Posted in art, Blogging, creativity, lifestyle, memory keeping, Planning and journaling

Top Tips for a Successful December Daily in 2022

This year, as I’m in a good place with my mental health for the first Christmas in a while, I’ve decided to do another December Daily challenge. I made a TN style journal quite a few years ago and I found it really enjoyable. The finished booklet looks great, and I have loved looking through it this month as a wonderful reminder of the things we did in December 2018. I can’t wait to get started on my 2022 album but I’m trying to make sure I’m well prepared and have everything I need to meet with success. I was amazed by the array of YouTube videos which showed people still working on their 2021 album in September of this year – some of them with pages and pages still to complete! With this in mind, I decided to write today’s blog post which focuses on my top tips to make sure that the process goes smoothly and ultimately, that the challenge is completely by the end of the holiday season (or at least by the end of January 2023).

What is December Daily?

The idea for December Daily was created by Ali Edwards who is a designer, blogger, workshop instructor and author based in the USA. She has a passion for memory keeping, capturing everyday life with photographs, words and decorative elements. On her website she has this to say about the project:

December Daily® is a December mini-album project that documents the 25 days leading up to Christmas. The simple goal is to capture the spirit of December via one story per day.

Since 2007 this project has become one of the highlights of my year and a beautiful community of memory keepers has come together to share their December stories with one another. It’s an awesome way to document and celebrate the season.

Tips for a successful and fun December Daily

As part of the preparation for my 2022 December Daily, I’ve watched lots of inspirational videos, read bits and pieces about the project online in various blogs, and collected a number of tips and ideas. As I explained earlier, I’ve seen quite a number of YouTube videos of people still working on their album for 2021, despite the fact that we’re getting close to December 2022. If I was in this situation, I would be worrying that I’m never going to get there and may have already abandoned the project part way through (and likely with feelings of guilt about all the time and money I’d spent). So, below are my top tips for success, enjoyment and a timely completion.

Start by watching YouTube videos and reading blog posts for inspiration

You already know the main idea behind December Daily but there are so many different ways to approach the project. Well before the start of the month (I began in October!), it’s a good idea to watch a range of videos and read blog posts for inspiration and composition ideas. You’ll find that some creatives prepare a mini album before they begin, leaving space for photos and journalling, whilst others use a 6×8 D rings binder and make up the pages as they go. As well as seeing different layouts, you will also find many variations in shape and sizes of journal. There are pros and cons to all of the different methods, layouts and album sizes, and of course, there is the cost to consider – the more supplies you want to use and therefore need to purchase, the more expense involved.

When watching videos and reading blog posts, I like to make notes and sketch the detail of layout ideas so I can remember my favourites at a later date and seek inspiration from them if I get stuck. I’ve also collected lots of ‘story’ and photo ideas on Pinterest and then copied out my favourites in my bullet journal to refer to throughout the month. I only chosen prompts which are relevant to me and my family situation.

Consider which supplies you want

Before you embark on the project, think about what you might need to complete it. Doing the above should have helped but you might also want to sit down and create a list in preparation for purchasing items. For example, I decided I wanted to do a 6×8 album with some of the pages inside page protectors and some just reinforced with card. I also love the idea of lots of different layouts and photo sizes so I took this into consideration too, again making notes about my ideas. I ordered my album and page protectors pretty early on as when I looked at available options, I noticed some of the ones I liked were almost sold out as they had been released last year. I chose an Echo Park white album with poinsettias, holly, berries, snowflakes and spruce stems on and I still absolutely love it!

6×8 Album from a collection by Echo Park

Other items to think about could be Christmassy papers in 12×12 size or smaller, glittery number stickers for labelling each day, journalling cards, gift tags, stickers, washi tapes, ephemera, ribbons, twine for attaching tags, sequins for shaker pockets, glue sticks and tape runners, maybe even a fuse tool for sealing shaker pockets – the possibilities are endless.

I also made sure I ordered my supplies from a company based in the UK as I wanted to make sure my items were received quickly with no chance of being stung by customs fees. There are lots of resources on Ali’s own website which look amazing, but they would end up being very costly! Although I’m prepared to spend quite a bit on the project, I did create a fixed budget, so I don’t overspend.

Choose your main items from one designer collection

If you want all of your pages to go together really well, it’s best to have a specific colour palette and style throughout. An easy way to achieve this is to choose items from a particular collection or at least from a particular designer. For example, this year, all of my supplies (ordered online using the Craftie Charlie website) are from Carta Bella’s ‘Home For Christmas’ and ‘Happy Christmas’ collections. I also purchased a few bits and pieces from Hobbycraft a few months ago but if these don’t go with my new supplies, I’ll use them for decorating my bullet journal instead.

December Daily Supplies from Craftie Charlie

Think about creating some foundation pages

Before December begins, you might want to consider making some foundation pages. These are pages which are done in advance to give yourself a head start on the project. For example, you might create a cover page which includes a title and the year 2022. You might also have a go at making particularly crafty stuff pages and elements such as shakers (containing sequins or glitter), sewn materials or multi-layer bits and pieces,

You could also create a page which explains your reason why. This is short piece of journalling which says why you’re doing the project and what you hope to get out of it. Is it a way of recording your little one’s first Christmas? Is it a chance for you to have more fun this December? Is it a way of winding down each evening by doing some journalling or is it more of a photographic challenge for you? Again, this is totally personal to you. You might want to watch videos or read about what it means to others, but you may have completely different ideas and reasoning.

