It feels surreal that a third of this Happiness Project is already in the past now that it is time to wrap up November as well as introduce the December theme. Winter has arrived here in Helsinki already and staying indoors seems more inviting. Let’s dive in! This post is part of my blog series The Happiness Project.
November Novel Reading Month
My November project was to get back into reading in the evenings as it calms me down more effectively than for example watching Netflix documentaries or tv series. While there was a bit of resistance at first, slowly I was able to ease back into it and suddenly the novel was finished. Since then I have plowed through a few more novels and started yet another one last night.
Choosing enjoyable genres rather than reading what someone else thinks is fancy somehow is key to my reading success. There was a time when I had this rather endearing idea that “fine literature” would magically make me a more interesting person or whatever. I never got into the type of books that overcomplicate plots, choose too challenging vocabulary (English is my fourth language), or create such abstract worlds that I find it hard to follow them right before bedtime.
These days it is science fiction, fantasy, historical romance, or the very rare contemporary romance or chick lit all the way. I’m one of those wallflower type of people, who read Julia Quinn much earlier than the Netflix population got to know her, too, and feel strong kinship with the oddbirds at the outskirts of so-called polite society in more than one way. Or how about some spells, shapeshifting into werewolves, or spaceship adventures?
It is interesting to me to notice how my tastes have evolved through the years, because chick lit once was my absolute favourite genre. I could relate to all that heartache and silly problems the heroines experienced, and rooted for them in the contemporary romances to be chosen by their heart’s desires. Yet these days, the most relaxation is apparently found in genres that have very few similarities with today’s world in which magic supposedly does not exist, or in which fantastic machines of the future are things of our dreams still.
During my university years I stopped reading for pleasure and it took me a long time to get back to it. Today I view reading as an activity crucial for my wellness, and am beyond grateful for our fantastic library selection of e-books to read on the iPad. Most books are in fact read through this avenue, so this is one satisfied tax payer. I love the fact that the book simply is deleted from my account once I have read it, as my latest removal made me realise how many books sit untouched right now yet had to be organised anew.
Would I call November a success even though I got wind in my sails very late in the month? Absolutely!
December MBSR Month Part 1
My choice for a December Happiness Project is something that has been calling me for a while now, namely Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, or MBSR for short.
It is an eight-week long programme based on mindfulness meditation that is aimed at people, who experience stress, anxiety, depression, pain or similar. It is standardised through the Westernised secular system established by Jon Kabat-Zinn in the USA, and has been extensively researched. In order to offer the programme, the trainer must first get certified in the method.
I was fortunate enough to participate in the MBSR programme here in Helsinki some years ago and thought it incredibly helpful at the time. The exercises didn’t feel odd or unwelcome, even though my circumstances were rather stressful, and what stayed with me was a feeling of being increasingly aligned with myself in complete authenticity through the weeks.
Moving is said to be one of the most stressful events in a person’s life, but I have also been blessed with a child in my life (not mine but close), which has caused many new experiences the past year. There have been some other things on my mind, too, and the combination of all this has me asking myself gently whether now would be the time? The answer is a “Yes!” of relief, excitement and curiosity.
Since December is longer than February, this means we have four and a half weeks until New Year’s Eve, and my being halfway through the fifth MBSR week when the month changes. The December wrap-up post therefore will cover weeks 1-4 only.
While these Happiness Project blog posts aren’t written from an educational angle, I will say that the benefits of MBSR are well documented and the techniques used accessible to most of us. It will be a happy day when I get to blog about preventive medicine in general, and mindfulness and MBSR more specifically.
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Please share in the comments whether you intend to join or not. And if you have decided what to focus on these first months, you are welcome to share what your own projects are about, too!
Photo credit: Aaron Burden.