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‘Laugh Long and Prosper’ is shelf help with a smile, stressbusters with a smirk, and information with a wink wink. You get the point. On Mondays, I host the podcast Just Another Mindful Monday. Recently, I interviewed a dear friend of mine named Heidi Petersen.
Heidi lives here in Toronto but she has over one hundred relatives covering three generations back home in Denmark.
I wanted to talk to Heidi because I had read two books last month: The Year Of Living Danishly and The Little Book of Hygge. To find out exactly what ‘hygge’ is, here are a few excerpts from our chat together.
Judy: Heidi, welcome to the show. I wanted to interview you because I know that you also read two books that I love – The Year of Living Danishly and The Little Book of Hygge. According to an annual UN study, Denmark is regularly listed as one of the happiest places in the world. Canada is usually in the top ten, as well, but what makes Denmark unique is something that they embrace called ‘hygge’. I thought that with Covid continuing on for another year, what better time to talk about this incredible Danish super power? Perhaps we here in North America can draw from it.
Heidi, does the English word ‘hug’ come from the Danish word ‘hygge’?
Heidi: Yes, ‘hug’ is derived from ‘hygge’!
Judy: Heidi, for folks who haven’t heard of ‘hygge’, can you explain what it is?
Heidi: Sure! It’s actually a Danish concept. It’s a state, a mood, a coziness, comfort, feelings of contentment, being kind to yourself and others, self-care and self-love. It’s sort of derived from all of those things. But it also encompasses the idea of family and community. Doing things that make you feel happy – just being in your happy place.
Judy: I noticed in one of the books that they were talking about a ‘hygge kit’ that you should have ready when you come home from work, especially if you are feeling cold and damp.
The kit should include things like tea, candles, chocolate, woolen socks, books, a notebook, etc.
In other words, whatever you feel like. The author said that when you return home, you should crawl into your ‘hygge krog’ or cozy corner and get down to some serious ‘hygge’.
Heidi: Haha, yes, and keep in mind that ‘hygge’ is different for everyone. I know for myself (Judy, I know that you are also a big dog lover) but my dogs are part of my ‘hygge’. ‘Hygge’ also includes lighting, candles and texture. A nice chai latte or a glass of wine doesn’t hurt either.
Judy: It’s funny that you say that about lighting because according to a recent statistic, the average Dane burns thirteen pounds of wax, per year. Like you said, it’s all about the coziness – cozy corners with fun lighting, blankets and cushions.
I don’t know if this is part of ‘hygge’ but, according to research, the average work week in Denmark is 34-37 hours. The Danish attitude is if you can’t get IT done in that window, then you aren’t working efficiently enough. Haha.
Heidi: Yes, Danes work very hard during that time frame but we also play hard. Every Danish employee is entitled to five weeks of paid vacation per year. Danes are also very family- oriented. They take a lot of family vacations. Whether you have kids or not, it’s about spending quality time with your loved ones.
Judy: Speaking of family, the books also mention that if you have a baby, you get one year of maternity leave and you can split that time however you want between the two parents.
Heidi: As a result, many Danish couples share the responsibility of raising their children.
Judy: It’s funny because when we think of Danes, we think of pillaging Vikings. How did ‘hygge’ come out of all of that bloodshed?
Heidi: (laughs) I guess we evolved. Haha
Judy: How did we get to throw cushions?
Heidi: (laughs) It’s the Ying and the Yang.
Judy: It’s easy enough to adopt some of the ‘hygge’ traditions alone but I also read that ‘hygge’
includes a real sense of community and reaching out to others. In fact, the average Dane belongs to three clubs and/or associations. It’s almost like a group hug or ‘hygge’. So how are Danes managing with Covid when we are supposed to be isolating?
Heidi: It’s difficult. We have been doing a lot of Face Timing. However, because we are used to spending so much family time together in Denmark (now virtually), it’s easier to adapt. In fact, I notice that more North Americans are starting to grasp the Scandinavian concept of how cool it is to socialize!
