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By West Norwood Therapies Team, Apr 26 2018 08:22AM

Massage therapist and Yoga teacher Erika Zettervall considers ingredients for happiness and reflects on why Finland has been ranked top of the UN's happiness list.

Spring has sprung into summer in a few days, making up time for the long cold slow spring. London transformed and alight with vivacious colours and smiling people. The air is filled with joy (pollen) and the mood is uplifted and happy. Brought the question of happiness to my mind.

Last month Finland was ranked top of the list in UN’s report on happiness. Apart from the statisticians scepticism towards conclusions drawn from these kind of reports, my initial response was that this can't be true. How on earth did they come to that conclusion? Finland who invented Angry Birds and wife carrying competitions, happiest in the world? Who and when did this survey take place? I have not looked into the particulars but just followed the link and appear to be quite substantial. My reason for surprise and disbelief are light hearted, as many are the jokes we Swedes (me being Swedish) make about our neighbouring country men the Finns.

Their sparse dialogue in communication and proclivity for vodka drinking in aid of conversation. We tend to stereotype Finns as melancholic introverts who avoid eye contact and use very few words. (No doubt they have ways to describe their neighbour in the west that are equally broad brushed.)

After my initial impulsive prejudged thoughts I stepped back to reflect and reflected on; happiness and what does it actually mean to be happy, on my own prejudgment, and on the qualities of the Finns I know and met. Given it a bit of thought the result was not surprising at all and those attribute (apart from the vodka drinking that is a problem for at least some part of the population) may be important to happiness.

Then I came across a post from my teacher Rod Stryker about happiness: ‘We are all looking for the same thing - happiness. Even the mind ’s busyness is in search for happiness. It's constantly searching happiness. It's constantly searching to fulfill its desires and longings. If we purposefully still the activity of the mind, we can access the ultimate of joys, and one that is not fleeting. The reason your mind is so busy it is busy looking for joys. We need to tell the mind, “Listen mind, settle down,” so we can find that dimension that is beyond all thought. It is a place that both the mind and the soul can both fully enjoy, which ultimately, fulfills our search.’

Happiness isn't a reaction to an event but a state of mind that has very little to do with what is going on around us. That said, being comfortable with silence and pauses in conversation, would be a sign of deeper happiness rather than social awkwardness and the melancholic trait understood as an emotional maturity.

Melancholy might just be a bit underrated and forgotten in a world that bangs on about positive attitude and unrealistic exuberance. Being realistic, content and accepting of life is important as well as being able to feel sorrow, sadness and disappointments without getting frightened alarmed. Alain duBottom school of life has great little short films about it and recommend watching Alain duBottom School of life on melancholy.

In a different context, being hands on and connected with a creative process is explained to be mean to happiness. Getting your physical hands involved. Doing art, playing instrument or painting as well as more practical creations such as cooking, gardening and diy.

This also fits with the Nordic life approach that is very hands on with high level of practical life skill, it is far more common to do your rebuilding, redecoration, repairing or gardening yourself, rather than having someone else doing it for you. The same goes for clearing up from natures seasonal debris such as leaves and snow, keeping you physically connected to life. These kind of activity that requires a gentle focus or concentration on the task at hand is calming for the busy mind and helps it settle down. Settle, so we can find the dimension beyond thought. Also purpose full and satisfying.

The Scandinavian countries has also been slower in becoming over commercialised. Advertising has been more restrained and you be struggling to find shopping listed as a pastime or leisure activity. The vast choices we have over stimulate the mind and it will go into over drive searching for something that is ‘it’. The adverts subliminally bombard us with messages of need of something or in other words what'll have or are is not enough. We are a bit wrong - buy this and then you be ‘fixed’. Same happens on the internet, we search and search looking for joys. Temporary elation will be found, but the underlying state of mind will remain. Of course we need to buy food other things for our lives but very little happiness is actually delivered from the promises in adverts, on the contrary they reinforce discontent and lack. This even in the era of ‘peak stuff.’

The pursuit of happiness may be a life's work but simple connecting with what you are doing and settle the mind, getting comfortable with the sways and flow of life and feelings is a way to happy state of mind.

I also asked one of my Finnish friends what he thought about the report he smiled and said it must have been done on a sunny Friday afternoon. But his words where spoken with great content and a radiance of ease and at least this Finn appears to be happiness embodied.

Reading suggestions:

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross Life Lessons

Johann Harri Lost Connections

By West Norwood Therapies Team, Feb 21 2018 09:00AM

Massage therapist and Yoga teacher Erika Zettervall considers how dogs approach life and how real change happens when it is heartfelt and sincere

We are now well into the year 2018 and have just marked Chinese New Year and said welcome to the Year of the Dog. This year, according to Chinese astrology is a particularly good year to focus on health, introduce healthy habits, finding balance and change the way we live. Healthy dogs are happy, loyal and relaxed creatures and if mine is anything to go by enthusiastic, loving and patient.

