Finding happiness in your everyday life
We have reached the time of year when the world flips a page and enters the season of autumn. Bloggers are busy snapping away the latest autumnal displays in trendy cafes, while savoring scrumptious pecan tarts. Pinterest boards are inundated with glorious images of rustling red and golden leaves, pumpkins, and mugs of hot chocolate. Applying my newly acquired knack for pursuing my curiosity, I eventually learned that this snug mood has the delightful Danish term “hygge” — and, surprise, surprise, there are hundreds of books on it too.
The word hygge can be loosely translated as “coziness of the soul” or “the art of creating intimacy.” It is a feeling one can experience in the everyday, whether you are at home enjoying a cup of tea, having intimate conversations with family and friends, or journaling how grateful you are for everything beautiful in your life.
“The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well” is a blissful read. It is littered with heartwarming photographs that stimulate your thoughts and is full of easy, practical and research-backed advice on how to live well. Its author, Meik Wiking, is the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen — a think tank that researches well-being and happiness across the globe. Denmark has been among the happiest nations in the world for several years and this book came at a timely moment when I was intrigued about the reasons for Denmark’s success. Hygge, it seems, is one of the reasons the Danes are really happy compared to the rest of the world.
After experimenting with the hygge manifesto, I decided to excavate what other well-being researchers are proposing to live a happier life. Research by the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania assures us that engaging in behaviors and experiences that promote happiness will result in us enjoying better relationships, better physical and emotional health, a stronger immune system, better performance at work, lower levels of burnout, and enable us to achieve our goals. This journey of self-discovery unraveled so many insightful tips that it is imperative to share them.
Let’s start with the longest study on happiness, which lasted more than 75 years. In his popular TED talk, Harvard psychiatrist Robert J. Waldinger states that the Grant Study found that “people who are more socially connected to family, to friends, to community, are happier. They’re physically healthier and they live longer than people who are less well connected.” In fact, people with happy childhoods and those who enjoy close relationships with parents and siblings are more likely to have warmer, more secure relationships as they grow older, in addition to enjoying better physical health all the way into old age. That said, we can foster strong connections with our loved ones in myriad ways, such as by hosting a weekly family lunch, getting together with friends at a local cafe, organizing a book club, having theme-based play dates with friends’ children, watching a popular TV show together, or going on a yearly holiday together. By being attentive, we are able to create beautiful memories and shower our loved ones with kindness.
When we know what is working in our lives, we are able to capitalize on those aspects and build bigger, grander dreams.
Being kind is another way to increase your happiness levels. Each day, engage in conscious acts of kindness to others, such as gifting an inspirational book, teaching someone a useful skill, volunteering at an orphanage, paying for a child’s school tuition, donating to a wildlife cause, or cooking a meal for an elderly person. The gratification is almost instantaneous.
It is easy to get used to all the goodness in our lives. And that is why it is important to practice gratitude by spending five minutes each day journaling thoughtfully about the people, situations, things or moments that made us grateful that day. It could be that lovely tea with friends, a fantastic day at the office, a playful afternoon with kids, or even sitting at home listening to moving music. This makes us mindful of what captures our fancy, and so we tend to repeat those positive experiences more frequently. Furthermore, when we know what is working in our lives, we are able to capitalize on those aspects and build bigger, grander dreams.
Crafting memorable moments is another way to look at our lives with pride and joy. Indeed, such experiences bring us closer to our authentic selves, connect us to the right tribes, and allow us to savor our stories for years on end. Wiking recently published another book, “The Art of Making Memories,” in which he encourages readers to say yes to first-time experiences, revel in experiences with all their senses, go for moments that are full of storytelling potential, and celebrate meaningful moments. Amusingly, the acknowledgements section of the book is a tribute to the experiences he has amassed over the years; from stargazing and skiing to hiking up Mount Fuji, horseback riding, and celebrating a birthday in Paris. Indeed, life is made up of many beautiful moments stitched together.
As you can see, happiness can easily be attained in your everyday life. You just need to be mindful of its intricacies and then feel and behave in ways to experience it in abundance.
- Sara Al-Mulla is an Emirati civil servant with an interest in human development policy and children’s literature.