Judy: So, while many of us here in North America are suffering from the ‘Zoomies’ ( dreading Zoom calls with our loved ones because we already spend so much time on work calls), I encourage our listeners to keep the dialogue going with their family, friends and individuals. Especially during these Covid times. Keep it going, folks. We will get through this together.
If your family feels more like an episode of ‘Hockey Night in Canada’ than ‘This Is Us’, have no fear. Persevere. Continue to reach out. Someone you know just might need a ‘hygge’.
Heidi, thank you so much for joining me on the show. Until next time… Laugh Long and Prosper.
I don’t know what was scarier in 2020…Donald Trump or Covid.
Certainly, both of them have had me cowering in my house for a few months at the beginning of the year.
But then I felt inspired by Joe Biden: the little engine that could.
Slowly but surely, his campaign started to gain traction throughout the year and lo and behold, he and Kamala Harris won the US Election.
I felt inspired by Joe Biden for many reasons. His old-school talk about having ‘steel in your spine’ made me want to strike a Rosie the Riveter pose and start saving kittens out of trees.
I was also inspired by ‘The Joe Biden Jog’. You know the jog -the five or six little steps that Joe does just as he’s about to take the podium. I now do the ‘Joe Biden Jog’ myself whenever I’m on one of my slow daily walks and I think someone might be looking.
As 2020 progressed, I started to get mad at 2020. To hell with you, 2020.
As Covid raged on, I metamorphized from coward to full- blown ‘Snakes on a Plane’ Samuel Jackson. “That mother ##%$^^&ing 2020 is not going to get the best of me.”
I joined millions of humans around the world as we adapted to the ‘new normal’ by masking up, Zooming, home schooling, isolating, sanitizing and maintaining a responsible six-foot distance from others. That’s right, Winston Churchill would have been proud of us! Okay, maybe we weren’t fighting in the streets with sticks and brooms but, when it comes to watching TV, no other generation can hold a candle to us. Fourteen hours of binge-watching The Crown? Child’s play. Not even a blink or a bathroom break. Hulu- come at me.
I don’t know about you, but I can watch the most obscure, fragmented channel for days. Have you seen ‘Estonia’s Next Baking Star’ on the Umlaut Network? For a monthly subscription of only $6.99, I can assure you that it’s a bargain at twice the price.
Of course, Christmas 2020 was different because of Covid. It was smaller and quieter. I notice that most of my Christmas gifts were chocolates, pajamas and books. Otherwise known as ‘Covid Gear’ or the 92-year-old Grandmother Starter Kit. Either way, I don’t mind! Bring on the comfort and cosiness.
I stayed with my dad this Christmas. We had a great time catching up. One minor observation- could the TV be any louder?
I’m sure even the neighbours know that the mystery on Oak Island is that there isn’t any treasure.
All joking aside, I will take the good lessons from 2020 and keep moving forward.
Family, friends, charity, gratitude and ‘Murder She Wrote’ are just some of the touchstones that have helped me to, ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’- as Winston Churchill would say.
Hang in there folks, it’s going to get better. We just have to be patient.
Laugh Long and Prosper.
By the way, in case you missed the most recent episodes of my podcast ‘Laugh Long and Prosper’ -you can check them out here.
Laugh Long and Prosper: Psychic Friday – Friday January 1, 2021- Predictions for the year 2021 with Psychic Nikki
Laugh Long and Prosper -Monday Dec 21 2020 Just Another Mindful Monday with Meditation Coach Cara Coulson Part Two
Laugh Long and Prosper – Monday Dec 7 2020 – Just Another Mindful Monday with Meditation Coach Cara Coulson Part One
I know…not exactly the most hilarious, side-splitting way to open a conversation or a comedy show, for that matter. Ah, remember the good old days when we used to do comedy shows???
Relax, Chicken Little. I bring some good news, even as I write this after a see-saw US election that still hasn’t been completely resolved. This good news comes in the form of two amazing books that coaxed me out from underneath my comforter and back into the real world.
Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress by Canadian psychologist Steven Pinker, and Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About The World – And Why Things Are Better Than You Think by Swedish physician and statistician Hans Rosling. Both books are really uplifting and perfect for the challenging times that we are going through.