This year, as one of her foundation pages, Ali Edwards created a table of contents, and this idea appeals to me too so I might give it a go. You can view her first set up video here. I’ve subscribed so I can watch all of her videos as and when she shares her creative process.

Journal your experiences and how you feel in the moment

I’m going to carry around a very small notebook in my bag wherever I go during the month of December so I can make notes about my experiences and how I feel. This means that even if I don’t do the page for that day straightaway, I’ll still have a record of the key details and my emotions at the time. You could also create a page on your phone using an app such as Notion if you would rather write things down electronically. Also, make sure you take lots of photos so you have plenty to choose from – let your family and friends know about the project so they can help with image ideas.

Above all, have fun!

December Daily is potentially a wonderful and fun memory keeping challenge to do, but it won’t be if you get yourself stressed and worried about getting everything perfect! Remember, there are no right or wrong ways to go about it – it should be completely personal to you and as simple or creative as you want. You may use lots of photos and decorative elements, or you may just do a series of simple journal entries.

The holiday season can be incredibly busy and it’s important to find time each day for rest and relaxation. This may mean working on your daily entry in the evening to help you wind down, but alternatively, it could mean that you make up most or all of your album after Christmas, when you are able to devote a few hours each day to some enjoyable and mindful creating, working at your own pace. If you want to spend most of next year finishing your creative project and this is what would make you happiest, go for it! Whatever you do, keep it fun!

Final words…

I hope you’ve found today’s post useful, and the tips have helped you with preparing yourself for doing your own December Daily project. Let me know if you’re going to give it a go or if you’re taking part in another challenge for the festive season e.g. Blogmas where you try out new and fun things on your blog related to Christmas. Although I’m not doing Blogmas this year, I’ll hopefully find the time to do a few blog posts next month as well – I might even share a few of my favourite December Daily pages as I go along too.

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Posted in life hacks, lifestyle, memory keeping, Mindfulness, TN journaling

Monday Matters: An in-depth guide to Happy Memory Making and Creative Memory Keeping

This month I finished reading The Art of Making Memories: How to create and remember happy moments by Meik Wiking. I actually started it last year, but I put it to one side and picked it up again around the middle of October. I’d forgotten many of the key points and ideas, so I re-started from the beginning and spent 20 minutes each morning, reading and highlighting. This has now become part of my early routine and takes place in a super comfortable chair by the window to give myself a good dose of natural light. And, as one of my current affirmations on my vision board is ‘I use self-development books to help me grow’, I’m working hard to apply my learning and decided it would be a good idea to share some of the ideas on here too. I’m also going to talk about some of my own suggestions for memory keeping such as journalling, photography, scrapbooking, memorabilia displays and memory boxes, plus a few more ideas I found online.

Why are memories important?

Rather than provide my own thoughts on the above question, I collected a few ideas from others to share:

Happy memories are essential to our mental health. They strengthen our identity, sense of purpose and relationships.

Rangan Chattergee

There are important moments that make up our life’s narrative. We remember the defining moments in our lives, the moments that made us who we are, the moments where we became who we hoped we could be.

Meik Wiking, The Art of Making Memories

I love those random memories that make me smile no matter what is going on in my life right now.

The moment may be temporary but the memory is forever.

Bud Meyer

‘Happy memories form the cornerstone of our identity, and can help with combating depression and loneliness,’ says Wiking. ‘They influence our happiness in the current moment, as well as providing a framework for our hopes and dreams about the future.’ Nostalgia makes us happy, increasing self-esteem and strengthening social connectedness, so the more vividly we remember the good times, the happier we are overall.

Meik Wiking

Memories are timeless treasures of the heart.

So how can we create a life full of happy memories to treasure?

Following extensive research conducted by the team at The Happiness Research Institute in Denmark, Meik came up eight keys ingredients for creating happy memories whether they’re of important events such as births and marriages, everyday events such as drinking good coffee and eating delicious cake in a cafe with a friend for the first time in ages, adventures such as moving to a new city, climbing a mountain or going abroad for the very first time or struggling to finish a big assignment but then being delighted with the feedback given by the course tutor. Here’s a brief explanation of each of these elements:

Unforgettable firsts

This is the idea that the very first time you experience something is likely to be remembered much better than subsequent very similar experiences. So, for example, you’re likely to remember your first time on an aeroplane, your very first pet, your first job, your first kiss etc. A great idea then, is to seek out new and novel experiences on a regular basis, the more extraordinary the better. You might like to schedule an evening in your diary or planner to find out what’s available to you and explore different options – you might organise a holiday, choose a new restaurant for a family meal (trying a new food or dish will make it even more memorable), sign up for an evening class (I recommend beginners ceramics) or plan to visit a museum is a nearby town or city.

