I was going to have a little break from blogging between Christmas and New Year, but I’ve had this post keeping me awake for a couple of nights now, so I thought I should probably get it written in this quiet lull.
I love Christmas – not just the day, but the whole time of year. It’s often the only time in a year I’ll see some of my friends, and it’s nice to be able to hang out with everyone and catch up and have a drink. Even for a little introvert like me, it’s important to spend time with people who make you happy and maintain those friendships, and having spent some lovely evenings and exchanged so many merry messages with my pals in the last couple of weeks, it’s got me thinking about the kind of people I choose to spend time with – in the name of hygge or otherwise. And as, again, we ooze through the final few days of December and into another year, I wanted to both reflect on the hygge that comes from time spent with others, and how I’m going to encourage more of that next year.
Radiators, not drains
I recently rediscovered the ‘radiators, not drains’ analogy. Some people are radiators – positive vibes and energy shine out of every pore, and you come away from an afternoon with them feeling energised and inspired and just generally ‘better’. Others are drains – they sap you of your own energy, demand a lot of attention and assistance for little reward and you leave feeling tired and snappy. All my favourite people are radiators – wonderful, bright, brilliant people with so many ideas and sparkling humour and quick wit. Next year, I’m going to be careful to ensure that anyone else I invite into my little world is a radiator, because in my life to date, I’ve sunk an awful lot of time and energy into people who deplete my resources out of obligation or wanting to help or whatever. There’s only so much you can do, and for your own sanity and wellbeing, sometimes you have to acknowledge that enough is enough, and start focusing on the people who enhance your life, not those who make you feel worse.
Don’t sweat the small stuff
Christmas seems like a particularly apt time to be talking about this, because it’s so easy to drive yourself (and everyone else) up the wall trying to get everything perfect. When you have the family coming over for their annual visit, hosting can become a horrendous chore when you can’t find the right shade of roses, someone has pilfered Auntie Glenda’s favourite box of chocolates and the central heating has packed up. But let’s be honest – WHO CARES? Christmas isn’t ruined, nobody is going to leave feeling hard done by and everyone will still have a brilliant time. When things don’t go to plan, embrace the ‘imperfection’ (though my hygge is far from perfect by Instagram’s standards) and get creative. Wrong roses? Switch to natural winter foliage! No chocs? Do some festive baking! Heating gone kaput? Blankets, candles and chai lattes! There are always opportunities for hygge as long as you’re open to it.
Assume the best intentions
Sometimes it’s easy to assume that people are out to get you. It can be easy to default to assuming spite or the intention to hurt or upset instead of imagining that someone made an honest mistake. But that’s a dangerous way to live. If ‘innocent until proven guilty’ is good enough to stand in law, it’s a rule I’m happy to live by myself. I’m not going to pretend it’s always easy, but you’ll live a much less stressful and anxious life if you assume that not getting a response to a text is because the person was busy, or didn’t have signal, or meant to reply but forgot, rather than because they inexplicably hate you. A big part of this is cultivating empathy, and putting yourself in someone else’s shoes – there are a million and one reasons someone acted the way they did that aren’t ‘because they wanted to hurt you’, and it’s so much healthier to give the benefit of the doubt before you jump to any conclusions and blow things out of proportion.
A couple of years ago, I saw someone posting some unkind things about me on social media, and I guess they assumed I wouldn’t see it, but the internet is a small place and obviously I did. I’ve never met them, and fortunately it didn’t really bother me, but that made me determined to never do the same thing about anyone else. I don’t know if you follow me on Twitter, but if you do you will notice that I never post anything negative about anyone else – not people in my life, not celebrities, not strangers, nobody. It’s cowardly and unnecessary, and I want my social media presence to be as positive as possible. Obviously there will be the occasional grumble about a late bus or disappointment in a film, but you will never find me posting negatively about another person. What is anyone going to gain from a nasty tweet sent in haste?
Share new experiences
As someone who has been single for some time now, I don’t have a natural companion to do things with. I tend to just buy two tickets to anything I want to do and find someone to join me. As you can imagine, this is even tougher for holidays! People ask why I don’t just go away on my own, but I love sharing these experiences. I COULD go and travel the world alone, but I would so much rather see and do all these new things with someone else. My absolute favourite people are those who bring new experiences into my life, whether that’s a type of food I haven’t tried before, or a band I wouldn’t have known about, or even just a film I wouldn’t normally choose. For me, I find trying new things with other people hugely hyggeligt – it’s a bonding experience, and even if it turns out to be rubbish, at least you had a go. I value creativity and adventure and open-mindedness above virtually anything else, and my hygge is finding people who share those values and want to seize opportunities and go out exploring.
So, what does this mean for my 2018 hygge adventure? The other day, I saw a tweet that I keep thinking about: ‘Don’t cross an ocean for someone who won’t even step over a puddle for you’. I like that a lot. And as a writer, I tend to think in analogies, and at the moment I’m thinking about how it’s time to start treating my relationships like pruning roses. If you leave the dead flowers, every time you tend to the plant you will be wasting energy on something that isn’t going to flourish. If you snip them off, you will allow the plant to channel everything that makes it grow into the buds with the potential to grow into bright beautiful flowers – and that’s what I want to do in 2018. I want to focus my efforts on the flowers that make me happy, and accept that while some of the flowers were once amazing, they might not stay that way forever. In the social media age, it can be easy to spread yourself too thin and want to ‘collect’ friends and followers, but it’s much more fulfilling to cultivate a smaller number of special connections than touching base with everyone from time to time out of obligation – for me at least.
How about you? How do other people feed into your hygge? Do you have any New Year’s resolutions to help you make the most of your relationships? Let me know!