Hygge – the Art of Coziness in Winter and Beyond


Time to Hygge

Baby, it’s COLD outside!  It’s time to hygge!

You have probably heard the word “hygge” or seen Pinterest photos related to it. The Cambridge Dictionary defines it as “a Danish word for a quality of coziness (= feeling warm, comfortable, and safe) that comes from doing simple things such as lighting candles, baking, or spending time at home with your family.” The practice originated and thrives in Denmark, and other Scandinavian countries as well. The Danes believe in simplifying your life in order to bring in more positivity, comfort and contentment – and it is effective. Denmark regularly comes out as #1 in the World Happiness Report.

Hygge is all about being cozy, warm, comfortable, positive, and happy. You spend more time with family and friends. You forget the notions of material possessions and simplify your life. You spend more time in front of the fire while snuggling under a warm blanket.

This and so much more is what hygge represents. This brief video from Denmark provides a window into what it means and how it is lived there:  Hygge

Some basic elements of Hygge include creating a relaxed atmosphere, encouraging more family time, and inviting friends over for non-electronic activities. This is easily done by having lots of blankets and pillows where you spend relaxing time, adding candles and essential oils for flickering light and pleasant aromas, having great books laying around, playing relaxing music, utilizing your fireplace if you have one, and indulging in treats – beverages and sweets in particular.

Some may see this as indulgent; the Danes and others recognize it as effective self-care. If you haven’t tried it in an intentional way, this winter is a great time to do so.

If you want to learn more about it from a Dane, here’s a link to the book mentioned in the video, written by a researcher at the Happiness Research Institute:        The Little Book of Hygge

Journaling as a Tool to Create the Life You Want

journal writingYou may love your life overall; you may love parts of it, but one or more parts may be frustrating or unfulfilling or disastrous. Regardless of your situation, journaling can be a powerful tool.

If you love your life overall, journaling about it will allow you to appreciate it even more and have that record for yourself. As you increase your appreciation and gratitude, it radiates out to others to inspire and uplift them. Your journaled words can be something for you to read again in times of stress or unhappiness. They will remind you of what is possible and help you move forward.

If there are parts of your life that just aren’t what you want them to be, consider journaling to assist you in sorting out the issues and options. Journaling draws out things of which you were not even aware. It can be almost magical.
There are a variety of purposes for journaling, and often they mingle together as you write. Here are a few purposes and how they can be of benefit.

Journal for Personal Growth

Often the beginning point of this kind of journaling is to really articulate your situation – what you appreciate and what you struggle with. Getting it out on paper can clarify the muddle that you may be experiencing.
As you lay out those things, you begin to realize what it is you want to be different and in exactly what ways. You are creating a vision for the future and you can take steps toward it.

Journal for Self-Discovery          

Self-discovery is, of course, related to personal growth. As you journal you go beyond the particular issues with which you began and discover more about yourself. This can include going deeper from what you like and don’t like to what priorities and values lie beneath those preferences. It allows you to explore those values and additional ways you can live them out in your life. This can move you in new, exciting directions.

Journal to Gather Ideas and Brainstorm Solutions

Journaling is also a tool to use to gather ideas and put the best into action, and to brainstorm solutions to issues.  Gathering ideas is an ongoing, even daily activity that will pay big benefits. And when you encounter obstacles as you pursue what you want or you’ve faced a significant setback, journaling can provide clarity. Write down possible solutions from different perspectives without prejudging and you will see more possible alternatives. The sorting out is a next step. A simple journal like this can get you started: My Idea Journal   It is free to download and you can make as many copies of the journal pages as you choose.

Journal to Capture Your Life Experiences

An additional type of journaling focuses on capturing and reflecting on your life experiences. This may be a more occasional effort in which particular events, situations or turning points are the basis of your writing. These journals can be precious accounts of your life when you look back in later years.

Journaling can be done in many ways and used for a variety of purposes. Try out some of them and see what you learn about yourself, others, and the world around you.

Remember to check out the free My Idea Journal

Are You Feeling Stuck?

StuckAre you feeling stuck? Do you have intentions and just can’t seem to do what you know you need to do? I suspect most of us have, if we aren’t right now. Somehow the motivation and focus on those tasks isn’t there. At this time of the year, you may be running into this in relation to your new year’s resolutions or plans.