Make it multisensory

In the classroom, during my years as a primary school teacher, one of the important ways of ensuring all children learnt well and enjoyed activities was to create multisensory experiences. These are the kinds of lessons which stay with them for years and they can still remember well after they’ve left school. This can be applied to memory making too. Don’t just experience things with your eyes, try to make sure you use all of your senses (not just sight) to take everything in. Consider if there are any particular aromas in the air, like the smell of freshly roasted coffee, the scent of cinnamon and winter spices in a pot pourri at Christmas time. Be still and listen for near and distant sounds (either pleasant or unpleasant) such as the drumming of a woodpecker in a faraway tree, the roar of the ocean or music drifting on the breeze. Take time to explore different textures such as soft knitted blankets as you get all cosy after a chilly winter walk, or smooth pebbles on the beach and you sit on the sand. Maybe as you relax and take everything in you become aware of a range of sensations, the chill of winter on your skin or the warmth of the Sun on your face in summer or the crunchy autumn leaves below your feet. Perhaps new or favourite tastes complete the scene -succulent strawberries, crunchy, salty popcorn, the sharp tang of the lemon slice in your chilled glass of Pimms and lemonade. And, as you attend to every detail of your experience, you’re engaging in one of the key aspects of mindfulness which is wonderful for your mental health too.

Pay full attention

It should come as no surprise that experiences are best remembered if you invest your complete attention on them. So, for example, if in the summer you went on a Sunday afternoon boat trip to see puffins, but you spend most of the time thinking about all of the work you have to do on Monday, you’re unlikely to remember key details like the warm sun as it sparkled on the water, the interesting facts the captain shared as you headed towards Coquet island, the joy of spying a line of cute seals bobbing in the water making sure that the boat didn’t get too close, the thousands of noisy puffins flying overhead and diving down into the water to catch sand eels, and the hundreds more birds basking in the warmth after a busy morning fishing. However, if you remain attentive during whole cruise, you’re likely to be able to recall all of the magical trip and how you felt for many years to come.

Keep it meaningful

Meaningful moments in your life are those which are of great significance or value to you, where positive emotions such as gratefulness, love, happiness, pride, warmth, peace and often, a sense of connection with loved ones is felt. These could be ‘big’ milestone moments such as finishing college or university, starting a new job, the day you got married, the birth of a child or buying your very first house. They could also be smaller events or happenings which are really important to you and your personal values, for example, for me as a wildlife and nature lover, sitting quietly with my husband in the hide at Kielder Forest, watching and listening to the woodland birds and then suddenly spotting a red squirrel taking a snack from a feeder is one of my favourite memories which I will cherish for a very long time. As well as making exciting plans to celebrate each of our birthdays and our wedding anniversary, my husband and I also make sure we schedule in plenty of other pleasurable activities and adventures for our weekends such as visits to nature reserves, riverside walks in different parts of the Northeast, trips to the theatre, lunches in various vegetarian cafes and overnight stays in quaint villages or vibrant cities.

The emotional highlighter pen

According to Meik, emotions act like a highlighter pen so experiences involving heightened emotions will stick fast in your memory. That’s why we never forget the exact details of times when we’ve felt really embarrassed (no matter how much we’d like to). ‘An emotional reaction will make experiences and moments more memorable, so the art of making memories means making the emotional highlighter pen work for you.’ This also works for exhilarating, joyful, scary, traumatic, sad and shocking events too. Next time you’re planning a holiday, try to add a few activities to the itinerary which are bound to be emotional highlights.

Peaks and struggles

Some of the milestones mentioned above such as completing your university degree, buying your first home or getting married are highly memorable events, but the struggles, stresses and hard work involved to get there is likely to be unforgettable too. There’s so much involved in planning your wedding day that working full time and having a long to do list of preparations months and weeks before can be so stressful and exhausting that when the day arrives it’s such a relief that it (mostly!) went to plan, and you can enjoy what should be one of the happiest occasions of your life.

Meik shares these happy memory tips:

  • save the best for last – e.g., if giving a few gifts to your partner for their birthday or Christmas, save the most precious / exciting one until the end, when creating a holiday itinerary, do something with the ‘wow’ factor on the last day etc.
  • make the journey part of the experience and try taking the long route – for example, go on a gentle and relaxing boat trip along the river to the other side of the city or hire a bike for the day to cycle around the various attractions, rather than jumping in a taxi.
  • plan something for your weekend that helps it to end on a high note

Share your memories as stories and regularly have ‘remember when…’ conversations

A memory model known as The Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve shows that over time our retention of memories decline, unless we take action to keep them. Knowing about and understanding the forgetting curve can be important when we are trying to learn new skills or absorb vital information but how does it help us with remembering happy memories? Well, according to Meik, regularly sharing your happy moments with others as stories can help immensely. This could involve helping loved ones to hold on to past events by retelling anecdotes, having ‘remember when?’ conversations or even sharing funny or interesting experiences from your own childhood. Regularly reminiscing has also been shown to help combat memory loss as we get older too.

Outsourcing

The final ingredient for maintaining happy memories is to outsource them. In business, as some of you may know, this generally means asking a third party to take care of a particular job or task. In memory retention, however, we can outsource memories by taking photos, collecting mementoes, keeping a diary or journal or by sharing to social media, such as Instagram, Facebook or even a blogging platform.

Most of us take thousands of photos each year which are generally stored on our phones or online using ‘the cloud’. Flicking through these images can certainly spark memories but personally, I prefer to use a range of memory keeping strategies and I especially love creative journalling.

Memory keeping ideas

Monthly memory pages

I’ve created a few of these in my bullet journal to help me to remember what happened during the month. I’ve tried to summarise each event in a few lines so I can fit plenty of memories in. Some of them are dated, whereas others are just something that occurred over time such as watching a particular TV series.

