing stress
  • team building
  • or having great interpersonal/presentation skills

I think the term ‘self-help’ books is quite damaging as well because it seems like there is something wrong with people who read about goal setting, productivity and well-being and they NEED HELP! They need improvements in their life, like everyone does in some areas, but it sounds like they have some diseases, maybe mental health problems, and need help with this. What’s more, it suggests that the problems may be so sensitive and embarrassing that people don’t want to speak to their doctors about it and they prefer to help themselves on their own… SELF- help books… Who created such an unsuitable name tag for these great titles about personal growth, strength and motivation?! I’m glad that this has changed and publishers have started to refer to this section rather as ‘self-development’ now.

Similarly, I believe that we should find a new name for life coaches! What a discouraging wording! I think it suggests they can teach you… how to live your own life properly! So they basically seem to know everything about “how to live a happy life” and can teach everyone the same or similar techniques no matter where they come from, what situation they are in, or what they problems are. It’s like measuring everyone with the same scale.

Many people have started to make big money out of this business and unfortunately there are some so-called ‘gurus’ out there who learn all the secrets of a fulfilling, healthy and happy life on a short online course and then they are certified and ready to tell you how you should work, bring up your children, achieve your goals and build your relationships.

I was really put off by the term life coach for a long time. It sounded like people trying to get rich at the expense of whoever would be willing to pay to get advice from such modern fortune-tellers. “The concept of ‘life coaching’ barely existed 30 years ago. But by 2012, it was a $707 million business in the U.S., according to the most recent figures from the International Coach Federation (ICF).” (read more here).

It sounded like a scam and deceiving people. However, if I’m against something I like to know what it really is. How can I be against life coaches if I haven’t watched a few videos and read some books about them and written by them? I thought they were people who pretend to be psychologists. While getting familiar with the topic I’ve realised that some so-called life coaches are actually great and charismatic people who make some thought-provoking and interesting speeches. I have a few favourite ones now. I don’t treat them as my ‘gurus’ and specialists about everything but it’s motivational to listen to some of their speeches or read some books.

So, yes, it looks like the name is quite unfortunate and may put many people off rather than encourage them to learn something from, for instance, good and experienced productivity and time-management experts.

I’d recommend we dig deeper to see whether we like someone and their opinions rather than focusing on the name that may not always be chosen accurately and wisely…

How to stay more productive? And why time-management isn’t the right answer.

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Nowadays we receive 5 times more information on a daily basis than just a few decades ago. We are expected to juggle many different roles and responsibilities and we constantly feel that we should be more productive.

There is a bit of a paradox here that people believe in. We feel we should work more and faster in order to be more productive. If you are a factory worker that’s probably the case but in most other jobs in order to be more productive we need to SLOW DOWN!

When did time start to matter to people SO MUCH? I find history quite fascinating so let’s just go through a few interesting facts:

  • In 1275, the first mechanical clock was invented in England. The oldest working clocks usually did not have any face and told the time by striking the hours.
  • Pocket watches started to be produced in the 16thcentury but showed only hours. Minute hands were added to the clocks in the 1680s. Then the second hands were added around 10 years later.
  • Mass production of watches started in the 19th century and was related to industrial changes.
  • The first wrist watches were wore by women and often used rather as a piece of jewellery than a device to measure time.

Apparently before people used watches If they wanted to tell how long something may take they would describe it by giving an example of an activity that was well known e.g. “like eating a banana”, so then everyone knew that they meant a very short period of time.

Time management used to be crucial in the industrial economy but nowadays, in the knowledge economy (when we use our knowledge to create values and products), it is ONLY ONE OUT OF A FEW important factors which can improve our effectiveness, productivity and work-life balance.

Actually managing your energy and tasks is a lot more important than time-management. Instead of worrying about passing hours and days and how we can squeeze more tasks into small blocks of time, we need to divert attention into more significant aspects, more innovative techniques and solutions which can help in achieving optimal productivity.

We feel most productive when we do a lot of things and work longer hours. Many people think then that to accomplish more you need to put more effort in, sleep fewer hours and work additionally at weekends, to be always ahead of competition! There is a bit of truth in it. Nothing that’s great comes easily and if you want to have exceptional results you need to put a lot of work and energy into whatever you are doing – writing a book, working on your business plan or creating a project for your university course or work. However, working more hours won’t make you more productive. Studies found that we should work, ideally, 35-40 hours a week in order to achieve the best results. Working more than that may work for very short periods of time—for example, a few days—but in the long-term working a lot will make you exhausted and depressed and you are at high risk of burnout. To be more productive focus on slowing down MORE!

Remember about regular breaks and getting 7-8 hours of sleep everyday as well. We all seem to know these simple rules but they are neglected by SO many of us!

Time usage is vital in our lives (that’s why we all keep looking at watches, and the most popular word in the English language is…time!) so I don’t want to say that this is not important but there seem to be other more crucial factors which can decide how effective, productive and successful we are. Focus on managing your energy levels and attention and consider how you can avoid distractions. Also, focusing on the right tasks seems a straightforward rule but is often neglected by many people who instead of spending some time on reflection, prioritising, planning and reviewing try to do more tasks and take work home.

What do you do to boost your productivity?