10.16.2008

The Fine Art of Hooga

Omigod. Today is SO one of those days where I seriously wanted to stay in bed and not do ANYTHING except read or watch t.v. or toodle around online. It’s Thursday. It’s raining. I’m annoyed with work. I’m fussy. All of which are perfectly legitimate reasons for a mental health day.

These days were integral to the formative years of my youth. Both of my parents were big proponents of “mental health days” when Bethany and I were kids. Not frequently, but regularly, we were permitted to stay home from school for no reason whatsoever except to have a day removed from our schedule to do whatever we wanted. There are some days when staying home and doing nothing of importance is the best solution to maintain one’s general well-being, ya know? At least that’s the theory my family adheres to. Some of my more disciplined friends never missed a day of school. EVER. (ahem…Jennifer…damn goody two-shoes!).

Sure, it’s important and shit to be responsible and fulfill your obligations, but is the world really going to come crashing down if I write one…okay maybe two…or five… lousy days off the books? I don’t think so. Maybe it’s selfish, maybe it’s immature or irresponsible. Maybe my work ethic sucks donkey balls. Whatever.

Compared with Europeans, a higher percentage of American adults work more hours per week and more weeks per year. This is not news to anyone. We all know the American stereotype of your average workaholic. In terms of productivity though, there’s really little difference between us and Europe. But, since more people work in the US and since we work so many more hours, we ultimately create more wealth. Wealth is not necessarily a bad thing, but more often than not, we place it above all other priorities. And the sort of screwy thing is, we end up spending the money we make to pay for the things we can’t do because we’re working so much! Egads! Although I realize this creates more jobs, it still seems so backwards to me.

We trade our productivity for more money, while Europeans trade their productivity for more leisure. Different priorities. Different value systems. Maybe our hard-core Puritan work ethic is so indelibly burned into our brains that "leisure time" doesn't even occur to us as a viable option. Although clearly I somehow escaped the branding.

According to a recent Forbes article, “The emerging science of happiness has found that most of our satisfaction, some 70%, is determined by the quantity and the quality of our relationships.” Not on how much money we have or how many new, shiny things we acquire. Maybe this is the attitude that has helped propel us into our current financial mire. More, more, more!

Denmark, where many of my distant ancestors hail from, was recently dubbed The World’s Happiest Country. Why are they considered the happiest country? Not because they work more or harder than other countries. Not because they have more material things than other countries, but because they have an attitude of “hygge” (pronounced hooga). What is hygge? An American ex-pat who has lived in Denmark for more than 30 years, says hygge is difficult to translate and even harder for countries like the US to comprehend. Hygge describes a cozy, convivial sentiment that involves strong family bonds. She says, “The gist of it is that you are not supposed to have anything to do except let go”.

Dammit! I knew I should’ve taken a mental health day today and practiced my hooga!

5 comments:

Goody Two Shoes :-) said...

Hey! I remember skipping school one day to go to Canada with you!!! Not only did we skip school, we left the country (or did we only make it to the bridge to Canada...I can't remember!) Either way, even RITA demanded we take the day off!!

cathryn said...

Ha! I DO remember that! :) You are hereby stripped of your "goody two shoes" title! ;)

mom said...

you did WHAT?! went to canada when you were suppoded to be at school?! i don't think i want to know anything else you did. I say yes to hooga! it does the body good, yes indeed i'm a firm believer in hooga and continue to practice it to this day.

Delirious said...

I love your parents! :D

boty said...

I LOVE mental health days! I took 87 of them my senior year...surprised they let me graduate!