It was dark by six in the evening today. In a little over two weeks we will turn the clocks backwards an hour. That will mean it will be dark at five in the evening. I don't see why we still perform this inane ritual. I would prefer to stay on Daylight Saving's Time. It seems to me that having it get dark at five in the evening is one of the main reasons so many of us in colder, darker parts of the country are impacted by SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). Since I just passed several combines harvesting crops last night with their headlights blazing, they don't need the extra light to plant or harvest any longer. As for saving energy, it seems that it would save more energy if we had more sunlight during the evening, not less. When most families are home from school and work, a little longer sunlight would mean less electricity being used... even if only for an hour.
But, fall begins the time of year when many, myself included, begin to feel... blah. For some, they are unaffected. Some don't feel that "blah" until after Christmas. For me, and others I know, we are very sensitive to light, or the lack of light. Sunlight is a mood enhancer. It uplifts moods. In warmer weather, it provides much needed vitamin D that must be supplemented otherwise.
The winter gets to me. The cold makes my body hurt. I have hypothyroidism, and the cold can be nearly intolerable at times. Since I have gotten treatment, the symptoms aren't as severe, but they still exist. I often am bundled up in layers with a heating blanket over me, a warm drink in my hands, and Hawaii 5-0 playing on Netflix. Yes, I watch the tropical island show because seeing the sun and palm trees, even on television, shows me that the entire world is not a Popsicle.
Unfortunately, it doesn't look as if I will be moving to a warm, tropical environment any time soon. God has placed me here, in this part of the world with hot hots and frigid colds and everything in between. The colds seem to last the longest. When summer arrives, and I can bask in the warm sunshine, I try to absorb as much as I can (without burning) and soak up the feeling of not being cold or hurting. This is just one coping mechanism that has been beneficial.
I have held a secret belief that those that live in tropical paradises must be the happiest people in the world. Since I can't live at the beach, I looked it up... just to see. I was WRONG! Costa Rica is most 'tropical' country listed in the annual World Happiness Report... and they are number twelve. Of course, that still beats the United States, which landed at number fourteen. Yes, America is seventeenth in education, eleventh in Health Care (though ours is the most expensive), ninth in religious freedom (so much for Constitutional Freedom), and fourteenth in happiness. However, we are the number one country of incarcerated people per capita. We also are number one in Olympic Gold Medals, number of Universities, and charitable giving. There are a few other things. I'm not trying to trash America.
I was just shocked. First, Americans are not a happy group of people, as a whole. Of all the tropical environments, most of those don't make the "Happiness" list either. So, maybe living at the beach won't bring me happiness. I still think it would sure help, but I will go with the averages for now.
Why in the world are the citizens of Norway and Denmark, countries that experience months of cold and dark, so happy? And could what they practice help this SAD fighting, cold sensitive girl learn anything about dealing with the winters that seem to last and last?
This was all the rage a year ago. I tend to be late on the "trends." That's okay, because by the time I read about an idea or practice, it has been well researched and opinions are flowing freely. I get the Kindle books cheaper than they were a year ago when the rage was new and books were being written to meet the demand. I can read the anti-opinions about how this is anti-Christian, a trend that focuses on self and not on others. I can also read the pro-opinions about how we can't give what we don't have, and it isn't a sin to light some candles, have some cozy light, and fellowship with friends and family in a positive atmosphere.
For a person that has looked for ways to not let winter get to me, including being given a gift of a "Happy" light that was bright, but didn't really help, I don't mind admitting that I see no problem with wanting to research this Danish practice of Hygge (pronounced Hoo-ga) that means coziness and fellowship with loved ones. I am going to experience winter anyway, either by grumping my way through or by doing what I can to make the time pleasurable.
Not all of winter is bad. I think it should be made clear that most of the people that struggle in the winter, either with SAD or with some downcast times, don't think it is all bad. My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving. I love gathering with family, eating yummy food, playing games and visiting, being PURPOSEFULLY THANKFUL for my blessings. From what I can see of Hygge, this is taking that feeling from that day, and living the spirit of it all winter.
I like the idea of winter lights, not Christmas lights. While I don't want the colorful chasers all season, I can see using the soft white twinkling lights in my home. I love the idea of a less cluttered area, with cozy blankets and family togetherness, to fight back against the dark outside. Bring on the candles and books! And, as for getting fresh air daily, that will be cold, but getting out into the sunshine, limited as it may be, could still be beneficial, even if in small bits.
The more I read, the more I don't understand why anyone in a cold, dark part of the country would ever think this is horrible. Yes, like anything, it can be taken too far, where the focus is on our own comfort excessively. One description I read talked about "practicing contentment" - "Contentment that comes from appreciating shelter from the elements, food around the table for a shared meal, or being alone with a good book."
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:12-13
Can I say I am content whether the weather is 80 degree Fahrenheit or -10 degrees Fahrenheit? Am I content whether the sun is shining or the snow is blowing? Am I content whether it's fresh veggies from the farmer's market or crock pot chili? Am I as content when it is dark at five in the afternoon as I am when I am waiting for dusk after nine at night on Independence day so we can watch fireworks? Am I as content in the dreary, bleak February days as I am in the July sun by the pool?
If I am not, what can I do to help?
I am not going to lie and say that the aching in my body doesn't get to me, or the bitter cold that burns my lungs when I breath is what I want. However, this is where God has me. And this is where I need to make the time as pleasant as possible, to have a good attitude, to find things to bring out the best of each season. If God wants me elsewhere, He will open those doors. Wishing for a life I don't currently have is a waste of time. My family is here. As much as I love the ocean, I love my family more.
Somehow the idea of Hygge, while not unfamiliar, is not one that I have ever encountered in this way. We all try in some way, to add little bits of joy to our winters. I just had never thought about it being a way of life. For those in Norway and Denmark, where they spend so many months of the year in the cold, this has become a way of life for survival purposes. To think that they have taken this way of life and made it center, to the point that they are the top two happiest countries in the world, is pretty incredible. This is purposeful living, to light candles and create a cozy sanctuary in the harshest times outside.
I was surprised that, in many ways, the principles here go along with what I believe are more simple, minimalist principles that are important to me. I don't want some complicated, expensive concept that I can't achieve unless I take my already full schedule and meager finances and stretch them even more.
I did buy candles. That was a joy, though, and I love the candles around me when I am studying for classes or relaxing in my bath.
Winter will come, whether I am finding ways to cope or allowing it to drag me into a down depressive state. I choose to find ways to be upbeat and positive, to fill my life with Jesus and family and contentment and coziness. We all have choices, in our attitudes, in the way we fill our environment, in our thoughts, in what we choose as our focus. I can choose to focus on the dark and cold, or I can fill my environment with light and warmth and family and moments of introvert heaven.