I am facing exactly that. It is easy to get into a downward spiral of feeling badly about myself when I continually fail to do what will lead me in my preferred direction. Some popular advice and counsel would be to exert will power: make myself do what I am not doing. Sometimes that works. Many times, however, it fails to have the desired effect. In fact, it makes it worse. Emma Brooke Gilding in an article entitled “Why Willpower Isn’t the Answer to Your Problems” says:

“I don’t believe in willpower. That sounds like a whole lot of effort and nonsense. Trying to cultivate a power which makes things easier is not easier. It’s harder. What I DO believe in, is the ability of every individual to achieve their goals with the right self-awareness and self-compassion.”

Perhaps your intentions are to let go of something or move onto something new or to heal from something. Or perhaps just leaving behind the disappointments, hurts and failures of the past and start anew. There are specific things you want to do, and yet you are not doing them.

Gilding suggests that means you and I are not ready to let go, move on or heal. Until we get are in touch with what that is about, progress is unlikely. What is holding us back isn’t a lack of willpower or discipline or laziness. It’s unfinished business.
Taking time to unearth what is holding us back may be the first and most important step if you and I are stuck in this way. We can then move forward and access the motivation, energy and focus that we desire.

Go to my earlier post on Looking Back and Moving Forward and scroll down to where you can request a free Year-End Review Journal. In the journal there are questions that will help identify areas for work.

Mindmapping as a Multi-faceted Tool

mind mapAre you a mindmapper? That is, one who uses the technique of mindmapping to help create and organize ideas and information? I sporadically use this tool, coming back around to it after sliding away for a while. I have used it to take notes at conferences, prepare agendas for meetings and then taking meeting notes right on that mindmap, and create visuals of my business.

I recently found an article that explained the technique, demonstrated in a clear and simple way how to use it, and suggested resources. It both inspired me to get back to mindmapping for some current needs and to share it with others because the article makes the technique so clear and useable.

“How to Make a Mindmap” is a WikiHow article, a group creation co-authored by Paul Chernyak. Behind the technique is research about how our minds work, described as ‘radiant thinking’ by researcher and educator Tony Buzan:

When our brains lock onto something – an idea, sound, image, emotion, etc. – that “something” stands at the center of our thinking. Radiating out from it are countless other things, ideas, other images, emotions, etc. that our brains associate with it.

A mind map helps you make connections between and among these different pieces of information and concepts. And, the more connections or associations our brains make to a thing, the more likely we are to remember it.

I am using this article to refresh and improve my knowledge of the technique and then use it to work on my plans for the coming year and to outline some upcoming products.

Check it out and give it a try if you haven’t. I would love to hear what you think and how it works for you!!

Have You Discovered Timeboxing?

timeboxingI have used a variety of time management techniques over the years but somehow had never discovered Timeboxing. The idea behind it – of establishing blocks of time for certain tasks, sections of projects, etc. – certainly isn’t a brand new idea. But I’ve learned that it is ‘a thing’ in a way I had not known.

Perhaps you are like me: the likelihood of me trying a new technique or practice is increased if I know the benefits I may gain ahead of time. I need the ‘sales pitch.’ Thus finding Red Tani’s article, “5 Reasons to Practice Timeboxing” was really helpful.

Here are two of the five reasons; more explanation and the rest of the reasons are in the article:

+ Timeboxing is flexible and customizable – you can be as specific (“Write a 100 word description of my main character.”) or as vague (“Make some progress on my novel.”) as you like. …Timeboxes can also be used for activities other than work. You can timebox chores to turn them into games….(and) timebox unproductive activities.

 

+ Timeboxing lets you flow – …During flow, you focus all your emotional and intellectual capacity on the task at hand, allowing you to achieve your best work.

The only thing you need to use this technique is some kind of timer. It can be on your phone, watch, or computer; there are lots of options for timer software online. It’s much better to set a timer than to be checking your clock to see what time it is. Just work on your task until you hear or see the signal indicating the end of the appointed timeframe.

I’m looking forward to using this technique as I move into the new year. I would love to hear your comments if you already are a Timeboxer (is that a word?)!!

The Best Gift?

gathering
During this part of the year, regardless of what holiday(s) you are celebrating, the chances are good that you will be gathering with people in some context. Perhaps it is with family, friends, or even work colleagues in a different context than normal. You may be traveling and meeting people in airplanes, trains or buses and conversations begin.