Mementoes

A memento can be defined as an object kept as a reminder of a person or past event. It can spark memories or feelings of happiness each time we see it. For example, when my nan passed away, my mum selected two ornaments from her Royal Crown Derby Cottage Garden Collection – a sleeping kitten and a cute little Dormouse, to give to me to keep. They remind me of my nan, her many ornaments which she had displayed around her home and my grandparents’ pet cat called Tibbles. Also, I like the animals which were chosen and the decor on each piece so they’re things that I’m happy to display in my own home.

Other mementoes you might consider include:

  • something from each of your holidays such as a fridge magnet
  • a photo in a frame of special occasions e.g., wedding days, child’s first day at school in uniform, the stunning view from a hill you walked up, the bespoke birthday cake that was made for someone’s 80th etc.
  • hand or footprint casts – you can even get one done of your pet’s paw!
  • your child’s first tooth
  • your child’s first artwork
  • a souvenir from some of your ‘firsts’ holidays e.g., a mini Eiffel Tower
  • newspaper clippings from something important to you that made the local news

Photographs

You’ve probably heard the adage ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ which basically means that one single image can often convey multiple ideas, messages and meanings more effectively than a long verbal description can. Therefore, you could write pages and pages describing particular experiences in your life but sometimes, photographs can be enough to spark your memory. Similarly, if you selected a particular photograph from one of your albums (or located one on your phone) you could use it to tell someone else the story of that particular occasion or spend time recalling the event in detail with whoever you shared the moment with.

Set up a private social media account

Many of you will have an Instagram account which features carefully cropped photos with perfect lighting, filters, captions and emojis. This is the stuff you’re happy to share with people online for likes and comments. What Meik suggests is creating another account for everyday memories which might not be Instagram ready bits and pieces you want the whole world to see but are still part of your experience and would give you pleasure to look at.

Creative journalling

Personally, I like to combine lots of different memory keeping tools and techniques in my creative journals. I use a traveller’s notebook size and like to record days out, holidays, special events, clothing, accessory and home decor purchases, craft and art projects, wildlife sightings, new dishes, snacks and sweet treats tried, anything really, but especially new and novel experiences (as per Miek Wiking’s power of firsts). As well as including journaling and photographs in various sizes I also like to stick in related mementoes such as restaurant menus, tickets, receipts, packaging, lists of wildlife or nature spots – anything that adds to the memory.

December daily

December Daily is a project idea created by memory keeper, Ali Edwards and is a way of documenting the 25 days leading up to Christmas. A few years ago, I had a go at creating a Christmas journal using a range of papers I picked up from my local Lidl supermarket making my own traveler’s notebook size insert. I made a page or two for each day

This year, I’ve bought a Chistmassy 8×8 album and a range of different pocket pages which can be filled with photos, bits of journalling and anything which will spark off festive memories. I’m busy building a collection of stickers and ephemera to use and am enjoying watching different approaches to the project on YouTube. I’ve also printed off lots of different prompts I found online to make sure I record lots of different aspects of the month of December and don’t run out of ideas.

Memory playlists

I’ve not tried this one myself, but it sounds like a really nice idea. In January, you start a new personal playlist e.g. ‘Tunes of 2022’, to which you add your current favourite songs throughout the year and tracks which evoke particular memories. When you listen to your playlists you are transported back in time, recalling memories based on music. Although I’ve not specifically done this, I know that when certain songs come on the radio I’m reminded of nights out at university, hitting the dancefloor, writing out or printing lyrics and learning every single word to sing along, wedding night songs including our first dance, favourite bands and artists we’ve been to see, trips to the theatre, movies we’ve enjoyed and many other fun times throughout the years. In fact, I read some information online this afternoon which suggested that playlists can be a particularly useful tool to create for elderly loved ones to help elicit memories of times gone by.

1 second everyday – video journalling

This is a video recording app (1SE for short) which enables users to create a video journal by recording meaningful one second movies for a myriad of everyday aspects of their lives. Each short video is stitched together sequentially to create a seamless record. So, for example, you might create a series of video during the month of November featuring a book cover of a novel you’re particularly enjoying, the crashing waves at the beach whilst on an Autumnal walk, your nails after applying a pretty nail polish, a finished craft project, coffee and cake at a new cafe you’ve tried, the smile of a friend during a good catch up, the rain lashing against your window that started just after you got home, a new recipe that you’re about to give a go and all of the ingredients lined up along the countertop etc.

Line a day journal

This can be a spread you do in your bullet journal each month which you fill in each day or you can purchase a special notebook that usually has space to record five years’ worth of memories. Whichever format you choose, it is meant to be something that you can quickly complete at the end of each day to summarise things such as events, experiences, things you are grateful for, purchases made, something nice someone said, something kind you did for a friend or a stranger etc.

Final words…

I hope you’ve found today’s post interesting and useful and that it’s prompted you to think about the different ways in which you can create wonderfully happy memories, keep and cherish them. Some people prefer to keep digital records whilst others, like myself, prefer to create tangible journals which can be flicked through and talked about with family members or friends. If you’re interested in finding out more about making and remembering memories, I definitely recommend you check out Meik Wiking’s book. He’s recently re-released it under another name ‘Happy Moments: How to Create Experiences You’ll Remember for a Lifetime’ but the content is the same. I like to buy this kind of book rather than purchasing the e-version as then I can more easily highlight parts I particularly want to remember and then flick through the pages whenever I wish to.

