As a fan of Christmas, there are times that it even makes me want to bury my head in the snow (Christmas joke). It can be a difficult time to adjust expectations as we fall into the usual routine of overindulging in every aspect of life. I often reminisce on that weird covid Christmas where we had to remain within our own households. I remember initially feeling sad, like something had been taken away. On reflection, it was probably one of my favourites. Yes, I missed my family but it was lovely to spend the day in my own home, possibly the most relaxed Christmas of them all. Yet, every Christmas since then the intensity comes back in full swing.
It’s not all bad, who doesn’t love the lights, spending time with loved ones and eating your favourite Christmas foods. It’s also a time to reflect and give thanks, especially as the year draws to a close. Team Tribe had an evening of wreath making with artist Jana Middleton at Dook Soap for our Christmas do this year. At the start of the evening, host Jana asked us all to close our eyes and think of a colour that comes to mind when thinking of Christmas. Orange, red, green and white all came up. She also asked us to think of smells that we attach to Christmas, pine, mulled wine, spices and homebaking were mentioned. Lastly, she asked us to close our eyes and write down words or a sentence that come to mind when we think of Christmas. The feedback felt warm and cosy, like a Christmas hug.
Earlier that day, I had been constructing this blog post. A helpful guide to make the most of Christmas and enjoy the festivities. I came away from the wreath making evening feeling extremely mellow and calm about Christmas. I felt like that simple exercise served as an important reminder as to what is and what makes Christmas. It’s a lot simpler than the panic, gift buying hussle that we find ourselves wrapped in. Christmas isn’t always an easy time of year and it is all too easy to forget that you do in fact have control. As a team, we have gathered some thoughts around Christmas and how to thrive and enjoy this period rather than survive.
Close your eyes and think about the following questions, write these down on a piece of paper. Use this as a guiding force over the Christmas period, these are arguably what you love the most over Christmas and the easiest to forget:
Christmas is in itself tied up in the winter Solstice. The winter solstice marks a crucial turning point in the year as the sun is at its weakest point. This is a point throughout history where people would hold fests and gather at monuments. It is a time to remember that winter is not forever.
It is widely known that the sun benefits our body in numerous ways and keeps our circadian rhythms in sync. Being in the sun can tweak our immune and cardiovascular systems as well as causing our blood vessels to relax and widen. When we feel the sun on our skin, we release endorphins which can boost our alertness and energy levels.
Over the winter months, it is so important for us to harness this energy. Next time there’s a cold bright morning or the afternoon sun is peeking through some clouds, try to get outside. The sun being out also makes an excellent motivator to get your family outside over the Christmas period. Here’s a great read on the power of the sun.
The busier you are, the greater benefit there is to taking some time alone and finding that pause button. It can take a bit of confidence but take a break when you need to. A 15 minute brain reset in solitude can make a world of difference to both your mood and energy level. Studies show that alone time can increase happiness, better life satisfaction, and improve stress management.
It may not be your top priority over Christmas but daily mindfulness is important at any time of your life. Through mindfulness exercises, such as meditation, breathing exercise and yoga you can become more aware of your thoughts and feelings. This gives you time to both process and manage them rather than becoming overwhelmed. Click here for some easy and quick breathing exercises.
The end of the year is a very natural time to take a moment of reflection. We should all lean into this urge to celebrate our achievements and note our successes. It’s important to refrain from a critical mindset and instead hone in on what has brought you joy this year.
If you are new to this, we’ve gotchu. Keystone have a free online course to help you on your way. This will help you designate the time to reflect, check in and gather yourself for what’s next.
Ya know you can do that at Christmas right?? Check in with yourself and make the time to chill out and do the things that you like to do. It’s also okay to miss out on things and to say no when your cup is already full.
The biggest overwhelm and stress can stem from gift giving. It’s always important to reframe what and why you are buying a gift. Especially when you consider that 80% of returned gifts end up in landfill and this year alone 3,088,345 bad Christmas gifts were thrown away. Before buying something, consider the journey this gift will take and what its lifetime value is. Sentiment and gesture is always far more powerful than cost and volume.
“The everyday human gesture is always a heartbeat away from the miraculous.
