Thursday, November 16, 2017

Practice Hygge this Winter

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Are you like me, staring out the window at a grey day wondering where summer went? It's hard to stay upbeat when the weather is dreary and the days are short, but I was inspired by something I was reading the other day. Since 2012, a happiness survey has been conducted to figure out where the happiest countries in the world are and what they're doing right (Spoiler alert: none of the happiest countries are tropical paradises). 

Denmark, home of seventeen hours of darkness in the winter, is consistently one of the happiest countries in the world. They were just knocked out of the top spot this year by Norway. Entire books have been written about the dynamics of happiest countries, so this isn't where I will explore my hypotheses about why, but a gem from Denmark is their practice of Hygge the concept of which sort of translates into candlelit coziness and well being.



This winter Mr. Awesome & I have some ideas of how you can bring some Hygge (pronounced Hue-gah) and some happiness into cold, dark winter days:
1) Plan a game night with your family or friends
2) Read by the fire (or space heater)
3) Eat dinner by candlelight
4) Learn a great indoor hobby, like knitting
5) Make your inside space cozy and comfortable by decluttering and surrounding yourself with things that bring you joy
6) Light a candle on your desk while you work
7) Do yoga by candlelight
8) Practice self-massage
9) Run a bath
10) Bake something! There's nothing cozier than the rhythmic processes of baking, the warmth coming from the stove, the smells filling the air, and then indulging in something warm from the oven
11) Share your baked goods with a neighbor
12) Brew a cuppa
13) Tackle a puzzle 
14) Write a letter - to yourself, someone you admire, someone who might be alone this winter
15) Create a pretty landscape to look at out the window - white lights in a single tree, gnomes peeking out of the snow, a snowman, pine boughs on your window ledge, something that will make you smile to see
16) Host an activity - potluck, make holiday decorations, movie night, etc.

How do you practice Hygge? We'd love to hear your thoughts below. 



Sunday, November 5, 2017

Guys, we need friends... real friends... or it might kill us

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     Men are horrible about keeping and maintaining friendships. Okay... full disclosure, I'm horrible about keeping and maintaining friendships. When I was a kid, I had tons of friends and got along with just about everyone. In high school I got along with the preps and the jocks, the burnouts and the nerds, just about everyone. The years have gone by and Mrs. Awesome and I have moved from place to place we've had so many incredible experiences and met so many amazing people and made some good friends along the way. 


     But as I've grown older, I've realized I've tended to distance myself from those old friends and from making new ones. I keep in touch, largely thanks to social media with a few of the guys who knew me "back in the day," one of my closest friends I've known since the second grade. I don't truly know how it happens, but I think as we find our paths, our families and our careers, substantial friendships seem to falter. I think back to when I kid and right up through my teens- and the friends I had I could talk to about what was going on and what I was going through. Whether it was school, or girls, my parents, whatever- there was always a friend I could talk to. But at some point we change, become more reserved, less willing to talk about anything with our friends, less open to the challenges and struggles in our lives and less willing or perhaps able to spend time to build, grow and nurture those friendships.

     A friend of mine and I would regularly say, 'we can go years without talking and within a few minutes of getting caught up it's like no time has past.' I used to think that was a good thing, now I'm reconsidering, thanks to Mrs. Awesome. Trying to make some sense of what might have driven a wealthy, successful man to barricade himself in a high-rise hotel room and open fire into a crowd of concert-goers she read me an article on loneliness in middle aged men and the psychological and physical toll studies are showing it takes. Now, please, don't for a moment think I'm suggesting this is what fueled his attack on these innocents. I'm simply saying it got me thinking.

     There have been numerous studies conducted John Cacioppo, co-author of the book "Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection," told TODAY. Mortality risk can be increase by 26 percent due to regular feelings of loneliness according to a meta-analysis of studies. Additionally, loneliness has been linked with cardiovascular disease, the progression of Alzheimer's disease, and increased chance of stroke according to Dr. Richard Schwartz, co-author of "The Lonely American: Drifting Apart in the Twenty-First Century." 

     So what's a guy to do? Cacioppo offers a few suggestions. First, we have to extend ourselves. That means making the effort. Hitting "Like" on Facebook isn't enough- put the devices away and make real connections with your friends. Make plans to do things together, share experiences and make memories. We're all busy, and Schwartz suggests building in regularity- scheduling time regularly is one of the best ways for men to build and keep friendships. Secondly, back to Cacioppo, seek out others with similar interests. Whether that's through websites like meetup.com or local clubs and organizations, we're more likely to build friendships. And lastly, Cacioppo recommends that we find friends who want to spend time with us for reasons beyond material benefit. Finding people who want to hang out with us because they want to be friends- and don't expect anything in return.

     So there you have it guys, it's in our best interest to get out there and start making some memories. I was fortunate enough to be invited to join a friend and his family in the mountains for the annual elk hunt this year. It was an absolutely great time and it was fantastic to spend a couple weekends sharing the experience, and even though I didn't get an elk this year, we're already talking about next year's hunt and getting together plenty of times before then.