Do you enjoy creating journals or photo albums full of happy memories or do you find yourself flicking through digital albums on your phone and thinking about how you should really print a few of the photos off in case you have an issue with your cloud storage one day?

Posted in art, bullet journal, Bullet journaling, creativity, Planning and journaling

Setting up my Bullet Journal for November: Squashes theme

For this month, I took inspiration from seasonal eating and chose something we always enjoying trying lots of varieties of at this time of year: squashes! There are butternut squashes in the UK supermarkets pretty much all year round but once late September arrives, the mixed squashes begin to appear in the veg aisle, followed by huge pumpkins for Halloween, adding lots of autumnal colour and different shapes and sizes – some smooth and others with knobbly bits. This autumn, so far, we’ve sampled acorn, carnival, red kuri and sweet dumpling and we have two small delicata squashes lined up for this week. Each has its own unique flavour, some sweeter than others, and recommended uses include for soups, mash, risottos, tray bakes and stews.

Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping It Creative

For this month’s spreads I used my Tombow brush pens, Pigma microns and white gel pen for the calendar, Tombow and Micron pens for the finance spread, a pencil for sketching all of the squashes and my watercolour paints to create the front cover. I used a photograph I found online to help me sketch out the cover image.

Front cover

For the front cover, I took a slightly less that A5 piece of smooth watercolour paper (hot pressed) and sketched the squashes based on the photograph. I then mixed my Winsor & Newton Cotmon watercolours to create the different shades I needed. I used the wet on dry technique and made sure that I worked in a way that meant that all adjacent squashes were left for dry before painting the next one. Rather than sticking in the watercolour paper, I scanned the image and added the November title before printing it off and gluing it onto the page. Watercolour paper is really thick and would make my notebook too bulky.

Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping It Creative
Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping It Creative

Calendar pages

I used the usual 6×6 dot grid for my calendar, added the title using the bullet end of a brown Tombow and then sketched out lots of squashes using images that I found online. I then coloured them in using Tombows and Crayola supertips before outlining using a 0.1 nib Unipin fineliner. I also used a Gelly roll pen in 0.5 to add a few highlights. I filled in the spaces by adding leaves using the black pen again. I’m pretty pleased with how this page turned out but I wish I hadn’t drawn lines of the butternut squash – once it done, it’s done though!

Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping It Creative

Finances

I’ve been tracking my finances since August and it takes just a few minutes each week to update my tracker. I might identify outgoings by category this month e.g. clothing, books, hobbies, beauty products etc, rather than recording exactly what I bought. By the end of the month, this will be absolutely full!

Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping It Creative

Weekly plan 1

I’ve been trying out different weekly layouts for a while now and still haven’t decided which I prefer. This time I opted for vertical boxes with a little munchkin squash at the bottom. When I’m working at the university I need much more space to record events whereas on other days, I only need space for a few lines as all of my to-dos go in my running task list. I wanted to blur out the university information for privacy reasons and I found a great explanation online which was quick and easy! I love learning how to do new things on the computer.

Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping It Creative

Final words…

I hope you’ve enjoyed looking at my spreads for this month. Again, I’m late getting them finished but I had lots of life admin stuff to do last week and we were out all day on Halloween as it was my husband’s birthday (no getting dressed up or entertaining trick or treaters for us!). Also, the lighting has been pretty rubbish, so I’ve struggled to get decent photos taken of the pages. I should start making plans for December’s spreads now as during the month itself I’ll be busy doing journalling and photographs in the form of a December Daily album.

Posted in hygge, lifestyle, Mindfulness, self care, wellbeing, wellness

Monday Matters: Simple ways to embrace the hygge lifestyle this autumn/winter time

Last week in my blog post, I wrote about the winter blues which many of us experience during the darker months of the year. As part of my practical tips, I talked about keeping yourself warm and cosy. Today, I’m going to take this a little further, looking at the concept of hygge, what it means and how we can embrace the idea to improve our wellbeing during the autumn/winter time.

What exactly is hygge?

According to Oxford dictionaries online, hygge is:

a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being (regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture)

Popular Danish author Miek Wiking explains in his book:

Hygge is about an atmosphere and experience, rather than about things. It’s about being with people we love. A feeling of home. A feeling that we are safe, that we are shielded from the world and allow ourselves to let our guard down.

The Little Book of Hygge

Elements of hygge and creating what Miek describes as a ‘hyggely atmosphere’ include soft textures, warmth, natural greenery – bringing the outdoors in, candlelight, togetherness, being present, comfort, pleasure, peacefulness, sharing and showing gratitude.

Ways in which we can embrace the hygge life this autumn/winter

There are so many ways to bring hygge into your life that whole books have been written on the topic such as Miek Wiking’s Little Book of Hygge. Today, I’m going to give some decor ideas which you can put in place in your home to create an atmosphere of hygge and a number of suggestions of activities you might like to try to evoke feelings associated with hygge living. I hope these will help make your autumn and winter a wonderful time which is full of happy memories and blissful feelings.

