As a child, my husband spent many years believing that war was a thing of the past, confined to that thing we call history. I’m not sure how old he was when he realized this misconception, but just the thought of it makes me ache for the children of the world.
Imagine a world where our children are so well taken care of that they can’t even conceive of war being a possibility.
Unfortunately, there are wars going on right now.
Children waking up without parents. Parents waking up without children.
As November rolls in, it brings with it the darkness. What is already a grim time of the year is made worse by the horrors of the world, the tragedies of Ukraine and Gaza.
It can feel morally wrong to go on with your day-to-day life while violence is being inflicted on humans in other parts of the world. Such a feeling is not uncommon and shows a sense of empathy.
But most people are unable to drop everything in their lives and actively participate in resolving geopolitical issues. Be realistic about what you can do and then move on. It is not callous to do so.
One way to ease the blue feelings in November is to practise "Novent” a word that is a mix of “November” and “Advent.” Språkrådet added “Novent” as a new word in use by Swedes in 2020, so perhaps you’ve heard of it.
How do you do Novent? Easy. You start putting up your Christmas decor now. Put up your lights. Put your candles in the windows. Light some real ones at the table. Fill your home with the smells of baking cookies, and glögg heating on the stove.
Bring out the good plates and eat breakfast on them. Create some handmade Christmas cards. Set up the Christmas playlist on Spotify, read some Christmas-themed children’s books. Sip some hot cocoa.
Pulling out the tree and hanging stockings early might seem frivolous at first glance, but after putting up mine over the weekend, I have to say that every time I catch sight of it, I’m filled with a peaceful feeling.
Beyond the twinkling lights and ornaments, adorning your space for the holidays can have significant mental health benefits.
Decorating itself serves as a powerful mood booster. The act of transforming your living space into a winter wonderland can trigger a sense of nostalgia, bringing back fond memories and creating a cozy ambiance. Psychologically, this connection to positive experiences can elevate your mood and reduce stress levels.
Holiday decor also acts as a visual reminder of the joyous season. The vibrant colours and festive elements serve as constant cues to embrace the holiday spirit, helping to shift focus away from daily stressors and immerse oneself in the present moment. The anticipation and excitement associated with the holidays contribute to a positive mindset.
Beyond the visual appeal, the act of decorating involves physical activity. Whether it's hanging lights, arranging decorations, or putting up the tree, these activities can be a form of light exercise. Physical movement is well-known for its positive impact on mental health, releasing endorphins and reducing feelings of anxiety and depression. We all know this, but trust me, I need to remind myself of this more often.
Furthermore, holiday decorations have the power to foster a sense of community and connection. Sharing in the festive spirit with friends, family, co-workers and neighbours can create a sense of togetherness. The act of decorating becomes a shared experience, strengthening social bonds and providing opportunities for meaningful connections.
Writing about the benefits of decorating is all well and good, but I can't deny there can definitely be some stress involved. Lights. Strings and strings of lights? Do they work? Will you EVER get them untangled? Where the hell are the missing baubles? The missing set of holiday crockery? Is that branch in the wrong place? Tinsel? Fake snow? Why haven’t we thrown those away yet? We haven’t used them for 10 years!
In the grand scheme of things, holiday decorating is not about creating a picture-perfect scene. It's about embracing the chaos, finding joy in the imperfections, and sharing a good time with loved ones.
In the spirit of "Novent" and the early embrace of holiday cheer, let us remember the importance of creating moments of joy, connection, and warmth. Of building a world where compassion transcends borders, and the light of hope shines even in the darkest times.
This is a column and the views are the author's own.