Some of us dread or look forward to the conclusion of such encounters – at least with some of the people with whom we will be gathering.
How many times have you been bored with the level of conversation – kids, ailments, complaints, weather – those mundane topics? What did you do? Shrink into a corner with one person with whom you could discuss at least one interesting topic? Volunteer to help in the kitchen or run to get a missing item from the store? Simply walk around, nodding and engaging in very brief exchanges and moving on?

It was intriguing to find Kathryn P. Haydon’s approach in an article which encourages us to facilitate connection with others and poses this question: “What if the best gift we can give is to ask more meaningful questions?”

Kathryn encourages us to start by getting into a curiosity mindset and “think about what ideas, patterns, or topics spark your curiosity and try to connect these to the people you are going to see.” Ask a question about something you know about that person, and then follow-up questions that will deepen the conversation. Her favorite follow-up questions begin with “What might be all the…..”

This kind of conversation helps you connect with individuals and makes them feel that you value and understand them. Isn’t that what we all want? Hopefully, people will ask you questions in return and before you know it, you are really enjoying the gathering you were not so excited about. In addition, there will be more to look forward to the next time you see these people. It’s a win-win.

Tips for Making Resolutions & Planning That Succeed

resolutionsWhether you are a resolution maker or a planner (there is a difference), lots of advice is floating around the internet at this time of year. In fact, I suggested an approach in an earlier post: Would Kaizen Concepts Enhance Your Planning and Goal Achievement?

Melody Wilding on her blog, melodywilding.com offers us some great ideas. First, she gives several reasons why many resolutions made at the beginning of the year fail, and then offers four approaches to integrate into your process that can increase your chances of success. Using those approaches can move your resolutions into the realm of real planning that can move you forward in the areas you choose.

One of her suggestions is to “bulletproof your resolution …. Bolster it against the craziness of daily life.” Check out her post : Why Your New Year’s Resolutions Suck (And How to Create Goals that Actually Work).

 

 

Would Kaizen Concepts Enhance Your Planning and Goal Achievement?


KaizenAt this time of year, most of us are making plans for the coming year at some level. It may be strictly personal – how we want 2019 to be as far as health, relationships, spiritual and self-development, and so on. We may also be planning for our job/career/business. There are a variety of approaches from which to choose. Perhaps you have a way to set goals and plan that has worked for you and you use that basic approach each year. Perhaps you try new angles or tools each year. Or perhaps you combine approaches.

You may be feeling overwhelmed with the options. Many approaches to planning focus on identifying large goals that will stretch you as you work toward their achievement. This has benefits and often great results. I recently read an article that advocates for a different approach.

Melissa Ricker proposes the use of the Japanese technique called Kaizen – a focus on continuous improvement which keeps you moving forward without burning out or becoming discouraged if pursuing the huge goals feels overwhelming. Melissa describes the benefits this way:

Looking for small, continuous improvements means resisting the lure of magic bullet solutions that are destined to fail. It means accepting that small wins are just as important as big wins. It means facing up to challenges rather than shrinking away from them. Kaizen will shift your thought patterns to see opportunities where you once saw problems.

Does that sound appealing to you? I encourage you to explore Kaizen and see if it fits for you as your main approach as you plan for 2019, or if you want to try it in conjunction with something else that works for you.

Planning for continuous improvement can indeed be incorporated into the process of achieving the large goals. If you include those improvement steps into the process, acknowledge and celebrate them as you go along, it can move you along in a profound way.
Kaizen is also a mindset for daily living. If we are always looking for ways to make small improvements in ways we do even the most mundane things, it enhances our everyday experience.

Melissa Ricker’s blog is http://aconsciousrethink.com.

Looking Back and Moving Forward


As one year ends and another begins, we have an opportunity to pause and decide how we want the next twelve months to be different than the past twelve.  Or perhaps this year has been incredible in every way for you and you want to increase the likelihood that this year will be equally good. We don’t always have to make things different; we want to enjoy what we experienced again. Constantly pushing for better, bigger, more flashy can be exhausting and not at all fulfilling.

The year end/year beginning hoopla is artificial at one level, but generations of people have used this time to intentionally decide on directions rather than flow from one month to the next, one year to the next, and one decade to the next. If the past year was not one of your happiest, most productive, most fulfilled, you may be especially thinking about how to turn things in other directions.  In fact, if that is the case, I encourage you to use some of the great ideas and strategies that are being promoted all around us to design your fresh start.