Soft lighting

A great way to create a cosy and intimate feeling in your home is with soft lighting. This can be achieved in a number of ways e.g. by using lamps with low wattage bulbs rather than bright pendant lights, dotting candles around (battery operated if you have young children or want to place them somewhere small or in a high traffic area) or mood lights – those ones which cycle through different colours are nice. As well as my little battery-operated set of three candles, we recently invested in a string of starburst lights and we have them hanging from a hook on the ceiling in the corner of our dining area – they look fantastic and are great for ambience when we’re enjoying a homecooked meal.

Chunky knits

Adding chunky knits in neutral colours such as cream, taupe, pale greys, ivory and of white in the living area of your home (and maybe your bedroom) helps to create a feeling of warmth and can be especially useful on chilly evenings. A selection of blankets and throws in a wicker basket or positioned on the arms of a sofa looks great and are close at hand when needed. Choosing different textures also makes for a tactile experience too. We like to have plenty of cushions in a range of different fabrics on our chair and sofa to make them super comfortable.

Greenery and nature

Bringing the outdoors in is another aspect of instilling a hygge vibe in your home. This can be achieved in a number of ways. Collecting nature items on a woodland or forest walk can be great fun – this could include conkers, acorns, pine cones, colour changing fallen leaves, sprigs of holly, spruce tree branches etc. When you get them home, I recommend leaving them giving them a gentle shake outside and leaving them on a white sheet of paper for a while so that any residing creatures can escape.

Displaying photos of scenery, wildlife, yourself and your family out and about in natural environments can remind you of happy times outdoors. You might choose an image from one of your favourite walks, stunning landscapes e.g. hills or mountains, waterfalls and rivers or close ups of nature (macro shots) such as berries hanging from a tree branch, interesting fungi or lichen on a tree etc.

There’s often home decor made from nature items available in home and lifestyle stores which can be picked up relatively cheaply, For example we have a glittery hedgehog made from pine cones and a reindeer which has bark attached to its front and ears. They both really twinkle in candlelight too!

And, if you spend a lot of time on your computer, tablet or phone a lovely idea is to choose a natural scene as your wallpaper or nature items as your screen lock or homepage. You can also sometimes get notebooks with patterned covers which would look great on your desk. This could be winter scenes, cute wildlife e.g. hedgehogs, squirrels and deer or flora such as poinsettias, holly or seasonal trees.

Cosy nook

Most Danish homes will have a cosy nook as a space for relaxation. This is usually somewhere comfortable to sit which has all of the hyggely elements – soft lighting in the form of candles or lamps, blankets and cushions, natural elements – the Danes love wood, tactile elements and a good book or magazine to read. In our living room, we have a gorgeous, swivel chair in a dark pink, soft velvet which is next to the window. There’s a table there with a cute hedgehog coaster on for a hot drink and a selection of books and magazines. We also have blankets nearby on our settee although it’s rarely cold when we sit there as it’s right next to the radiator. Can you think of a place in your homer where you could create a similar cosy nook? What would be your comforting essentials?

Indulgent foods and drinks

Although I recommend a diet which is balanced, varied and on the whole healthy, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying the odd treat and as pleasure is another element of the hygge life, I recommend indulging every now and then. Trying new things e.g. different flavours will add to the experience. Why not sample a flavoured hot chocolate such as mint or salted caramel, choose a previously untried dessert from your local supermarket or bakery to enjoy with family or friends or just on your own when you’re relaxing, or pick out a different nice sounding coffee blend instead of your usual? Or, you could have a go at creating a dessert using a recipe you found on Pinterest. I know that my husband and I often tried out new main courses but rarely do homemade puddings. Cooking can be a great way of spending fun and quality time together too!

Togetherness

Family and spending quality time with them is very important to the Danes. The same goes for good friends too. Being hyggely is all about getting together in the home and doing things either as a family on a small scale, extended family or a group of friends. I have lots of ideas for doing this but here are a few to get you started:

  • movie night – pick one of your favourites that you’ve seen a few times so that if you start chatting it won’t matter
  • tv series binge watch – ask everyone to bring a tasty snack
  • games evening – Scrabble, Jenga, Monopoly, Cluedo, Kerplunk, dominoes, card games etc. depending on the ages and abilities of the participants
  • afternoon tea – think tiny sandwiches and mini cakes along with a selection of warm drinks
  • candlelit dinner – intimate dinner for two or with the kids, just make sure you ban mobile phones at the table so the conversation flows!
  • jigsaw puzzle – we like 1000 piece ones which take a while and they’re big enough for more than one person to work on at once
  • pajama party – this could include lots of decadent foods (everyone could bring something to share) and hot chocolate (with a choice of toppings) or beauty treatments such as face packs, manicures and foot spas.
  • holiday preparation – if you’ve booked a holiday somewhere else in the country or abroad, a nice thing to do is get a feel for the place before you go. This could include finding out about things to do there, places to visit, popular food stuffs, traditions and the language. If you’re heading overseas, you might even watch a film or TV series which is set in your chosen location.
  • Photo memories night – why not spend an evening reminiscing over previous times spent together by looking through old albums or journals?

Whichever kind of get together you choose, it should be really informal if you want it to be a hyggely occasion. The Danes prefer slow and simple living, anything flashy is completely frowned upon!

