Most of us would agree that feeling warm in winter is one of life’s great comforts. But what we may not appreciate is that being cosy is actually good for our health.
Christian van Nieuwerburgh, a Professor of coaching and positive psychology at the University of East London, suggests that seeking out warmth and cosiness is related to our natural survival instincts. We are drawn to safe, warm environments to shelter from harm. If there is a crackling fireplace, all the better.1 And according to a survey by a luxury holiday home rental organisation in the UK, add in a hot chocolate, the smell of fresh bread and a hug from a loved one, cosiness doesn’t get much better.1
Of course, the Danes, who clearly suffer bitterly cold winters, have known about this for a very long time, and even have a word to describe it – hygge.
Hygge, pronounced either as ‘hue-guh’ or ‘hoo-gah’, (but looks like the English word hug), is all about living with a sense of comfort, cosiness, and peace. The Danes take it very seriously, and it’s not just about warmth, it’s about creating a décor that promotes cosiness and a sense of calm.2
Hygge is believed to provide emotional benefits, such as less depression and anxiety, as well as physical benefits, such as improved sleep and weight control. Clearly something works, because the Danes are regulars at the top of the world happiness scale.
While you may not want to completely rearrange your décor, there are many things you can do to keep warm. And as we mentioned above, this isn’t just about comfort, it can be about health.
When you’re exposed to cold, the body strives to maintain a consistent, normal body temperature of around 37oC.4 It does this by reducing blood flow to certain parts of the body including the skin, the hands, and the feet.4
The downside to this temperature-conserving effect is that your blood pressure increases. This increase is usually short lived, but for people with already elevated blood pressure or cardiovascular risk, it could prove dangerous.5 This explains why winter is the worst season for cardiovascular events.5,6
The best advice – rug up. That will help the blood flow to the skin return to normal and reduce the blood pressure. For your hands and feet, there are gloves and socks. Of course, when you’re inside the house, gloves aren’t really convenient, but sitting under a blanket might help. Or you can grab some heat pads designed for keeping hands warm. They’re also available for your feet. Check out the Hotteeze range here.
As a bonus, keeping your feet warm at night might also help you sleep better. In a relatively recent study, it was found that keeping your feet warm in bed during cold weather shortened the time to falling asleep, lengthened sleep duration and reduced the number of wakings during the night.7 We all know how important a good night’s sleep is, (if you don’t, check out this article – so stay cosy, and help your health.
- Helliwell, John F., Richard Layard, Jeffrey Sachs, and Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, eds. 2021. World Happiness Report 2021. New York: Sustainable Development Solutions Network