Remember that ultimately we make things happen through our actions, way beyond our understanding or intention; that our seemingly small ordinary human acts have untold consequences; that what we do in this world means something; that we are not nothing; and that our most quotidian human actions by their nature burst the seams of our intent and spill meaningfully and radically through time and space, changing everything.
Our deeds, no matter how insignificant they may feel, are replete with meaning, and of vast consequence, and that they constantly impact upon the unfolding story of the world, whether we know it or not.”- Nick Cave
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I recently stumbled across a documentary titled, The Man Who Wanted To See It All. It told the story of Heinz Stücke, in 1962 he left Germany and set off on a bike ride touring the world which spanned close to 50 years and covered enough distance to circumnavigate the world 15 times around.
What I found striking about this documentary is that Heinz did not set out to be the best cyclist, or the best photographer and any records that he broke were seemingly a welcomed accident. His soul focus and purpose were set on experience, connection, seeing and being. After leaving his home town in 1962, Heinz decided to not return home as he deemed going home as the end of his adventure. After over 50 years of nomadic living, this is where the documentary found its focus.
The documentary shows Heinz putting his memories in order and sorting through his tens of thousands of photographs, reuniting with family and friends and reflecting on his achievements and sacrifices. Something that has stuck with me since watching this documentary was how his friends spoke of his life journey. Friends from childhood reflected on his journey with great solace, they asked the question “I wonder if he is happy?”. The conversation felt heavy and remorseful. In contrast, the family that grew close with Heinz in Japan spoke of Heinz and his journey with tremendous joy and fascination, they remarked that Heinz had achieved Ikigai. But what is Ikigai and how do you find your ikigai?
“I consider myself a treasure trove, what I hope of the day is that it gives me the pleasure of finding something new” – Heinz Stücke: Home is Elsewhere.
Ikigai roughly translates to, a reason for being. The word itself is composed of two worlds: iki, which means life and gai, which describes value or worth. The word can be used similarly to happiness but ecompasses a deeper nuance. Ikigai is also about discovering your purpose and aligning your actions with this. If you have a clear sense of purpose, you can then align your sense of purpose with your values and goals.
By thinking of ikigai in relation to Heinz, it’s easy to assume that to achieve it you must do something extraordinary, however the true meaning of ikigai is rooted in the ordinary. Ultimately, this practice allows for moments of happiness in each day, you can find meaning and joy in even the most mundane tasks.
“I found the way of life I enjoy, and what is better than to follow a life which is fulfillment. The journey is my fulfillment.” –Heinz Stücke: Home is Elsewhere.
In Western society, ikigai is seen as a tool to achieve a long and happy life. A google search will show you a plethora of venn diagrams on how to achieve it with four overlapping qualities: what you love, what you are good at, what the world needs, and what you can be paid for.
This Western approach includes work and payment which isn’t necessarily the truest adaptation of the meaning. At its core, ikigai is as simple as finding out what makes you happy each and every day. When you ask yourself questions around the principles of Ikigai it is vital to curate answers about you and your soul, not your work.
Of course I agree that you can align the principles of ikigai with your working life in order to achieve happiness and satisfaction in all meanings of the words. Nevertheless, I think it is wrong to consider your work when asking questions around ikigai. Ikigai is deeper than your work, it is about you, your inner being and how to nourish your soul. Once you have answered these questions honestly, you can then apply these to your work practice.
“Japanese people believe that the sum of small joys in everyday life results in more fulfilling life as a whole”- Yukari Mitsuhashi
Your life is not limited to your work. It is only possible to find ikigai in your practice if your work’s values and ethics align to your own, your work must also actively nurture your personal growth and wellbeing. There is nothing wrong with the Western adaptation of ikigai and it can be used as a powerful tool to navigate and curate your working life.
Regardless, I think we should break away from ‘Ikigai in the workplace’ and instead keep it simple. It is far more powerful to get in touch with yourself. If you can find something in the everyday that makes you happy, brings you joy or a sense of awe you too can find ikigai. No matter how big or small.
Write down your answers to these questions and actively incorporate the answers into your everyday life. This is how to find and nurture your Ikigai and lead a happier and fufilled life.
“essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for.” – Hector Garcia, The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life.
To find out more about Hans Stücke, click here.
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