Showing gratitude

Being grateful for all that you have is, according to Miek, another key element of hygge. Why not start a gratitude practice where you spend 10 minutes each morning or evening considering what you’re thankful for. Try to choose experiences and feelings as well as material things, for example, the chance to sit out in the sunshine and listen to the birds in your garden, a text message from a friend asking how you are and if you’d like to meet for coffee next week, a riveting TV drama series that you’re hooked on.

Final words…

I hope you have enjoyed reading my ideas for creating a hygge atmosphere in your home. I haven’t read Miek’s Little Book of Hygge yet but it’s on my TBR list. I noticed he’s also recently released a new book called My Hygge Home – How to make home your happy place and if it’s of the standard of his earlier titles, I’m sure this is well worth a read too. Let me know in the comments if hygge sounds like a feeling you would love to have in your home and which of the ideas you would be interesting in trying.

Until next time, lots of hyggely hugs,

Posted in depression, depression management, life hacks, mental health, self care, wellbeing, wellness

Monday Matters: 7 practical ways to combat the winter blues

This morning I got up earlier than usual as I wanted to get a few things done before heading to do some work at the university. It was still quite dark as sunrise was not until 7.43am today and I switched on a little set of battery-operated candles I’ve recently bought (a bargain at £7.99 for three at various heights and including batteries from Festive Lights Store on Amazon) to bring some gentle light into the bedroom. They’re dinky enough to have on my bedside cabinet so are within easy reach – no having to pull back the duvet for me!

Although I’d enjoyed a good night’s sleep and managed to rouse myself pretty easily, I’ve noticed that I don’t jump out of bed raring to go like I did during the spring and summer months. I think many of us will acknowledge that we find it more difficult to get out of bed on dark mornings and, depending on our occupations or daily schedules we might also find that the lack of exposure to natural daylight during the autumn / winter months can dampen our mood somewhat. Even if we haven’t been diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD for short, rather aptly), most of us will agree that limited sunlight has some sort of effect on our health and wellbeing. In today’s blog post, I want to share some practical tips for combating what I’m going to call the ‘winter blues’ and the associated symptoms which may be present at this time of year and continue until springtime.

Photo credit: Amin Hasani for Unsplash

Signs of the winter blues

The symptoms of ‘winter blues’ will generally be quite mild. They may have an impact on your life, to a small extent, but should not make your days feel like a constant struggle. Please seek medical advice if you are displaying many of the signs of depression as you may need professional help. Signs of ‘winter blues’ which are commonly experienced by individuals include:

  • being less active than usual
  • sleeping for longer and still struggling to get up in the morning
  • showing signs of lethargy – lacking energy and feeling sleepy during the day
  • having poorer concentration skills than usual (you might be easily distracted, tasks might take you much longer to complete or you might find them more difficult, you might also struggle to attentively listen to someone when they’re talking or not fully comprehend what they’re saying)
  • having an increased appetite (often craving carbohydrates such as cakes, sweets and biscuits) which may cause weight gain
  • finding yourself wanting more stimulating drinks such as coffee or energy drinks because you feel like you need a caffeine boost
  • being less enthusiastic about activities you usually enjoy
  • rejecting social invitations (e.g. due to lack of energy or your body telling you that you need to stay at home and chillax. Some people will say they like to hibernate for the winter!)

What’s the difference between Winter blues and Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Winter blues:

  • not a clinical diagnosis
  • a mental state which comprises of feelings of sadness and lower energy levels during the coldest and darkest months of the year (when compared to the lighter, brighter, warmer and sunnier months)
  • doesn’t have much impact on day-to-day functioning (you can still carry out usual tasks or you can go to work or school as normal)
  • generally happens in the winter time and possibly some of autumn too
  • can be managed by making a few lifestyle changes such as those suggested below

Seasonal Affective Disorder:

  • a clinical diagnosis made by a medical professional such as your GP or your psychiatrist
  • affects day-to-day functioning and can make life a struggle usually during the autumn and winter months but can also occur in the summertime – S.A.D. has a seasonal pattern of some sort
  • takes its toll on many aspects of life including relationships, work, school or home life, sense of worth and sleep patterns
  • sometimes referred to as ‘winter depression’
  • requires professional help such as a talking therapy or medication such as anti-depressants

Practical tips to help you cope with the winter blues

Try to stay active Exercise is known to boost your mood so it’s important to stay active even if you feel like curling up under a blanket or sitting in front of the fire for the day. Doing a workout each day will also help to improve your energy levels during the daytime and make you tired in the evening so you can enjoy a better night’s sleep. This could be a 15-30 minute walk, a gym class such as Zumba, spinning or flow yoga or a home-based exercise such as following a routine on YouTube. Anything which gets your heart pumping is good. You could even put on some music and dance around the room!

Get outside Going out for some fresh air, especially on bright days can help you get more light. Taking a walk in nature e.g. in woodland or your local park can be particularly mood boosting. I like to look for signs of autumn or winter such as changing leaves, glistening spiders webs, amazing fungi, conkers acorns and beech nut shells, wildlife such as jays, squirrels and nuthatches, brightly coloured berries, morning frosts, snowfall, icicles, early flowers such as snowdrops and crocuses. Just make sure you wrap up really warm on particularly cold days – remember there’s no bad weather, just bad clothing!

