Friday 30 September 2016

Curling up with a book makes me welcome autumn - but you have to know when to let go

Barbara Scully

Published 14/09/2016 | 02:30

'I love summer and I love springtime; in fact, it's the turning of the year that I really relish but autumn is my very favourite season.'
'I love summer and I love springtime; in fact, it's the turning of the year that I really relish but autumn is my very favourite season.'

Sinead Moriarty recently wrote a column for this paper introducing many of us to the Danish art of hygge.

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Hygge is a little difficult to explain but has to do with creating a cosy, warm atmosphere. Although I had never heard of it, as I read Sinead's column I knew in my soul exactly what hygge is.

Somewhere in a previous life I think I may have been a bear because when the evenings begin to draw in and the temperature begins to drop I have this overwhelming urge to hibernate.

Now don't get me wrong. I love summer and I love springtime; in fact, it's the turning of the year that I really relish but autumn is my very favourite season. There is nothing more delicious than that feeling of things slowing down, of Earth preparing for winter sleep.

I avoid going into homeware stores at this time of year because I am liable to come out loaded down with cushions and throws and candles. All of which are very hygge.

The other thing I like to stock up on at this time of year is books. Because that's why we have the long, dark evenings, so we can read. And reading is such a joy.

I am not a fan of thrillers or crime books but I love a good character-driven story that I can fall into every evening for a few hours, preferably in the bath, by the fire or tucked up in bed.

I escape into another world that has been created with carefully chosen words, full of interesting, engaging people, and my worries melt away for an hour or so.

Reading is the perfect escape and I am convinced it helps me to maintain reasonably good mental health.

In fact, a study in 2009 at the University of Sussex found that reading can reduce stress levels by as much as 68pc and that it works faster than other stress-busting techniques such as meditation.

Losing yourself in a beautifully crafted literary world lowers your heart rate and eases the tension in your muscles.

But it is important to read what you really enjoy. My dearly beloved doesn't read. Or didn't. Every Christmas since we have been married, I have bought him a book that I thought he might like - but to no avail. Often he finds it hard to turn off his mind when he gets into bed and so spends the first hour tossing and turning until he finally nods off. But recently he has started to buy books that he is interested in. He is a professional photographer so the books have been about famous photographers he admires or about photography techniques. The one he is reading at the moment is about lighting. Sounds like a busman's holiday to me but it's doing wonders for him. Not only is he enjoying the immersion into these tomes every night but he is sleeping better too.

Along with finding what your reading nirvana is, it is also important to realise when you are not enjoying a book.

Occasionally, I reach the half-way point of a novel, which may be beautifully written with a great plot and pacing, when I start realise that I don't care about any of the characters.

Therefore, I couldn't care less about what happens to them. And once I am not invested in the lives within its pages, I will abandon the book. At first, I found this very difficult, especially if it was a book that had great reviews and was well written. But then I realised that life is too short and there are too many fabulous books out there to waste time on one I'm not enjoying.

The other day I overheard my teenage daughters discussing whether they'd seen the movie 'Me Before You'. They hadn't but the older one said: "I read the book and it was brilliant and the film couldn't be any better, so why bother." My heart sang.

So as the evenings lengthen, get thee off to your local bookshop or library and get your paws on a book that you think you will enjoy. It doesn't have to be a bestseller or even a novel. It just has to be something you think you will enjoy falling in to. Cookery books can sometimes be a great read. If you have kids, bring them too. With books sorted you then need to make sure you have a comfy, cosy spot in which to curl up and dive straight in. Oh, and maybe a mug of hot chocolate.

As for me? I've bought a book on hygge, just so I can make sure I am doing it right. I may have to hit that homeware store yet.

Irish Independent

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