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December/January 2018

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The art of being present

As South Africans we are blessed to live in a beautiful country with great weather. Especially now that summer is here, we can spend our free time outdoors to soak up the sun.

Unfortunately, what’s been happening in our business world and with our down-spiralling economy and ever-weakening rand has not been giving us much reason to rejoice … So it’s not surprising to learn that as a nation we are not considered to be among the happiest.

Happiness can be used as a measure of socio-economic progress. Evidence suggests that people who are emotionally happier have more satisfying lives, live in happier environments, and are therefore more likely to be healthy, productive and socially connected.

In 2016, the Danes have been crowned the happiest nation in the world (and they don’t even always have sunny days and wonderful weather). And according to the World Happiness Report, the main differences in happiness between countries can be explained by six variables:

Years of healthy life expectancy

Having someone to count on in times of trouble (social support)

Perceptions of corruption

Prevalence of generosity

Freedom to make life choices

GDP per capita

The study shows that social support and the freedom to make key life choices are the most important determinants of happiness.

So, apart from the Danish economy, what is it that makes them so happy?

Their suggestion: we should all add a little hygge (pronounced hue-guh) to our lives. The Danes created hygge because they were trying to survive boredom, cold, dark and sameness and the undefinable feeling of hygge was a way for them to find moments to celebrate or acknowledge and to break up the day, month or years. (While there’s no one English word to describe hygge, several can be used interchangeably to describe the idea of hygge – such as cosiness, charm, happiness, contentness, security, familiarity, comfort, reassurance and kinship.)

Hygge doesn’t require learning ‘how to’, adopting it as a lifestyle, or buying anything. You can’t buy a ‘hygge living room’ and there’s no ‘hygge foods’ to eat. It only requires consciousness, a certain slowness, and the ability to not just be present, but recognise and enjoy the present. That’s why so many people distil hygge down to being a ‘feeling’.

So, during this festive season and with 2018 just around the corner, we should all try to become aware of a good moment – and be present in that moment – and just enjoy it.

And now to practical matters. From our February 2018 issue ASA will be available as a digital publication, so keep a lookout for an email about how to access the version of your choice.

Gerinda Engelbrecht

EDITOR

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