These books are here to help when it comes to happiness

Angela Haupt

WASHINGTON POST – There’s a British antidote to our cold, chaotic world – and it’s called cosiness. The feel-good, sock-heavy concept is a nice addition to “new year, new you” routines, right up there with ichigo ichie: the Japanese expression that reminds us to put down our phones, because each moment is unique and isn’t coming back. Both are among the practices outlined in a rush of new books from other countries that seem to imply that Americans are doing it wrong and could be happier.

Here’s a look at the lessons four of these new guides impart.

To learn how to be anchored in the present, consult The Book of Ichigo Ichie by Héctor García and Francesc Miralles.

You could spend this beautiful, fleeting moment opening the zillionth tab in your Internet browser, or you could smell the rain-soaked earth or contemplate the citrusy tones of your hot tea. Whatever you choose, know that each tiny speck of time, though it might feel like all the others, is unique and will never happen again – so relish it. That’s the idea behind the ancient Japanese concept ichigo ichie. “The moment is a jealous lover that demands we give it our all,” García and Miralles write, a fairly dramatic description for a tenet of Zen Buddhism.

“Every unrepeatable moment is a small oasis of happiness. And many oases together make an ocean of happiness.”

To de-stress, curl up with Cosy by Laura Weir.

There are parallels between British cosiness and the Danish concept of hygge. But hygge carries a “certain elitism and now that it’s been hijacked by hipsters and interior design magazines,” Weir writes. Reprieve came in the form of cosiness – which essentially means retreating inside with whatever makes you happy, doing whatever you do when no one is watching. Cosy might be British, but warm, fuzzy feelings are universal, and Weir’s guide to comfort and contentment is pleasant if not particularly novel.

Homebodies will appreciate the permission to stay in and practice self-imposed lethargy – which, to be sure, is good for overworked and over-socialised brains.

To have better balance, take a break with The Little Book of Fika by Lynda Balslev. Sad desk lunch, meet fika: the Swedish ritual that pairs short, twice-daily coffee breaks with conversation and a gooey treat.

“In many cultures, the notion of drinking coffee is active and frenetic,” Balslev writes. “Swedish fika is quite the opposite. It’s a moment to relax and reflect, [and] connect with friends and family, nature or oneself.”

The Little Book of Fika is, literally, little – small enough to fit in a palm, and short enough to devour during a 15-minute fika. The practice, which traces back to the 1600s, is part of the lagom movement, or the concept of “not too much, not too little – just enough.”

It’s observed at home, at coffee shops, in parks, in the office; wherever there’s coffee, there can be fika.

To make more friends, study The Power of Nunchi by Euny Hong.

Let’s say you’re going to a party. Think of the room as a beehive, Hong suggests. Each person has a specific job, and yours is “eye-assessing” or careful observation. Inferring what your peers are thinking and feeling, and how you should react, is the Korean practice of nunchi which literally translates to eye-measure.

The 5,000-year-old concept is nuanced but ultimately simple:

Pay attention.

Hong delivers a set of rules including “never pass up a good opportunity to shut up” and “if you just arrived in the room, remember that everyone else has been there longer”.

All you need is your eyes and your ears, and with Hong’s guidance, you, too, can become a nunchi ninja in the New Year.