The Science Behind Happiness
The saying goes “laughter is the best medicine,” sure has made a statement for many. This is because health and happiness is thought to be deeply linked together. Unhappiness, depression, anxiety, and stress, for example, can contribute to poorer health outcomes. These negative states, if chronic, can dampen immunity and increase inflammation in the body leading to a multitude of diseases and conditions. Therefore, the opposite is true for happiness and a healthier you – the happier you are, the healthier you will be. For me, this was a no-brainer. I always understood that happiness can prolong our lives, but I needed some help on a day to day basis, especially while recovering from trauma/grief. This is where the concept of “hygge” comes in. How can hygge help your health and happiness?
When I began my journey of healing and writing my memoir, Just Be – I knew that in order for me to continue taking each step forward, I had to learn to pause. We all see the advice to “pause and be still” plastered all over social media over and over and while it is a wonderful quote, it is hard to do. Very hard. As a writer, with goals to move into happy, contemporary romance novels, I knew that happiness was not just for my well being and something I deserved, but as an emerging novelist – I knew I needed to have this as my foundation to draw up storylines and characters.
As I struggled through my anxiety and my past, being still became harder and harder. I didn’t know what to do when I slowed down and took quiet time for myself. Meditating used to be a chore, something I dreaded and now it is what I look forward to most in my days because it centers my mind and soul.
How Hygge Can Help
So, what can help achieve this while pausing and being still – whether it is while meditating alone or with friends/family?
Hygge! What is hygge? (Pronounced “hoo-ga”) is a Danish philosophy and known as a pleasant and highly valued everyday experience of safety, equality, personal wholeness, and a spontaneous social flow. To practice hygge, it is not just about being present, but rather recognizing it and enjoying every element of that moment. Whether you are at home and cozy on the couch or out to dinner with friends – if you are feeling warmth and connection within, that is hygge.
Hygge can really help draw up some inner feelings of contentment, positivity and happiness because it is not about how fancy your home is or how expensive the restaurant is, but rather the simplicity of the atmosphere or moment. This is what keeps the feeling of coziness and safety. If you are with someone, conversations are kept light and turned off from the trying times outside of your home.
The concept of Hygge became the cornerstone for not just my healing journey, but also my way of life.
I realized that each day will bring highs and lows and stop reaching for perfection and settle with pockets of joy instead – and during these moments, really focusing on the moment and truly learning to just be.
Today, when I look back on my toughest days, it’s those moments that I still remember versus the struggle – those feelings of safety like a hug from my husband or children, lighting a candle with a soothing scent when anxiety is high, a warm bath with lowlights to relax my body.
Every time I create hygge, I make sure to pause and really see what is around me and use my senses to remember through sight, sounds, smell or touch. But mostly to give thanks for home and for the ability to create a space for happiness.
There truly is no place like it and I realize how easily it can be lost as so many have lost health, jobs and homes today. Appreciating the space you live in, no matter how big or small, creates another aspect of hygge….a heart of gratitude that inspires hope.
Three Tips to Start Practicing Hygge:
- Realizing there is an end to everything in life: People come and go, relationships have highs and lows, careers change – so therefore, no matter what you are experiencing, whether it is good or bad – always remember, there is an endpoint. The experience will pass and all of the parts in between (people, jobs, etc) will change with it. When you really put this in the forefront of your mind, it can really help you to pause more and enjoy the present moments that do make you happy. It helps you to unplug from what is outside your sanctuary, a.k.a your home and focus on what or who is in front of you.
- You DON’T need to change your perspective. A lot of well meaning therapists will tell you to try and change your perspective because things can always be worse! While that may be true, it can also be better. So, why bother worrying about it and be in your present moment reality? Next time you are curled up on the couch, sipping your favorite beverage or having a meal with loved ones – don’t talk or think about what could be better…just appreciate what already is.
- Never underestimate the power of a quick nap. A nap? Yes, a nap. If you work in an office, find ten mins to put your head down or take time in your car to close your eyes during lunch. If you are at home, find ten mins to do the same. When we recharge, especially before we are meeting someone or trying to be more present in our day…exhaustion can block all of that!