Tag Archives: mental health

It’s Cold Outside – Cosy Up or Hygge

As it’s getting colder I would encourage us to cosy up and hygge!

All my household are rather “under the weather” and we have been doing a lot of coughing and sneezing. I bet you’re so glad that germs can’t be transfered through blogs! I have frequently  heard the phrase “it’s the time of the year for colds” and I have needed to remind myself that coughs and colds do seem to be a fact of life and getting frustrated won’t help.


It would seem that in clearing our throats we have been making sounds like the the Danish word hygge. Hard to explain and even harder to pronounce, the Danish word ‘hygge‘ (pronounced “hooga” or “heurgha” ) translates roughly to ‘cosiness’.



In essence, hygge means creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people. It’s all about creating feelings of happiness, friendliness and wellbeing within everyday life.


It’s being hailed as the route to health and happiness. The latest OECD World Happiness Report put Denmark at No 1, Iceland in third, followed by Norway and Finland, way ahead of the UK at 23.


The phrase “go easy on yourself” springs to mind and I often encorage both myself and others to celebrate what you can do rather than worrying about what you can’t do.

Hygge and Nature

Signe Johansen’s new book How To Hygge hails the Nordic people’s love of being in nature as the key to hygge and encourages us to exercise outside. Walking outdoors compared to on a treadmill automatically increases the calorie burn by ten per cent, due to factors such as wind resistance.

Research has found that being in a park or forest environment lowers stress levels, increases energy, boosts self-esteem and makes you less angry.

I have been wrapping up and getting outside as much as possible and have enjoyed some short walking breaks, enjoying the Winter light and then reflecting these in creating with wool.

One of the things I love about living in Sheffield, one of the greenest cities in terms of parks and woodland, is easy access to the Peak District National Park.


Take a Break

The Danish tradition of daily ‘fika’: a break to sit down, enjoy a hot drink and often a sweet pastry or a cinnamon bun. Taking breaks and having a good work life balance aids prodoctivity as well as . What are your favourite breaks?


Hygge Food

A ‘Nordic style diet’ of whole-grain products such as Ryvita-style ‘knackebrod’, fish three times a week, root veg, berries, locally sourced fruits such as apples and plums and avoiding sugar-sweetened foods, lowers cholesterol.

I think my Apple fool recipe  and Scalded Flour Pudding recipe are both very hyggelig and  wonderful comfort foods!

Home Coaching Scalded Flour Pudding

The mentality of ‘hygge’ means enjoying the good things in life without feeling guilty, including indulging in the food that makes you happy. Despite this, the proportion of adults in Sweden who are obese is 14 per cent, compared to the UK’s 27 per cent. perhaps it is the ideal of moderation. The Scandinavians firmly believe in ‘lordagsgodis’ – Saturday Sweets.  It’s ingrained in Scandinavians from childhood that you treat yourself on Saturdays. Studies show a treat every now and then can make a person more likely to stick to a diet.

Hygge Together

‘Hyggeligt’ means “pleased to meet you”, and is also used to describe a chance meeting that felt warm and convivial. Spending time with those near to us is also key to our wellbeing. Forget perfectionism and remember the main thing is sharing food, conversation and your lives with people. Don’t just invite over your friends and let them sit there while you slave in the kitchen. A true Hygge host says” YES” when guests offer to help.



Candles and natural fires are a key part of this, and are a quick way to feelings of cosiness, and in my experience their gentle light are a great way to disguise dust! Combine with natural scent, such as using coffee beans,  for an even greater cosiness.
You can find some of the scented eco soya wax candles I make using vintage cups in my Etsy shop


Get Crafty

Crafty hobbies such as knitting or sewing are perfect to  help to relax and calm your being, or curl up and read a good book for hygge refreshment.

How about one of my landscape art card making kits, which combines crafting with nature.



Good housekeeping give us 11 ideas for a hygge home.

The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well by Meik Wiking who is CEO of The Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen. Meik says in Denmark  “You hear hygge being talked about all the time – by everyone, no matter who they are. We talk about hygge things coming up that we’re looking forward to; we point out when something hygge is happening right now; then we like to talk about what a great ‘hyggelit’ (hygge-like) time we’ve had afterwards.”

Then the word can be used in many practical but different sentences describing Danish life – as a noun (hygge), an adjective (hyggelig) and a verb (at hygge sig). As in “hygge is important”, “I’m going to make sure my house is hyggely”, and “I’m hyggeling this corner of my house.”