Maybe it’s all fake news?
I don’t think so. These books are based upon facts. Remember when we used to care about facts? Also, each book comes with a heavy hitter list of endorsements including two people you might have heard of.
‘A hopeful book about the potential for human progress when we work off facts rather than our inherent biases.’
‘My new favorite book of all time.’
I’m no Barack Obama or Bill Gates, but my Goldendoodle Barnie thinks I’m pretty swell.
I give 10/10 to both books, too!
Okay, great, so Barnie loves you. What are some takeaways from Factfulness?
Facts! Lots of good facts!
-In the past 20 years, extreme poverty has been cut in half.
-60 percent of girls in low-income countries finish public school.
-80 percent of 1 year-olds in the world have been vaccinated against certain types of disease.
What are some takeaways from Enlightenment Now?
Again, lots of solid facts. For example, we are fighting world famine.
In 1973, just forty-seven years ago, one-third of the world was malnourished.
Today, because of advances in science and agriculture, that percentage is down to 13 percent and scientists are working to bring that statistic down even further.
Did you know that just 150 years ago, people starved to death in Sweden because winter was so long? In 1820, 90 percent of the world lived in extreme poverty, but trade encouraged countries to put differences aside.
Globally, there is more wealth and less inequality.
Globalization and technology are helping more countries get wealthier.
The wealthier a country is, the more likely it is to spend on social programs.
The wealthier a country is, the more unlikely it is to be influenced by militant groups.
What about climate change?
Both books state that developments in science and technology are pushing us to get our carbon dioxide emissions cut in half by 2050 and eliminated by 2100.
What about the current political climate – especially, you know where?
Political ‘glitches’ happen every now and then throughout history but hopefully, a growing number of young, educated, more tolerant voters will help make the world a better place in the future. It may not be happening fast enough for most of us who couldn’t peel ourselves away from the TV set on November 3rd, but the demographics are changing.
What about Covid?
Oh yeah, that. Well, researchers are working around the globe and the clock.
As a planet, we have faced many challenges in the past, including war, disease, natural disasters, and political upheavals, just to name a few. But as the facts have shown us over and over again (see my last blog Humankind by Rutger Bregman) the worst actually brings out the best in most humans. It’s better to bet with clan than against it. Sometimes, when things get really, really dark, we laugh with the clan. It helps to stop us from freezing in fear and it keeps us moving forward. We laugh, we learn, we overcome, we do better.
Until we discover a vaccine for Covid, continue practicing the three W’s:
-Wash your hands
-Watch your distance
-Shop at Walmart
-Wear a mask
And don’t forget to laugh. I had the pleasure of working with Monty Python’ John Cleese a few years back. The man is brilliant and obviously hysterical. Here’s one of my favorite quotes from him:
‘Laughter connects you with people. It’s almost impossible to maintain any kind of distance or any sense of social hierarchy when you’re just howling with laughter. Laughter is a force for democracy.’
Until next month,
Humankind by Rutger Bregman: Part Two
A few more examples to show you just how awesome humans really are.
Covid, the economy, the un-presidential debate, Tiger King’s Carole Baskin competing on Dancing With The Stars – there is certainly a lot of frightening news lately. Are things just getting worse?? Last month, I reviewed the book Humankind by Rutger Bregman. It gave me hope. Bregman provided examples throughout history that proved the awesomeness of humans in times of distress. If you’ve got six and a half months of Zoom, mask, and sanitizer burn-out, perhaps a few more of the author’s stories will help lift your spirits.
During grade school, you were probably asked to read William Golding’s Lord of The Flies. It is the story about a group of boys stranded on an island. Over a period of time, they end up turning on each other and supposedly displaying the worst of mankind.
Bregman actually found a real-life Lord of the Flies example in 1966. Six schoolboys from the island of Tonga stole a boat and became shipwrecked on a remote Pacific island for 15 months. Unlike, Lord of The Flies, they did not turn on each other. Instead, they built fires, shared food and they made a pact not to argue. After the rescue, they remained friends for years.