Spring is round the corner with Easter falling early this year lent began last week making this a good time to get into some good routines and habits and engage in a little life inventory/spring clean.

Giving something up for lent? One of my friends decided to give up lying this year. I was a bit puzzled and unsure what she meant because she doesn't come across as a deceitful person. She explained how she had become aware that using small lies to herself and others in order to avoid doing things had become almost automatic and habitual and had started to have an impact. She has a strong desire to be truthful and authentic and is a very insightful person. It takes courage to look at aspects of yourself that is not very pleasant without falling into destructive self-hate.

Habits creates tendencies that goes on to form our characters that then shapes our lives who we are and what we become. So it is valuable to spend some energy time taking inventory of existing habits and desired habits. Asking yourself who you want to be and having a reality check can be sobering, not always nice, but grown up.

Resolutions made around the time of New Year celebrations might by now have fallen off the radar and the resolve from January didn't last the distance and are all but forgotten. But perhaps revisit and take a closer look delve deeper into what drove the idea. Often there is lack of deeper connection with the reason for change. What is behind the reason and what made you stop or give up. If there is a desire for change, try again. Small steps over time will build character.

Giving something up, like drinking coffee for example, for the sake of it, is good in so much that it strengthen the willpower and practice determination. A bit of a willpower workout. However, unless it is heartfelt and there is a desire to be a non coffee drinker, the drinking will most likely continue after the pause.

I regularly have a break from coffee for a week or so just to un-grip the hold of the habit and exercise my willpower. But then I resume, often with a lower level of consumption. It gives a sense of freedom from my habit and a feeling of not being ruled by it.

Differently, I aspired to have a regular meditation practice and there is the intention is for daily practice. It is something for my health, long term wellbeing and development. Now meditation is on par with brushing teeth. It took a long time to get to that point I used to have entertain the idea of it being good but only managed to sit irregularly and at different times in the day. I knew it was good to do daily but I had not created a routine for it. But when I connected with deeper desire and commitment to meditation as part of how I live well and good maintain health it wasn't difficult.

Dogs are good at relaxing and introducing good habits for sleep and rest is good. It would for most require some willpower in reducing screen time, curbing habitually reaching for a device that is over stimulating, distracting and enormously time consuming but might just mean introducing a regular bed time.

Dogs are also playful creatures so if you have a very regulated scheduled life you might benefit from a bit of habitual playtime. Getting out onto the grass in the park connecting with you inner dog.

By West Norwood Therapies Team, Dec 20 2017 09:00AM

Massage therapist and Yoga teacher Erika Zettervall considers how we approach our own health and wellbeing, the value we place on it and who is ultimately responsible for it.

Prevention better than a cure the saying goes. How do you relate to health and maintaining healthy and who is responsible for your health?

These questions are becoming increasingly relevant with the rise of self employment in its various forms; The sole trader like me and fellow therapists, the entrepreneur, the freelance contractor and then of cause the so called self employed who are tied into rather rigid contracts without many freedoms or benefits. The importance of keeping well is paramount, we soon become aware when bout of flu can be costly and set you back due to loss of earnings.

There are no sickies to pull or take. At least the actual care needn't break the bank since we here in the U.K. we have a free health care at the point of use.

It is a remarkable thing, and gives a tremendous sense of safety and security. As far as I know, no there is no other country where this is the case, though I only have direct experience of Scandinavia and France, where there are various tariffs and fees that are reclaimable but still have to pay upfront, and the extreme in the US where the cost of health insurance can be crippling and unattainable.

The downside of anything being for free is that we easily loose sense of its value and becomes taken for granted. In this instance perhaps rightly so as a part of a civilised society but this may be the reason for UK citizen spending very little of their own money on their health, the least per capita in the industrial world I read somewhere. If this is the case there might be room for an adjustment in how we value keeping well and what should be provided for free. When you are well it's also hard to appreciate just how great that is, only when you fall ill its clear what you lost. This is the dilemma with preventative care as we can't know what we avoided but but care shouldn't be seen as selfish, rather being responsible.

When I first had massage in the UK back in the 1990s, it was very mainly seen as an extension of beauty treatment not viewed as part of your health care.

In the rest Europe it has been seen as a normal part of routine maintenance for body and soul for a long long time. Something just as natural as taking exercise, vitamins, sauna and a washing hands in order to keeping well and strong.

The term massage has also unfortunately at times been hijacked and used to cover for something different al together. Attitudes are different now, but still there is a bit of frivolous about having massages and sometimes seen as a guilty pleasure rather than servicing your energies and wellbeing to maintain in good health.

But I have friends with aches and pains in the body who find resource, time and money, for hair removal, high heels and dining out but not for a massage. It's of cause our individual and different sets of priorities and preferences that determines our choices.

I have always valued experiences more than things and making that that priority but also made

myself dependent on good health for making a living.

My basic check lists: how do I eat, sleep, move and eliminate. Keep it simple and find help and support. Be kind to yourself and don't see a treatment as a guilty indulgence but as treat and care of yourself to live well.

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