MEIK WIKING jacket.jpg

I’ve mentioned 2 of the 9 books around now with Hygge in the title, but there is one, The Almost Nearly Perfect People: Behind the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia by Michael Booth,  that feels hygge lightness is too superficial.

However, although maybe hygge is not everything needed for wellbeing, I for one am looking forward to cosy moments. As Kurt Vonnegut once said, “Enjoy the little things in life because one day you’ll look back and realize they were the big things”.


How do you cope with the cold or darker days blues? I’d love to know your thoughts on the concept of ‘Hygge’
If you were to create a hygee box, what would you put in to it?x

A Creative Boost

I have found creating, and sewing in particular, to be the best way for me  to calm down and de-stress. I have even been known to take some hand sewing into a stressful meeting, and will whip out needle and thread from my bag in railway station waiting rooms to help me cope with delayed travel!

Helen Moyes designs Sewing at Preston StationHand piecing patchwork is well documented as a means to bring empowerment  when life is not how you would choose. I have been reading about the benefits of patchwork produced by slaves at the time of the American Civil War and modern day prisoners in the UK, blogged about earlier this year.


helen Moyes Designs reading The Runaway QuiltQuilting from prisonThese narratives give an insight into the empowerment of  quilting with others, sometimes in sewing bees. During my workshops, there has been sharing and friendship develope over crafting, and the importance of relationships is the focus of this year’s mental health awareness week.

helen Moyes designs mhaw16-relationshipsFeedback on workshops includes the declaration they have been better than therapy! Fun, relaxation and a chance to have me-time are shared. Find out about my upcoming workshops

Ecclesall Textile Schoolme time clock

At home I have this poster up, useful to point out if anyone questions sewing purchases!

Helen Moyes Designs sewing is cheaper than therapy cobalt

This week also sees the return of The Great British Sewing Bee to Uk screens. Competition is not usually associated with de-stressing, but the encouragement to the nation to express your personality and creativity through stitch certainly is. There are also the obvious benefits: no dropped hems or missing buttons, and a personalised, unique inexpensive wardrobe because of refashioning what’s in your wardrobe. Being able to sy “why thankyou, I made it myself” is an amazing feeling!

BBC The Great British sewing bee 16

Neil Slate the army officer who came runner-up in last year’s BBC series the Great British Sewing Bee hoped to inspire other men to take up sewing. He also says it can help improve mental health as creating something can give people a boost and a sense of fulfillment.
See Sewing could help soldiers’ mental health issues

I believe the theraputic effect of stitch goes even deeper than this. Sewing requires us to focus both physically and mentally on a task and the hand-eye coordination is good for our brains. Repetetive tasks can also enable you to consider problems but with the soothing effect of the task. Research seems to back my experience up. (you can skip the next three paragraphs if you don’t want to get into the research)

Betsan Corkhill, a former NHS physiotherapist, realised that even maximum doses of medication were relatively ineffective if the core issues of loneliness, low self-esteem, anxiety and “an unoccupied mind left to ruminate on problems” were not provided for. She left the NHS in 2002 and went to work on craft magazines and start Stitchlinks. To her surprise she discovered “huge amounts” of emails and letters extolling the health benefits of cross-stitching and knitting, saying they had help alleviate even suicidal depression and had allowed people to reduce some pain medication.

The findings of the  study, published in the journal Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience, show that taking up a new mental challenge may help maintain cognitive vitality. Study senior author Doctor Denise Park said “Although there is much more to be learned, we are cautiously optimistic that age-related cognitive declines can be slowed or even partially restored if individuals are exposed to sustained, mentally challenging experiences.”

A clinical study commissioned by the Home Sewing Association (HSA) and carried out by Robert H. Reiner, at the Department of Psychiatry at New York University Medical Center, reveals that women who sew, both skilled as well as novice sewers, experience a significant drop in heart rate, blood pressure, and perspiration rate when compared to women who participate in other leisure-time activities. Studies have shown that engaging in an activity like sewing reduces your overall heart and blood rates and promotes relaxation. In this sewing study, women underwent biofeedback monitoring through the placement of special fingertip electrodes, which were connected to a computer. Blood pressure was taken with a blood pressure cuff and stethoscope.The study results Indicate that sewing is the most relaxing activity out of playing a card game, painting at an easel, reading a newspaper and playing a hand-held video game.

Home Coaching - increasing resilience

Helen Moyes Designs -Thread

So (or should I say sew) whether it is solitary or communal, I would encourage you to. It is the process that I think is the most inportant, although the a finished product is nice too – please send me links to yours.

I would also love to hear from you about how you find sewing theraputic