Bregman cites another example of camaraderie over conquest from the first world war, when English and German soldiers defied orders and stopped fighting on Christmas Day. From the trenches, the two sides drank, sang Christmas Carols and exchanged gifts instead of gunfire. Even after they were forced to resume battle, the rival soldiers sent each other secret messages regarding attacks and/or they fired above the enemy lines so as not to cause death or injury.
Contrary to what action movies seem to depict, taking a human life is not easy or natural. Bregman provides a statistic from the Battle of Waterloo. Less than one percent of the injuries inflicted during that battle were injuries from bayonets. This is phenomenal considering that bayonets were attached to tens of thousands of rifles. Bregman says that, even in the face of life-or-death situations, humans avoid violence whenever possible.
Yes, there has been and will continue to be dark glitches in history, but statistics show that it is not the norm to react like barbarians. Humans have stepped up and risked their lives to prove over and over again that no, it is not survival of the fittest. In many cases and as Bregman states, it is survival of the friendliest. It is part of our caveman brain and instinct to want to be part of the clan, not against it.
So, take a deep breath, take the bone out of your hair and smile. If history provides any indication, we are still pretty darn amazing as a race. The majority of us will summon our better sides to get through these challenging pages of the calendar.
Until next time,
Admit it. How many of you got dragged into the virtual presentation world, kicking and screaming? How many of you had nightmares of sweat dripping down your forehead one minute before the green light came on in front of a virtual roomful of clients? How many of you felt like Dave from Space Odyssey 2001?
“HAL, open the pod bay doors!!”
“I’m sorry Judy, I’m afraid I can’t do that.”
“All right, HAL. I’ll go in through the emergency airlock.”
“Without your space helmet, Judy, you’re going to find that rather difficult.”
Okay, so maybe this was my imagination going overboard.
For the past few years, I have been encouraged by friends and clients to do more video presentations. As a comedian and motivational speaker, I have always enjoyed live presentations and conferences.
In the past, I had been speaking and coaching virtually with some of my clients but then COVID hit. The game changed overnight. There wasn’t an option to do conferences or comedy shows.
So, like many, I was forced to make a choice. Wait it out or go all-in virtually.
I have to admit, the idea of speaking into a green light for an hour was a bit daunting. It was so different. However, I took a lot of inspiration from my two sisters. One is a speech-language pathologist and the other is an elementary school teacher. I was impressed with how they both learned the new technology necessary for their work and adapted, almost overnight. They had never done virtual presentations before. They were motivated by their young students and clients who really needed them to step up.
I don’t think people give themselves enough credit for making such a huge shift in such a relatively short time. They beat themselves up for not ‘getting it’. Luckily, both of my sisters were able to lean on their teenagers to help them navigate the new information asteroid fields. I’m sure there were some eye-rolling and gum-smacking along the way, but those little astronauts stepped up too.
I was proud of my nieces and nephews. All those years spent on Snapchat and Tik Tok (or Tic Tac, as my dad calls it) finally paid off.
So, if my sisters could step up for those that virtually needed them, then so could I.
During my first mission right after COVID, I talked to the green light for an hour and then I said goodbye. The green light went out.
It was just me alone in my pod.
I had no idea how the presentation went over.
It was only afterward when I received some nice comments from the organizers and participants via email and LinkedIn, that I knew that the presentation was a hit. Phew.
My next few presentations were via WebEx. Although WebEx isn’t as user friendly as Zoom, it is apparently more secure and as a result, a common choice for various businesses. Also, if it was good enough for guests on CNN then heck, I thought, it should be good enough for me. I may not be as political or incendiary as some of those talking heads but I bet I could still make Don Lemon laugh.
Since then, the platforms have changed but the work itself remains the same. Whether you are talking into a green light or a roomful of people, be yourself, tell your story, don’t be a HAL, be human and make sure you don’t have any space food on your face.
We’re all on the same ship together. It’s a new world but let’s travel safely.
Don’t get rattled. As HAL might suggest, “Look, I can see you’re really upset about this. I honestly think you ought to sit down calmly, take a stress pill, and think things over.”
It will be different but we’ll be fine.
Until next time, Laugh Long and Prosper.