A few years ago, I was working as an attorney at one of the world’s most successful law firms. Under the veneer of prestige were 70-hour workweeks and BlackBerry-induced anxiety. In 2014, I quit.
I spent six months backpacking around the world, which made me realize that I needed to intentionally create a healthier, happier life. I started a blog to document my experiments in holistic health, from how to get better sleep to the art of practicing kindness.
As I get older, my understanding of happiness evolves. Here’s what I’m focused on now.
Law #1: Get #hygge with it
You’ve probably heard the phrase “cultural appropriation” used in negative contexts, like when Coachella-attending millennials wear henna as an “exotic” art form. But cultural appreciation is positive, like when you notice that a different culture has perfected something and you adapt it in a non-offensive way that’s respectful of its history and significance. That’s what I’m planning to do with the Danish concept of hygge (pronounced “hoo-guh” and best articulated with slightly pursed lips and a bowl of porridge in hand).
Defined as “a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being,” hygge involves appreciating the little things in life, like savoring a freshly baked croissant in a quiet cafe or gathering friends around the dinner table. Though winter is the most hygge time of the year, I plan to get hygge with it throughout the seasons (sadly, hygge does not rhyme with “jiggy”).
Instead of pulling out my laptop when I get home from work, I will turn on a New Age playlist and light some incense. I might even pour myself a glass of Malbec. I will do this even though my inner voice tells me that I’m being “basic” (which I am).
I will devote an hour every Sunday to being cozy: curled up on my couch with a vegan sheepskin blanket, sipping chamomile tea and reading an actual, physical book. I will treat myself to things I’ve thought would make a cute blog post, like a self-serve matcha tea bar*. But I won’t blog about it and will instead invite a friend over to share a cup of matcha with me.
Law #2: Put cleanliness (somewhat) next to godliness
I moved into a new apartment recently, and each night I come home, my heart sinks when I see that unpacked box marked “miscellaneous” awkwardly resting against my coffee table. When I first moved in, I assumed that within a few weeks, I would perfect the barely-lived-in Marie Kondo aesthetic. To my surprise, this has not yet happened. Apparently, minimalism requires maximal work, which is very confusing from a linguistic standpoint.
But today, it dawned on me that something as uncomplicated as the orderliness of my apartment should not have the power to complicate my life. That’s why I’m vowing to devote five minutes a day to cleaning my apartment. Five minutes to wipe the bathroom sink of my lustrous yet perpetually shedding hair, return my shoes to their eco-friendly bamboo shoe rack and rinse my wine glass. Bae has decided to join me in this quest, effectively doubling our cleanup time to 10 minutes. By April, I’m sure I’ll have achieved the “does anyone even live in this apartment?” look.
Law #3: Be a proud gym rat
I am mildly embarrassed to admit this, but I am one of those people who tells other people that I actually enjoy going to the gym. But that’s because I genuinely do enjoy it. It makes me feel like Wonder Woman (just swap the cleavage-boosting armor and knee-high boots for mesh-inset lululemon leggings and New Balance sneakers). Seriously, after I do a set of squats on the squat rack, I feel like I can saunter into any boardroom in corporate America, say nothing and just mic drop. The endorphins don’t hurt either.
Despite all this, I’ve struggled with hitting the gym. I’ve attributed it to “being too busy,” but let’s be honest: nobody buys that excuse.
So, I’m calling BS on myself and vowing to do whatever it takes to get back to the gym in 2018. If it means sleeping in my workout clothes—despite the fact that sleeping in skin-tight Lycra can’t be good for the lady parts—I’ll do it.
Law #4: Organize your organization
I am a hyper-organized person. I use nested to-do lists and color-coded reminders, and I keep my four email inboxes at zero. Those “21 Habits of Highly Organized People” articles are written about people like me.
Now that I’ve gloated about my organizational prowess, let me admit to something. I spend so much time organizing my daily and weekly to-dos that I have zero time and energy for big picture thinking and organization, like clarifying my long-term career goals and fleshing out all those “someday maybe” projects.
That’s why I’m refreshing my approach to organization and vowing to set aside one hour each week to do my big picture thinking. I will evaluate those creative projects on the back burner, like writing a satirical cookbook (whatever that means) and hosting a food photography workshop. I will ask myself whether I’m creating meaning in my life, even though the answer will certainly terrify me. And I will think about how to achieve the lifestyle and career I truly want, giving serious thought to moving to Hawaii and opening a vegan ice cream shoppe (it’s critical that it’s spelled shoppe, not shop).
So, cheers to resetting this spring. May you find coziness, cleanliness, organization and a six-pack.
*For a taste of what Nisha’s food looks like when she does post it on her blog, Rainbow Plant Life, check out this article. (Spoiler alert: it’s basically the Kate Moss of food.)