Forget about New Year’s Resolutions – start the new year with an Icelandic approach, þetta reddast!


Yoga classes often begin with the instructor talking at the start of class about an issue that they have been recently pondering. The issue may relate to the time of year, the weather, something that happened to them, or recent events in the world. Lately, all of the classes I have attended have started with contemplative messages about the upcoming new year. The instructor typically weaves these thoughts into their approach to yoga and provides students with a springboard upon which to focus during class and in the following days. Sometimes I find these messages inspirational and other times I find them to sound like pseudo-spiritual mumbo jumbo.

Today I was inspired when I went to a yoga class where the instructor started class by talking about the fact that we need to learn when to work hard at something and more importantly, when we need to surrender and just let things be. He raised the issue that so many of us have a tendency to work so hard at things, to spend so much time stressing out about things, when in the end the problem resolves, regardless of the amount of energy we have spent trying to find a solution. We worry about a lot of things that might go wrong that usually never do.

I think this message relates to one of my favorite Icelandic expressions, þetta reddast. þetta reddast is an expression that I have often heard Icelanders say in a wide variety of different situations which means something like “It will work out” or “everything will be fine.” You might hear Icelanders use this expression in response to very serious issues (like the financial collapse) or about something trivial like missing the bus.

I have interviewed and surveyed many Icelanders in order to try to understand why Iceland has been ranked in several different studies as one of the happiest countries in the world. Many Icelanders have cited the expression, “þetta reddast,” as one of the possible reasons for their higher levels of happiness. It can possibly be described as the Icelandic philosophy of life or mantra. Many Icelanders seem to truly believe that everything will work out in the end, because…things usually do work out.

If you weren’t raised in Iceland amongst Icelanders who live according the þetta reddast way of life, it might be difficult to imagine how to simply start living your life with the assumption that things will work out, especially when you are able to imagine the myriad of possibilities that things could go horribly wrong. So, perhaps this strategy might help. Think about the things that stress you out most right now – maybe you are worried that a good friend seemed annoyed with you when you last saw her, that your two-year-old is not speaking many words, or perhaps you are concerned that the company you work for is struggling and you might lose your job. Now, imagine that you received the assurance that all of these things will in fact work out and be just fine. How would you live your life differently if you knew that these things would be fine? Would you be able to be more present when spending time with your child and enjoy watching all of the things he can do and appreciate the ways in which he is special? Would you be more proactive at work and throw yourself into new projects rather that worrying reticently on the sidelines?

So, perhaps instead of coming up with lists of resolutions for 2015 you can instead focus on imagining a life where your worries disappear and every problem dissipates. Think about what you would do differently. Think about what you could do with all of that energy that you spend on worries that could instead be spent on enjoying the present. This will most likely bring you greater happiness and satisfaction in 2015 than setting resolutions to lose 10 pounds or pay off your credit card (you probably won’t keep those resolutions any way!). Let þetta reddast be your mantra for 2015!


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