Falling leaves

You might have noticed we had an extra hour of weekend this weekend. You might have also noticed it’s getting dark at a ridiculous time (GMT 16.42 today). I certainly have. And for the first time in my life I noticed I was struggling a bit with it.  

While the management of my apartment building have just gone out of their way to put up Halloween decorations, my neighbours have decided to put up their Christmas tree on the 25th of October. Maybe my neighbours are struggling a bit too and are trying to get that festive ambiance in early to zhuzh life up.

Usually, I feel pretty ok with the perspective of long autumn walks, pretty autumn colours, hearty autumn food, cosy pub afternoons, rainy days lending themselves perfectly for curling up on the sofa with a cup of hot chocolate and a book, pumpkin spiced lattes, pretty lights everywhere and the endless activities that start to kick off in the run up to Christmas (Turned out to be a pretty uplifting exercise writing these pick-me-ups down by the way!).

I don’t think I need to spell out why things are different this year. Unfortunately, it looks like the social aspect of this season is cancelled. No festive drinks planned in my calendar and my first secret Santa that is booked is a virtual one. Yesterday it dawned on me it’s unlikely I’ll be spending Christmas with my family. 10 Days of quarantine on the way in and 14 days on the way back might be a bit much to not be able to meet up with the family for Christmas dinner anyway.  

I’m a pretty upbeat, happy go lucky person. I also appreciate I’m in an incredibly fortunate position and shouldn’t complain at all. But we’re all allowed to feel a bit sorry for ourselves from time to time. Nevertheless, if I’ve been taken aback by this sudden melancholic “shorter days, falling leaves” feeling, I can only imagine how people who are prone to be affected by falling leaves feel now.

As a manager, I’m also aware that I need to be careful with showcasing my mood. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be open and honest about how you feel, but you need to have a sense of awareness of how your mood could affect other people’s moods. You don’t want you feeling a tat miserable rubbing off on anyone else.

It made me think about how I want to deal with the next couple of months. How am I going to be keeping things light and have fun? How am I going to drag myself out of this potential spiral of negativity? As mentioned before: I believe you have a choice in how to deal with what life throws at you. And right now I choose not to be miserable and focus on positive things.

Apart from jotting down pick-me-ups, one of the things that keeps coming back on my path is the topic of hobbies. I’ve heard people saying that having a hobby made a massive difference while being in lock down. It gives you something to look forward to and get excited about. We’re working on an initiative at work to get people to share their hobbies and drive other people to get involved. I think it couldn’t have come at a better time.

Like a passion, a hobby might be something you feel is difficult to find if you haven’t thought about it before. On the other hand, there is no harm in trying a couple before finding anything that sticks.

I went down a rabbit hole yesterday with the pursuit of a new hobby plan. My friend texted me she was picking up “paint by numbers”. I got excited and considered doing the same. Went on Amazon to buy a “Paint by numbers van Gogh”, stumbled on a: “Paint by number your own photo”, forgot about attempting to reproduce van Gogh and decided to find a picture I would like to see converted into a painting. Spent hours scrolling through my pictures and came up with some plans on what to do with them that got me massively excited. Binned the “paint by numbers” plan, changed to “do something creative and artsy with my favourite pictures plan” (not changing them into a painting). First step: I’m going to have the picture featured in this post printed on acrylic glass. It might turn out to look like a very bad attempt at contemporary art, but the thought of it put a smile on my face instantly.

Long and short: Pick up a hobby that suits you. It might help you to turn your frown upside down (Apologies, I couldn’t help myself).

Falling leaves and short days make people do and feel strange things. Falling leaves and feeling isolated might make people do even stranger things. Let’s be aware, mindful, helpful and try to choose the positive way to deal with the lemons.

Niksen: Doing nothing seems to be the next hype

It was world mental health day on the 10th of October. Usually I’m not that on-topic, but my colleague sent me a link to a book: “Niksen: Embracing the Dutch art of doing nothing” that came out this month. She added: “Please help me get some Niksen in my life!!”  It made me snicker.

Apparently, “we, the Dutch” mastered the art of doing nothing. After the Danish “Hygge hype” and the Swedish “Lagom legacy”, Niksen is the newest trend in the battle against stress and anxiety.  

I wasn’t sure about taking this as an insult or a compliment. Have the Dutch just been called lazy? Or have we been praised for the ability to properly switch off?

After doing some research, it appears to be the latter.

Niksen is considered to be an effective method of stress management. It’s a little different than mindfulness. Where mindfulness encourages you to focus on being in the moment and not to worry about the past or the future, niksen allows your mind to wander or consider light topics (“what a pretty sunset”), or daydream for a bit. Niksen requires you to do nothing and have no purpose while doing it, such as staring out of the window; lying on a beach; curling up on the sofa and reading a magazine. Niksen can lead to decreased stress levels and increased creativity and problem soliving abilities. What’s not to like?

Niksen doesn’t mean you’re lazy, although the word has a bit of a negative connotation in the Netherlands. The Netherlands historically is a Calvinistic country and working hard is in our heritage. But we do know what we should do to switch off even though we might need to do a bit more of it. Niksen means you take time to allow yourself to do something (or actually: nothing) just for you, without any specific purpose. I think me and my friends might prefer to call it me-time.

Imagine tonight, you’d have an hour of me-time. You allow yourself to spend that hour doing something that has no purpose other than winding down. Not actively or consciously using any of your brain capacity. It instantly lifts your mood looking forward to that, doesn’t it?

For once, I seem to be an early adopter of a trend just based on my nationality. But does being Dutch really mean I’m automatically good at niksen? You might recall I mentioned one of my colleagues said I came across as someone who’s always keeping busy…

I think I’m pretty good at not massively overplanning my free time. I might also be good at intending to do nothing. However, the execution can be pretty poor: As a form of me-time, I might plan to take a nice long relaxing bath. I don’t like taking baths. I don’t have the patience to wait until it fills up, so I’ll get in while the water is too hot and the tap is still running. With a book. I’ll read three pages, get annoyed the book is getting soaked. Will start washing my hair instead. By the time the bath is full, I’m done. I guess taking a bath is not my ideal scenario when it comes to niksen.

Sometimes I move a comfy chair over to my floor-to-ceiling windows and promise myself to just enjoy the view for a bit. I do bring a book, my phone and my iPad… And after 10 minutes of staring out of the window I usually end up reading the news, finishing my book, watching something on Netflix or on a call with family or friends. But those 10 minutes do actually feel pretty good! (And so do the other 2 hours of me-time)

Niksen is not the easiest thing for many of us, especially in a world full of constant distractions and responsibilities. Niksen also shouldn’t replace a workout or a healthy diet, or doing anything else you need to get energised. But I would encourage you to give it a try. Even if it’s just 10 minutes.

Is niksen something you’d consider to de-stress? Or do you get nervous even thinking about it?

Some more articles on the topic: