Sunday, 14 May 2017

There is no key to happiness. There is this book though... Happy as a Dane

I have a terrible habit of judging a book by its cover. Literally. Not metaphorically. When I shop for books, forks or toothbrushes, they have to come in beautiful packaging. This time, I went against my nature (or nurture) and went for a book with the ugliest cover every (sorry publishing house WAB). I so did not enjoy this cover, that I even had to post a picture of this book in black and white. That is due to my lack of tolerance for red (apart from lipsticks). But the cover of this book is hardly the subject of this post. As a matter of fact (after this long and probably unnecessary introduction) it is the contents. The reason why I picked it up from a bookshelf in Poland, whilst visiting mum an dad, was the title - Happy as a Dane

I have visited Copenhagen just over a year ago. Despite minus million Celsius (who goes away in February to a colder country?!), despite the lack of sunshine, despite not knowing what we were doing and where we were going we happened to subconsciously live an extremely Danish week (miss the alcohol poisoning as it turns out). When I got on the underground (being used to the London tube), I was amazed that nobody was rushing! I live an hour away for London and go there rather often. Even if I am there with no specific plan, not having to be anywhere at any particular time, I find myself rushing through the crowd in pursuit to catch the next train. God forbid I miss it as the next one is in.... ONE MINUTE! Such a difference, right?

The short experience of Copenhagen I had was: beautiful spaces, natural materials, people having time, people not being scared to express their opinions, people enjoying little pleasures. Little did I know at the time that the latter was called hyggeling. There was something in that country that attracted me with its serenity and openness. These are exactly the qualities that are being carefully described by Malene Ryndahl. Malene has a distance towards Danes having the label o being happy as she moved out of Denmark at the age of 18. As an immigrant myself, I realise that once we move abroad we happen to realise what we have left behind. Being emerged it it, we do not realise that what we have is not necessarily a norm. Malene investigates the theory of Danes being endlessly happy at the same time. By no means does she serve it on a silver plater. Malene challenges herself and expresses her opinions fearlessly, just like a Dane. 

Malene grew up in a respectful home that was still far from perfect. There was no happy ending but what her parents taught her, were the core values that both her and her brother live by. It turned out that her brother suffered with allergies and asthma and started treating the symptoms by changing his diet. As a result, he opened 42 RAW - a restaurant I have been craving to eat at for months before I went to Copenhagen and it certainly was the first place to visit on my food map. I was sure that it was just ran by an eager veggie with hate for 'normal food'. To my surprise, it was a result of a business that went down and the need to express oneself, have a place in the community.

This is by all means not a self-help book. This in not a recipe for happiness. Malene takes us on a journey with 10 values she believes enable Danish communities to be happy. However, one does not have to be Danish to live by them. Regardless of nationality, you can be happy. The truth is that happiness lies in ourselves. Not in our partners, belongings, bank accounts. My parents also taught me something 'Danish'. Focus on what you have, not on what you do not have.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

The Life- Changing Magic of Not giving a F**k

Do not be mislead by the title. Life is not actually about being careless and inconsiderate. Quite the opposite. The 200 pages that you are possibly going to enjoy are nothing but an eye-opener on how ridiculously careful and considerate we should be with regards to what we choose to spend our resources on. The focus, for a change, is ourselves. Do you remember that wonderful, inspiring, relaxed and content person- YOU? If you are reading this review, you probably have forgotten that person ever existed. Worry not, there is a way to redesign your life by using 'The surprising art of caring less and getting more'.

Being tempted by the minimalistic design of the cover (yes, I just did judge the book by its’ cover) I have treated myself to this book and decided to take it on a plane trip. As an extremely overbooked person trying to please everyone around me, the only reading time I manage to arrange is on the plane, train or any other more or less glamorous means of transport. Sipping on my Benugo flat white whilst munching on a nut bar, I have bravely decided to make the first step to de-clutter my life. After all, it was the last day of April and I was going on my first holiday since the previous October. That itself was a reason good enough to spend £10.99 on this publication with a slightly controversial title.

Having located my gate I went for it. Ready like never before. Page one, here we come! From that moment it was just Sarah and I(sorry aircrew for ignoring you shamelessly). I was catching a 2 hour flight and before my journey finished, I was more than half way through. I was ready to stay on the plane for another journey just to finish it off. I did not care where that plane was heading from my destination. The feeling I got was similar to the one that any runner gets when they cross a finish line beating their PB and the run was so enjoyable they feel they could do it all over again (I know, not a popular feeling!). In order to finish it off, I have actually arranged to cheat on my close ones for a couple of hours during the day so that I could return to Sarah. If it was not for the fact that I was on holiday I would probably call in sick (sorry boss).

Let me be clear - this is not a classic self-help book. Although if you picked it up, you probably need help. Well done for admitting it - that is the first step! Spending time you do not have doing things you do not want to do with people you do not like? Sounds familiar? Add spending money you do not have (hallelujah for interest-free balance transfers) on things you do not need. The common reason why we do it (on condition that we are nice people) is because we care. The issue that causes chronic unhappiness, however, is because we care about everyone around but US. Shifting your focus to your slightly more selfish self without harming others is a challenge to begin with. It is a skill and like any skills it can be learned. And the method Sarah suggests is the NotSorry Method (try to comprehend that dear British people). Imagine a world where you do not need to feel sorry as a result of your poorly-made decisions and all the ‘yeses’ you have thoughtlessly verbalised.

TLCMoNGF should be on your coffee table by now if you are the annoying (yes, simply annoying!) person who says ‘yes, sure’ when it means ‘absolutely no chance’. Stop using ‘I’ll let you know if I can make it’ as a euphemism for a good old and not so popular anymore NO. It is fine, we are adults that are allowed to make our own decisions, remember? We do it all day for a living in a workplace. It is perfectly OK to say NO. Quite liberating as well. Do you not believe me? Believe Sarah. After all she has also KonMaried her sock drawer as a seating point!