This time of year is always tough. Most of us are still worn out from the excesses of Christmas and our New Year’s resolutions to cut out bad habits, diet to within an inch of our lives and completely fix all the things we’re reminded are broken about our lifestyles have faded to dust.
The pressure to do so comes from all angles, social media is awash with trends, tips and travelling influencers, as well as all the adverts on TV promising help towards a better you, but just maybe, in this all-consuming digital age, the answer to life’s pressures is actually right in front of you and far simpler than you could imagine.
There are many little changes you can make, we’re calling them happiness hacks, whether it’s being more mindful and focussing on the here and now, or just switching off from the impending doom you’ve created in your chaotic mind. So switch off, take a deep breath and concentrate on enjoying some of life’s simple pleasures.
The Danish word Hygge (pronounced “hoo-ga”) derives from an Old Norse term meaning ‘mind’ or ‘embrace’. In less literal terms Hygge is a Danish lifestyle movement that focuses on comfort and contentment and is the perfect antidote to your winter blues. In reality, this a concept that in essence is not unfamiliar to most living particularly in colder winter climes. So think soft, warm blankets, hot cocoa by a roaring fireplace and you get the idea. Research in Denmark has shown Hygge can be integral to people’s sense of well-being, acting as a buffer against stress. Which can only be a good thing.
The Centre of Excellence run courses so you can get your own diploma in Hygge. Check them out HERE.
Over in Sweden however, and proving that the Scandinavians are pros when it comes to self-care and mindfulness, is the philosophy known as Lagom. The easiest way to describe this word is in Goldilocks terms, meaning not too little, not too much, but just right. It’s an ethos that permeates Swedish lives, whether it be the decor in their homes, the work they take on, even the food they eat. The focus is firmly on balance, so just the right amount of everything rather than extremes one way or another on the scale of things.
Probably the most appealing of all these continental concepts, and certainly the most recent to come to light is the Dutch method of Niksen, which essentially requires you to ‘do nothing’ or simply ‘stop’. Switching off and allowing yourself to simply do nothing or very little at the most, from staring out of a window sitting in silence. Basically any aimless task that sets out with the ultimate goal to not be productive.
In Japan, the art of shinrin yoku or forest bathing as we understand it in the west has long been eulogised for its mystical powers, but in simple terms, harnessing the therapeutic powers of nature results in reduced stress levels, while boosting your immune system, and possibly just as significantly, an appreciation of nature and the importance of maintaining our treasured green spaces and countryside environments.
The National Trust has put together a handy guide to forest bathing in the UK. Read it HERE.
Another nation, consistently on the list of happiest places to live in, is Norway, and unsurprisingly they also have a philosophy that encourages downtime and a connection to nature. Friluftsliv (free-loofts-liv) which means ‘open-air living’ was popularised in the 1850s by Norwegian playwright, Henrik Ibsen, who used the term to describe the value of spending time in remote locations for spiritual and physical wellbeing. Of course in the UK we are blessed with numerous green spaces and the endless forests, coastlines, clifftops, hills, national parks, dales and downs, yet we seem to have somehow forgotten that – given we’re such a small island – you’re never, yes never, far away from the great outdoors. Make an effort to get out there.
Waking up early is the key to making the most of your time. Even if you merely use the extra time in your day, to stare out of the window, like the Dutch, or indeed, read a book. There’s plenty of benefits to doing so, from the better concentration rising early gives us (mainly from having more time to properly acclimate yourself to the day) to being much more productive, with science proving brains are most alert in the morning. So get to bed at a reasonable hour, set that alarm clock an hour or so early and see what it does for your life.
CBD is big business and while knowledge of the long term benefits is limited for the moment, there’s a huge amount of research that suggests the positive impact it can have on your overall health, most importantly on stress and anxiety-related illnesses. Taking a daily dose of CBD oil, for example, may help to preempt the onset of stress, heading it off at the pass so to speak. CBD is said to help counter anxiety and stress by stimulating neurotransmitter systems and aiding neural regeneration. People have also seen positive benefits when it comes to reducing the symptoms of chronic pain, with new therapeutic uses for this natural remedy being discovered all the time.
Meditation might be old news, in fact, having been practiced in Taoist China and Buddhist India since as early as the 5th century BCE, there must be something to it, as they say. People don’t really know how to react to the bombardment of the modern world. This is something that has snuck up on us as a species. People are addicted to their phones, in fact, screens in general. Learning to switch off can be difficult and for some, it feels impossible, but we must find ways to be present in the moment.
Mindful running is the combination of aerobic exercise and the practice of mindfulness to bring out the best in the health benefits of both pursuits. It’s essentially putting goals and targets to one side and looking at self-awareness. It takes running techniques, such as stride length, postural alignment and breathing, and focuses on boosting awareness of the body’s feedback. So no music playing on your earbuds, and no Fitbits tracking your every move, just being present in the moment as you pound that pavement.
RUN:ZEN put on events and workshops around mindful running all across the UK. Check them out HERE.
Finally, why not take a Digital Detox?
We know how obsessed the majority of us are with our devices, so it could be beneficial to us all to have a sustained break from screen time. Think of it as a Dry January for everything digital that surrounds you. If you spend a day ticking off every time you check your phone, you’ll quickly realise why it might be time to apply a less is more strategy here. One good way might be to set yourself an allotted time allowance and stick firmly to it. Technology can significantly increase stress levels, so more time away could be massively beneficial to our health and wellbeing. As happiness hacks go, it might be wise to take this one on board.
Click the banner to share on Facebook