Leaves are turning, and falling. Temperatures are dropping. The sun and moon have shifted to different paths. We are entering my favorite time of year… autumn and the subsequent year-end season.
I love spring, with the pastels and flowers and all the fresh newness. I loath summer, with the soaring heat and tempers. I live for autumn and the cooler winter months. For me, a time to pause, breathe deep, take stock and settle in.
First, I congratulate myself. I survived another intense summer season. Oh boy! Cheers! Chocolate! Now I can stop looking forward to fall, and just enjoy it. I wish September and October would crawl by at a snail’s pace. Instead, it seems to me they fly by like a hawk on the hunt. Swift, gone in a blur, with only a ruffle of breeze to show it was real.
Now, to shamelessly plug my work, I’ve released a number of books lately, with the newest one coming out November 9th, and this will be the third November in a row with something new coming out. Not by design, just how it all happened, but it has ensured the previous autumn seasons have raced past in a mixture of joy, celebration, anticipation and busy preparation. I absolutely vow there will be nothing releasing next autumn 2017. I want to sit on my laurels and watch the waters flow by at this time next year.
Now, shameless plug aside, autumn also means the precursor to the holidays. I can’t read a paper without ads for Halloween staring at me, or listen to the radio without some mention of what candy the trick-or-treaters prefer or top costumes or number of adults who annually dress up or some reference to October 31st. I’m okay with that, even if I don’t get into the celebration. Driving by houses and seeing spooky decorations is enough for me. I’m good.
However, it signals that three important dates are on its holiday heels. For me, they are Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Day.
Thanksgiving is my time to wallow in reflective thankfulness. I examine my life, what good has transpired over the year, and I give thanks for the lessons, blessings, friends and family, and all good things that poured over me in the year like warm honey. I look what I have outgrown in the year, where do I need to grow more and how do I plan to accomplish this needed stretch. I keep a Thanksgiving Jar in the den. This is when I review and update it, praising for answered prayers, adding new names to pray for, and acknowledge more blessings or needs. This is also when I decorate the house in its Christmas finery. It is a silent signal I have ended the months’ long yard maintenance for the year.
Christmas, for me, is sacred, hallow and also reflective, with more emphasis on my Christian walk. I examine how well it has gone, where I need to step up and work harder and it’s a birthday celebration of someone special to me. I delight in the tree, lights, and pretty decorations of the season. Since I tend to spend most of the holidays alone, they have become reflective, contemplative, introspective, low-key, and peaceful.
New Years is the final recap of the year, good and bad, and plotting of the new year ahead. I spend a lot of time thinking, journaling and scribbling notes. This is also time for a financial review. What are my new goals, or ones left that I have not reached? How can I adjust for ones not yet met and incorporate the new ones? Tip– don’t schedule fall book releases if you want to fully enjoy autumn’s splendor.
I recently came across something called Hygge (pronounced hoo-ga). Apparently it is a Danish method of creating or cultivating a sense of cozy intimacy and contentment. It’s about making feelings of happiness, friendliness and well-being as part of your everyday world. I am totally into checking this out.
Step 1 is spending quality time with friends and family. I can be bad for letting this get neglected. I get busy, have things to do and places to be. However, to achieve Hygge, I need to dust the cobwebs off my relationships and let these important people in my life know how much I value them.
Step 2 is to simply sit by a roaring fire. The concept is to evoke feelings of coziness and warmth. Well, I like roaring fires, love the ambiance they create, however, I don’t own a fireplace. What I do have is an electric heater that simulates burning wood while it emits heat. I like the look of burning logs while I sprawl on the sofa with a blanket, book and cat. Check, I can do this with modification.
Step 3 is keep things simple. Okay, that sounds simple. Suggestion here is instead of agonizing over complicated recipes, make a wholesome soup or roasted chicken. Simple and just as good, if not better. While I enjoy experimenting with new recipes, I love simple, tried-and-true soups, stews and chicken meals with easy-breey prep. So this one is just a matter of remembering, when I stress the small stuff, to let it go and embrace simplicity.
Step 4 is to dim the lights and use candles. Apparently the Danes love their candles. I do not. They look pretty, flickering with a romantic glow. However, I cannot appreciate any scent they give off and I live in fear of a potential fire. I have pets. They are not a good mixture. So to keep my stress levels down, and error on the side of practicality, I think I need to forgo this step and settle for a picture of a flickering candle.
Step 5 is to decorate the inside with the outside. I am totally on board with this one. I love nature and endeavor to bring as much inside as I can. Houseplants trail their greenery like trees and vines. Water cascades from the aquariums like a waterfall. Blues mimic the sky. Artwork resonates with beachy-y scenes. Hygge suggested exposed stones, wood floors, big wooden tables and those piles of logs you need for the roaring fires in step two.
Step 6 is to bake bread. I no longer bake bread, but I like to bake flavored loaves of banana and lemon bread or various coffeecakes, layered and sheet cakes and on occlusion, cookies. Like a loaf of white bread, baking is cathartic as you knead the dough and sharing it fresh from the oven with those friends and family from step one is one of life’s simplest and greatest pleasures.
Step 7 is drink cocoa. Preferably real cocoa, cream and milk, served and sipped from a large, heavy mug. Again, I am totally down with this one too. On a nippy night, home from work, feeling chilled, I love a mug of cocoa. That is one of my simple pleasures as I sit with blanket, book, and cat in a dimly lit room watching my fake fire burn.
Step 8 is don’t deprive yourself. Ah, this one is tough. I can talk myself out of nearly any good thing. Case in point– I had a coupon for a free dessert because of my birthday at a local restaurant, with any purchase no minimum. I was so going to do this and treat myself to a hot fudge ice cream cake. Yep, I liked the restaurant, could think of several nice meals that were reasonably priced and topped off with free dessert. Oh yeah! I even picked out the day I would be in town, timed and ready for my lunch and dessert treat. You know what I did? What I can do? Please don’t yell. I was within one mile of the restaurant, with coupon in hand, and talked myself out of it. Yes, really. Pitiful isn’t it? I said it was just as easy and quick to go home instead, find some leftovers and I certainly already had a chocolate bar or something to snack on. So home I went. Hygge would mandate, or at least encourage, I ignore conventional excuses and Go To The Restaurant And Don’t Deprive Myself of something Good. I need to work on this one.
Step 9 is much easier for me. Get outside. It is the balance and living a good healthy life. We need to be inside, because we decorated our inside with the outside, and we also need to enjoy the outside on walks, explorations, strolls with family and friends, and just keeping the balance of in and out. Yin and Yang. Step away from the keyboard and remote and take Fido for a walk, feel the wind in your face. Come home to cocoa.
Step 10 I really love, it’s pick up a book. Yeah, I am always picking up a book. Sometimes to read and sometimes just to move from one pile to another. However, proper Hygge suggests cuddling under a blanket with a book of your choice and just getting drawn into it. I cannot tell how many hours I have done in my life, and the places it has taken me.
Step 11 is simply put down the phone. Hygge is the antidote to modern life. It’s all about embracing experiences and living in the moment. If we are staring at a screen, whether phone or tablet or television or whatever, we cannot embrace or even see the moment. So the Danes suggest setting the phone aside and enjoy the feeling of the moment.
There you go, the recipe for creating happiness in your life, and my end of year thoughts. So go ahead and tell me your traditions of spending the final months of the year and how you cultivate happiness and simplicity in your life. How easy or difficult do you think these eleven steps would be to incorporate into your life? Do you see autumn and winter as any different from spring and summer? Something to be enjoyed and savored or something to be tolerated?