Embracing The Outdoors To Deal With The Darkness Inside
Resilience, fortitude and strength are the keys that can unlock the doors to true happiness
Traveling is one my greatest passions in life. I have been fortunate to have visited places far and wide, but this is not about travel from one place to another. It’s about how I stumbled upon a set of cultures, ways of living that helped guide me through the long, dark days where I would be suffering with the winter blues.
Britain is famous for many things. The Royal Family, Brexit, and the weather. There’s nothing more exciting than expecting great weather. Then again, I find that living in a country where a great summer’s day is often washed out by a deluge of rain, thunder and lightning or even just grey cloud, it seems more and more important to be thankful for every ray of sunlight that makes its way down through the windows, onto our skin, no matter how short or sudden it may be. Each blue sky definitely has its silver lining.
From the moment I wake up, I leave my bed and open my blind, proceed to the kitchen and main living space to do the same. Light, even if it is not sunlight, is highly beneficial in the morning.
A cup of coffee later and everything seems alright with the world. I have even started to experiment with swapping hot showers to cold ones, raising my own inner strength as the gushing water rapidly turns glacial in the space of a deep gasp for breath.
My workspace used to be my kitchen space, where I get to scribble out most of my business ideas, articles and general day to day tasks. Now, I am back to working in an office but much has not changed. In fact, the change has challenged me to keep true to what I believe in.
Podcasts fill the empty air, in between lunch and dinner with a walk thrown in for good measure. And, there is always coffee being made. At times, I cherish the blue skies I see, and sometimes I just wish it would rain for days on end so I could experience it live, rather than through Spotify’s Rain playlist.
But, when I am reminded of when I do want it to rain, or for the clouds to build up there is a specific reason. Having developed an affinity for all things Scandinavian and Nordic my distinct discoveries led me to find words that describe concepts that aim to deal with such changes in life, especially around the weather.
The Danes have hygge, the Finns have sisu. And I have just discovered that the Icelandic have þetta reddast. And yes, that Dansk word? It’s called hyyge. Firstly, how the hell do you pronounce a word like that? Hoo-gah.
From December, London moves from shorter, cold days to longer, warmer ones. In the past, the winter started to become a drain on my soul, with the lack of sunlight and short days starting to impact on my weight, mood and feelings. The clouds started to act as a barrier between me and the positivity of the blue skies.
After Marie Kondo entered my life, and reminded me to keep only the things I truly loved, I went back to Audible in search of more inspiration and enlightenment.
I did not set about trying to find a cure for winter, or for a way to seek adjustment at that point. With a hot coffee in hand, I went to download The Little Book of Hygge, by Meik Wiking. I could not wait to push the headphones into my ears, and start this new audio journey.
The media was abuzz with words flying around at that time, for lifestyles that advocated for how some nations essentially deal with life. I was having to cope with darkness — outside, and inside.
Yet, I started to learn about this country of around 6m people, and how their acceptance of the life that nature and time had bestowed upon them made them look inwards, so that they could develop the antidote to the darkness outside, which in-directly gave them the light inside.
The hype around hygge in particular was of interest, as it also brought to my attention that Denmark was constantly ranked the happiest nation in the world.
Condensing a whole nation and their values into a few chapters that spanned just a little over 3 hours, I listened to Meik, the CEO at the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen as he narrated away the reasons why the Danes were happier than most.
The truth was, they created happiness out of the situation they were presented with — rain (yes, plenty of it) hibernation and darkness (Denmark has some of the harshest winters around).
The average Dane pays around 45% in income taxes, however the realisation is they are actively investing in their own quality of life. Their way of life promotes flexibility but provides security, and what I found was this is true of most of the Scandinavian and Nordic countries.
Most of what Meik said was very valid, as his narration was infused with humor and his own life. It was amazing to learn that over time a nation and its people had built a way of life to cushion them from things that they could not control.
They had relinquished control but had taken in back in a positive, meaningful way that truly worked for them.
Funnily enough, I also found out that some of the shortest days in the world can be found in cities such as Reykjavik, Helsinki, Oslo, Tallinn and Stockholm. I can vividly remember seeing the setting sun and the rising moon in the same time in Helsinki, as I took a trip down a lake.
I started to separate the ideology from the practicalities of what I had learnt — and apply the latter parts that I could to my life. These were aspects such as being mindful and prepared for darkness, how to use and transform the home space so that it could bring the mind the relief that sunlight could.
I could not change the weather around me, but I could start to make some sense of what I was trying to seek in trying to be someone from another culture.
Scandinavia has exported some of the most interesting things to date: IKEA, ABBA, SAAB, VOLVO, cinnamon buns, but everything that they have has a purpose in life. It helps them deal with life.
Whilst IKEA is there to ensure that low-cost and high-quality go hand in hand, whilst being the world’s leaders in coffee consumption helps us understand something along the lines of the following:
- They cherish the small things, and practice gratitude
- They believe in quality and not quantity
- They believe in human connection
- They respect nature and incorporate it into their lives
Do not be afraid to take inspiration from everywhere. Learning to take inspiration from all cultures is a powerful thing, as they might remind you of the small things you tend to overlook.
We are all free to form our own opinions and develop our own cultures. That then, becomes uniquely yours. You then become uniquely you. It is all in the application of what you have learnt. I did not have to eat or think like a Dane to realise that.
As the clouds begin to break, my heart raced. The shades of blue appearing in the clouds look like hope that is breaking through the despair called clouds.
One thing I found the Scandinavians did a lot of, was drink a lot of coffee. The Finns drink 12kg per capita. In the US, it is around 4.4kg.
That is one habit that I am not giving up, any time soon.