Mental/Emotional Health · To Do

To Do: May

I don’t wish to alarm anyone, but it’s April 30th. And you know what that means!

Most of the first half of 2017 has been pretty bad for me mentally, emotionally, and even physically. But I’m working on it and April has seen more, if not good days then, even-kiltered days than just plain low days. While I seek more drastic changes in my life over the course of this year, I also strive to at the very least look toward small changes in the interim.

So in May, I’m finally going to partake in a Hygge-inspired challenge.

If you haven’t heard of Hygge, then you’re essentially like I was up until a week ago: somehow entirely clueless of the phenomenon. I must have been living under a rock (or more likely was trying not to be crushed by a political landslide) since apparently this became wildly popular some time late last year. Oh well. Better late than never. Actually, the timing of it is completely perfect!

The reason Hygge even caught my eye at last is because in a bout of whimsical longing for a simpler life where I’m actually content I went looking for photos on Pinterest to match my mood. For me this means a lot of photos of Autumn and sweaters and all of the other stereotypical “white teenage girl” things (although, a teenager I am not), but it also means pictures of flowers and sunshine and red hair and blonde hair and hair with ribbons in them and tea parties and trees and girls in dresses and girls smiling and… you probably get the point by now. Whenever I long for contentment, I don’t imagine it while working a 9-to-5, posting on Facebook-Twitter-Tumblr-Wordpress-Etc., bingewatching a show. While I enjoy those things, am extremely materialistic, have to work to pay of student loan debt, and won’t be giving up my favorite tablet games or television shows and movies or shopping, or anything else anytime soon, I’m desperate to cultivate a lifestyle that’s a little less of that and a little more of the things that require “unplugging” so to speak (I’m keen on eventually looking into a minimalist lifestyle).

While indulging my aesthetic and whimsy by pinning photos that represent the ideal (and ironically materialistic if you think about it, but I digress) life, I caught sight of a pin about a Hygge challenge. I was curious, clicked on it, and down the Danish-inspired rabbit hole I fell. I’ve always said I wanted to move to Denmark, so I guess this was inevitable.

That’s why I’m going to try and incorporate more Hygge-inspired things into my life over the month of May. That is, every single day in May, I’m going to do one thing that’s been branded Hygge (while understanding, of course, that this is a superficial attempt and Hygge is much more nuanced than a trend). The bonus is, a lot of the things that I have on my Hygge calendar are things I’ve been wanting to do more regularly or to try for a long time, but I never get around to them because of excuses. Excuses like: “I can’t afford the resources to incorporate those things into my life” even as I lay down money on clothes, hair coloring, Starbucks, fast food, dvds, etc. Or “I’m so tired all of the time” even as I force myself to watch movies, surf the internet, play Sims Freeplay (it’s not an addiction, I swear), write fanfiction, etc. Or “People will think I’m being weird” as if they don’t already think I am (I mean, writing and reading fanfiction at 29 is considered weird by a vast majority of people, but I do it anyhow; the key here is I do that in private when really I need to stop being so afraid of being myself regardless of others’ opinions).

By looking at other challenges and taking into account those things that are sadly still not within my means (aka, I do have a full time job to consider as much as I’d like to be able to wear slippers all day or enjoy an entire day to myself in solitude, which can’t be done at home on the weekend either). I mean, obviously this isn’t going to work at all if I challenge myself to do things that would be so difficult (even if rewarding) that I’d just give up. So, here’s the itinerary I’ve put together.

May 1st Wake before sunrise
May 2nd Spend the evening with a favorite book and some tea
May 3rd Buy some fresh flowers and a vase for my desk at work
May 4th Spend the evening with only candle light
May 5th Clean while listening to Billy Joel
May 6th Pull out a board game/cards
May 7th No Internet
May 8th Take a candlelit bath
May 9th Watch a favorite movie by candlelight with popcorn and hot cocoa
May 10th Spend another evening with a favorite book and some tea/ambience
May 11th Spend an evening with classical music playing
May 12th Meditate/do yoga before work
May 13th Go to local tea shop
May 14th Something special for mother’s day of her choosing
May 15th Go for a walk on lunch break
May 16th Go to bed early (on purpose)
May 17th Buy some pretty teacups
May 18th Fill up a notebook with words and thoughts throughout the day
May 19th Treat myself to a gourmet, hearty lunch instead of the standard workday lunch
May 20th Draw a picture
May 21st Try something new
May 22nd Color on lunch break
May 23rd Do something nice for coworkers
May 24th Lord of the Rings Marathon
May 25th Lord of the Rings Marathon
May 26th Lord of the Rings Marathon
May 27th No Internet
May 29th Take family to dinner
May 30th Take an extra long walk
May 31st Reflect

Look, I could be dishonest with myself and in this post by saying, “Yes! I’m going to do all of this! And in 31 days my life is going to be amazing! I’m so excited to give this a try!” Truth is, I’m exhausted just thinking of this challenge, just writing this post even, and completely scared. I may fail miserably and it’ll be one more thing to hate about myself. I may end up getting no benefit out of it whatsoever. My attempts may not even be genuinely Hygge, since I’m working with what I can to start with. And the excuses are still running through my mind (I really am depressed, and mentally and physically exhausted 80-90 percent of the time because of it, for example).

But physical therapy isn’t easy. It hurts and is hard and many patients have to do it whether or not they want to. Self-care is no different. I’m learning little by little that self-care is absolutely necessary, in some form or capacity or another, and the stigma that it is selfish, that we’re just weak and unable to handle real life, etc. cannot stop us from taking care of ourselves. As someone with ongoing depression, among other things, it’s vital to treat self-care with the same kind of attitude as physical therapy. It may not always be fun, it may be difficult to get used to or exhausting, but it’s a critical component of one’s health, recovery, remission, etc.

So I’m going through with this to the best of my ability. And the optimist in me hopes that I learn a little more about myself along the way. The things that made me feel better, the things that I want to devote more time and effort to, the things that really didn’t do much for me, etc.

I’m not trying to make Hygge a lifestyle, like some, and I’m definitely aware that there’s a time for safe places and a time to throw yourself into harsh reality. I’m simply trying to remind myself that there’s so much to take pleasure in, that life is worth reconnecting to,  regardless of what depression or stress or a ‘keeping up with the Jones’ society may tell me. I want to start being a little more selfish in my self-care. I want to start being a little more exact in my self-care. I want to start looking for the pleasure that can be had in spite of how hard this life is. I want to slow down, evaluate, remind my mind and soul how to appropriately find joy and pleasure even in the humdrum of a small life instead of wishing for a life that is better, more fulfilling, etc. If I wait until I’m completely self-sufficient, able to travel at the drop of a hat, have accomplished some career aspiration, etc. then I’ll miss out on the ever-ticking seconds of my life that can be enjoyed right here and now. Perhaps Hygge will give me a good guide for how to start.

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