Live and Learn – Lykke Part Two
I find myself writing a very different column this week to what I had planned last week.
I don’t know why this surprises me. I really should know by now, I write about it often enough, that life doesn’t always work out as we intended.
In my head, it was all going to be positive and light, warm and fluffy, “isn’t life magic?” kind of stuff, as a continuation of the “lykke” (Danish word for happiness) theme I began last week.
Then I find that I’ve gotten ill again, in a similar way to last winter, and it’s not exactly making me feel full of joy and contentment. In fact, the opposite is true. It’s given me a cold, hard slap in the face, as if to remind me that life isn’t always sunshine and roses. It’s a bit harsh sometimes, and that’s just life. It is what it is.
Regardless, I have been studying the work of my new favourite obsession Meik Wilding (sorry Jose, you went to Manchester United, unforgivable), author of “The Little Book of Lykke”.
You may remember that he also wrote “The Little Book of Hygge”, which got us all embracing the art of “cosiness” last winter. He’s from Denmark, a country often hailed as the happiest country in the world.
So, I’m reading his book, and listening to his TED talks whilst feeling pretty rubbish and grumpy, thinking “oh the irony of it all”.
I’m not great at being ill. I get huge shame when I’m ill, it’s like I’ve failed, and I feel like I’m a really bad role model for what I do. I really do give myself a hard time for it.
Then I come across some of Wilding’s research from his studies of people in the UK. According to Wilding, the main cause of misery is being ill, the second cause of misery is work. Having to work whilst I am ill, the downside of being self-employed, I’m now just allowing myself to be OK about not being OK. I decide to stop beating myself up and use my time getting well listening to Magic Meik’s pearls of wisdom.
Apparently, I don’t have to worry too much. There are two types of happiness. One is Affective Happiness, which relates to how we feel in any moment, or on an everyday basis.
The other is Cognitive Happiness, and this is more about how we feel about our lives overall; how satisfied we are when we look at the big picture.
Yay, I can still be happy, I think, even though today I’m taking “crotchety” to a whole new level. It’s just my “affective happiness’, and that could change tomorrow, and in fact it’s likely to with what I’ve got coming up.
We can be unhappy in the moment, but if we’re happy with our life in general, then we’re unlikely to stay in a state of misery, and tend to cope better when things don’t go so well.
On the other hand, we can also be unhappy with the big picture of our lives, but still able to find pleasure and joy in the little things, and when we do, this is likely to help us build an overall more satisfying life for ourselves, thus affecting our “cognitive happiness”.
So I’m choosing to accept I am ill, but not let it cloud my judgement around the bigger picture of my life, which is generally good. I decide to look for the blessings, think about all the things I have to look forward to in the future, and remember the most powerful mantra I ever learned for when you’re going through a sticky patch:
“This too will pass”.
And in the meantime, I can look for the “lykke”, which is all around me when I simply consider the people I have in my life that care. In that respect, being ill taught me so much about lykke. One of the six pillars of happiness is “togetherness’ – having a strong social support, and having a sense of community.
I’m reminded not just to look for the positive in a situation, but also to look at what every situation teaches us, about the world and about ourselves.
And as the saying goes: “live and learn, and pass it on”.