Eat healthily At this time of year, it can be tempting to comfort eat high calorie, sugary or fatty foods to give yourself a quick energy boost or to try to make yourself feel better in some way. Most of us crave carbs during the colder months and this often takes the form of junk foods, fatty snacks such as crisps, biscuits and cakes or high volumes of less healthy ‘white’ foodstuffs such as white bread, white pasta, white rice and white potatoes. However, it’s always important to try to maintain a balanced diet for a healthy body and mind (including stable mood). You can still eat foods which are high in carbohydrates but make sure they’re ones which are better for you. Examples of foods which are more healthy but also carb rich include quinoa, brown rice, buckwheat, pulses such as kidney beans, lentils and chickpeas, wholegrain oats, bananas, sweet potatoes, squashes, apples, carrots, broccoli and avocado.

During the autumn and winter seasons, we love to create homemade soups, stews, risottos and vegetable bakes. We also create lots of dishes with pulses such as lentils, beans and chickpeas. These are also comforting and warming foods but without a high calorie content. If we find recipes online, we tend to modify them in some way, so I type them out with the changes we made and add them to our recipe folder. We’ve found some really great veggie and vegan dishes this Autumn and most of them are pretty quick to make.

Keep yourself warm Research shows that feeling cold (and wet if you get caught in the rain) can cause your mood to dip so it’s important to try to keep yourself warm and cosy. With the current increasing energy prices, I appreciate that you might feel that this is very difficult and expensive at the moment. Try to make good use of blankets in the home and, when you can, get yourself moving to generate some heat in your body. I tend to get really cold when I’m sat at my laptop for long periods of time and in the past, I’ve resorted to a small heater but now I’m trying to remember to get up and move about at regular intervals. When you go outside, add lots of layers, hats, scarfs and gloves. You can also get thermal tops and leggings to wear under your clothes. I got mine from an outdoor clothing shop and they’re great for really cold days when I’m going to be outside for long periods of time.

Stay social It might be tempting to stay at home all the time during the dark and cold months but isolation isn’t good for your mental health. Why not meet a friend at a cafe and enjoy an autumn or winter special drink such as a Pumpkin spice latte, Apple crisp macchiato, Caramel apple spice, Peppermint Mocha, Gingerbread latte or Black Forest Hot chocolate? Or how about arranging a meal out in a traditional pub with homecooked food and maybe even an open fire? Try to say yes to some of the events you are invited to, even if you don’t feel like going, you may find that you really enjoy it when you get there.

Try something new Trying out a new hobby or having a go at some autumn or winter crafts can stimulate the mind, provide new and interesting challenges, give a really sense of achievement and boost your self-esteem and confidence. Mindful activities can also be great for relieving stress, reducing negative self-talk and generally creating a more positive mindset. I picked up a winter fox mini cross stitch kit and a ‘make your own reindeer’ felt sewing kit at Hobbycraft last week for less than £7 and they’ll keep me busy for hours. Also, when I’ve finished them, I can add them to my Christmas displays each year and remember what fun I had making them. There are lots of autumn and winter craft ideas on Pinterest too – why not create a board full of them and pick something different which requires minimal materials and will make a lovely display for your home or room?

I’m still working on developing my drawing and watercolour skills and something I want to try this year is sketching and painting different squashes. I’m then going to use the designs for my November theme. My husband and I have also enjoyed completing Christmas doodle challenges in the past too and we might give it a go again this year. I’m also doing December Daily for the second time – I’ve bought my album, page protectors and Christmas papers and stickers as well. In the new year, I’ll probably still have quite a bit of journalling to finish off and I’m hoping to finally get some of the jigsaws done which I’ve had for a while.

Boost your vitamin D levels Some of you will be aware that the biggest natural source of vitamin D is sunlight. It’s no surprise then, that our levels tend to dip in the darker autumn / winter months. Deficiency in this essential vitamin can cause fatigue, symptoms of depression and muscle pain so if you find yourself struggling with the winter blues, it’s important to find ways to raise your levels. When the weather allows, try to spend some time each day in the sunshine (about 30 minutes is good). This could mean going out for a walk, wrapping up and sitting in the garden to enjoy a tea or coffee, or working next to a brightly lit window at home or in the office. Eating foods which are rich in vitamin D can also help. Fatty fish and seafood are one of the best sources but if you’re vegetarian or vegan like my husband and I are, you’ll find most plant-based milk alternatives, orange juice, some vegetarian or vegan yogurts, many ready-to-eat cereals and tofu are usually fortified with vitamin D. Finally, if you still think you could do with a top up, as a last resort, you could also take a vitamin D supplement, especially on dark and dismal days.

Final words…

If after reading today’s post, you identify with many of the symptoms of S.A.D. in the link, I recommend seeking professional health from your GP (or psychiatrist if you are under a mental health team). As I explained earlier, Seasonal Affective Disorder can be quite severe and can seriously impact on your day-to-day functioning. Also, because it can occur from early autumn right through to the springtime, potentially it could last for over five months, which, as I know well myself, is a long time to be struggling with depression for.

For those of you that relate to the ‘winter blues’ symptoms, I hope you will consider trying out some of the self-management suggestions and that they help you to cope more effectively. If you have any further suggestions or have tried and tested methods that you personally use, it would be great if you could share them in the comments to support others who find this time of year a little challenging.