If you had a great year, reflect on what it made it that way and how to sustain or even boost the reality to another level.

For many of us, we are completing neither a particularly challenging year nor a spectacular year.  It was somewhere in between. Depending on your attitude and aspirations, you may either continue along the same paths or decide you want to change some things that will boost your overall experience.

Often a tool or strategy can get us going on a process that we have thought about but not really begun. A Year-End Review Journal is one of those tools.  Print it out and set aside some time – one extended period, or spread out over a few days – to respond to the questions that will help you reflect on the past twelve months.  The questions help you to think beyond the obvious events or high/lowlights to some meanings and what was significant. These will move you toward setting some priorities, parameters, intentions and plans for the coming year.

Please provide your name and email address in the box above so you can get this digital download and start the process. I hope you enjoy it and find it beneficial!!

Relocation as a Transformational Experience

RelocationHow many times have you moved in your adult life? There is a roughly 50-50 chance that if you are middle aged or above, you do not live in the state in which you were born. Slightly more than one half of the population between 25 and 55 were born in their current state of residence. (Source: 2010 American Community Survey, U.S. Census Bureau) Have you thought of relocation as a transformational experience? One that you can maximize in its positive effect in your life?

There are many reasons that people relocate to different states and parts of the country: a job transfer, military assignment, a more desirable location to raise a family, etc. As we get into our fifties and beyond, more and more moves are to be near children, grandchildren, or parents. Or perhaps you would like to be in a more pleasing climate or just to have a major change of setting.

In this process, we all bring with us mindsets, lenses and attitudes toward our new locations – which greatly affect our experiences. If you move from city to suburbs, city to country, suburb to city – whatever the type of community – there are differences that we anticipate and things that may surprise us. If the move is to a different state, even to another part of the country, there can be cultural differences of various kinds, political climate changes and more.

When we relocate, we have the opportunity to allow and invite the experience to widen our perspectives and our future in profound ways. It may even transform us in ways we could not have anticipated.

The key to maximizing the positive effect of this experience is to approach the move with a sense of adventure and discovery. Although we may have chosen our new location with certain criteria in mind (climate, proximity to family, return to where we lived as a child, etc.), there are always aspects of the location that we will only discover once we are there. There will be a tension between creating a new comfort zone and being intentionally open to the nuances of the rhythm, norms, expectations and history of the new area.

At first, you will focus on getting a grasp of geography, transportation options, locations of stores, etc. to reestablish daily routines. Beyond that, I have experienced a unique time in the first months and years in a new location when I am most open to discovery and intentionally seek to understand the area in which I am. This is a time before everything becomes the new routine, the new normal – when it is so easy to go into autopilot.

If you are a photographer as I am, this is a prime time to take photos of things and places that are new, which often raises questions I want to explore. For example, early in my time in Nashville, I visited the oldest cemetery in the city where the moss and algae-covered old tombstones revealed peaks into the history of slavery and other unique parts of Nashville’s history. This ignited my curiosity and stimulated other visits, reading, and reflection on the history of the south and what it means today. As time went on, I became aware of how this area played a unique part in the civil rights era of the 1950s and 1960s. All of that profoundly affected my understanding of our history, since I had previously only lived in the north. It also provided insight into how that affects current attitudes and politics.

I have found that as a “new” person with a sense of exploration, I have discovered things that people who have lived in a location longer are not aware of. It is so easy to settle into a small geographic area and create a cocoon of sorts that we lose the opportunity to continually be stretched and challenged to grow. If you are considering or have recently relocated, try adopting this attitude and outlook.

You can get some of the benefits of relocation, and have some fun too, by pretending you are new in your location and look at things from that standpoint. Many of us have experienced a bit of this when we have out of town guests and are showing them around. We become aware of activities and places that we don’t ordinarily enjoy. Be intentional about exploring and reflecting on things that will broaden your thinking and ignite your curiosity to learn more or get involved.  An even simpler step is to do more walking or biking if you ordinarily drive a car most places. Slowing down your pace and intentionally paying attention can be illuminating.

By intentionally focusing on discovery and reflection, we can broaden our own understandings of history and our own place in it as well as what that means for what is happening today and in the future. It may inspire us to embark on formal or informal study on something we have discovered and explored. It may move us to get involved in an activity or cause. It may cause us to make different choices about specifically where we live and the groups and organizations with whom we affiliate. It can transform our experiences, outlook and indeed our future.