‘Hygge’ yourself…

What’s ‘Hygge’?

evening street with lights resized

This is the time of the year when it often feels grey and cold

Hygge, pronounced ‘hoo-ga’, is a Danish word which in translation refers to the concept of ‘cosiness of the soul’.   And they should know, Denmark is one of the happiest countries in the world (World Happiness Report 2015).
Around this time of year, as the nights draw in and it becomes colder and greyer, it’s a really good excuse for us to wrap up, keep warm and cosy.

These things can be good for our wellbeing. Instead of feeling low about the lack of sun, feel grateful that you can make a nutritious home-made soup (see recipe below), and snuggle under a blanket in the evening with a good book or box set.  Share your soup or hot chocolate with some friends and enjoy a card game or just chat.

take time to share a hot drink with friends or  just have a chat

take time to share a hot drink with friends or just have a chat


There is a vintage feel about Hygge, taking us back to a time when people would sit in front of the fire in winter, telling stories and eating cinnamon pastries. We can create the same soothing effect with fairy lights and nice cup of tea.
So get on your old woolly jumper, fluffy socks and snuggle up…ahhhhhh.


Hygge Soup
A simple soup that takes 20 mins to prepare and can be frozen and stored for up to 3 months.

1 Medium Onion Chopped
2 Carrots Peeled and chopped into 1 cm dice
4-5 Large Florets of Cauliflower chopped into small bite size pieces
4-5 Large Florets of Broccoli chopped into small bite size pieces
1 Large Potato peeled and chopped into 2cm dice
1 Handful Frozen Peas
1 Vegetable stock cube
1 Kettle of boiling water
15ml oil

1) In a saucepan on a gentle heat add the oil then add the chopped onion and carrot, and stir for 3-4 mins trying not to colour them in the oil.
2) Add the cauliflower and continue to stir.
3) Add the stock cube, and stir for 30 secs then add 500 ml of the boiling water, so the veg in the pan are just covered.
4) Simmer for 5-10 mins
5) Add the Potato and simmer for a further 5 mins, add more water if required to keep all the contents just covered.
6) Add the Broccoli and Peas and simmer for a further 5 mins, again add water if required.
7) Once all the veg are tender (sample a piece of each), remove from the heat.
8) Check the broth for seasoning, do not add salt before this point, and always taste first as stock cubes are naturally salty
9) Spoon into a bowl and add a sprinkle of grated cheese (optional)

Making the most of your Christmas break

christmas blog imageChristmas is coming, the end of term is fast approaching. When you look back on how you’ve been this Autumn Term, are there any changes you’d like to make for the rest of the academic year to come – your approach to studies; attitude to friends; way of socialising ….?  The holiday break could be your opportunity to start doing something differently.

Feeling exhausted?Let go of stress about your studies, decide to give yourself the break you need. Recharge your study batteries by giving yourself time to relax. This’ll help you face the Spring Term with renewed energy and enthusiasm.


The Chaplaincy centre on the  Whiteknights campus, near to Park House and behind the main Library

Nowhere to go for Christmas? The Chaplaincy Centre has a list of various activities happening locally during the holiday period, and offers a proper English Christmas lunch on 25th December – find company, and perhaps someone to hang out with on another day, too.   http://www.reading.ac.uk/chaplaincy/

Missed deadlines? This could be the time to catch up on reading you’ve missed during the term, so you can return feeling on top of your work. If you’re going home, could you ask someone there to help you schedule in some study time? If you’re staying in Reading, how about booking a Study Advice appointment, during this quiet period?

Feel like volunteering?Helping someone else is a great feeling, and lots of charities are looking for extra volunteering staff at this time of year. A good addition to your c.v. too.http://www.iberkshire.co.uk/local/charities-and-voluntary-organisations/Reading/

Lost touch with important people? Special people in your life are likely to understand how busy you’ve been at uni. How about setting aside time to re-connect properly, and letting them know how much you value them.

student chopping up food for christmas blogWish you’d been eating more healthily? Time to learn to cook? Can you ask a friend or relative for some simple but attractive recipes? Do you want to branch out next term and try cooking dishes from a different culture? Put a recipe book on your wish list and pave the way to a healthier you!

What is this mysterious thing called Mindfulness ?

So, you’ve heard this word ‘Mindfulness’ a zillion times now and are curious about what it actually is and whether it might be something that can help you get through the stressful moments that inevitably happen during your life at University.

being 'mindfull' in the Harris Garden

Well here are the basics :

Mindfulness has its origins in the Eastern traditions of Buddhism but refers to a secular practice of meditations and relaxation exercises. Mindfulness means quite simply being aware of what you are experiencing in the moment as opposed to the mindlessness with which we ordinarily approach the day! How many of us run from one task to the next never really concentrating on the actual moment but thinking ahead or behind of us, maybe multitasking and not really listening to each other or to our own experience of the moment. If you recognise yourself in this description then Mindfulness may help.

So how can it help me ?

People who practice mindfulness regularly, even for a short time each day notice the following benefits :

  • Less anxiety
  • Less depressed
  • Better memory and concentration and
  • Less easily upset by everyday things that go wrong
  • Better sleep patterns
  • Better problem solving skills improved immune system so fewer bugs!

mindfulness photo buildingBut I haven’t got time to practice relaxing and awareness …..

Well of course you do have a lot of things to balance whilst at University, studying, making new friends, learning new skills, looking after your own finances, eating healthily and getting used to independent living away from home. However putting a small bit of time aside each day, maybe 5 minutes, can benefit you in the longer term and help you to manage all the other things a bit easier.

So how do I find out more?  Mindfulness photo view out of window

Well there are lots of free resources on line that enable you to listen to a mindfulness meditation in your own time at home, for eg: www.franticworld.com  or www.stressreductiontapes.com  and if you just put mindfulness into a search you are bound to be able to check out other options you may prefer.

There is also a ‘Life Tools Talk’ on Wednesday 18th November at 1.00pm in Palmer Building room 103 – “ An Introduction to Mindfulness Part 2-Keeping Going”. ( Don’t worry if you didn’t attend part one, it doesn’t matter – you can still come along and find out more.)

Choosing your student house

If you’re a First year, you may already be thinking it’s time to choose who you want to live with, and where. You probably know some people much better than others. Will you choose to share with people from your course, or this year’s flatmates? Perhaps you’d prefer a big house, or a smaller one, or staying in halls sounds appealing.students in kitchen small

Although it may feel urgent to get out there and find a good place before they all get snapped up, it’s sensible to think hard before deciding who you’re going to be sharing with 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Sharing a bathroom, kitchen and the bills is bound to cause some tension before you all get used to each other’s lifestyles. But having your own place is fun too! Make sure you discuss some house rules – whatever’s important to you – before you even view a property. That way you can find out whose lifestyles are similar to your own.

Think about setting up a way of dividing the bills fairly, like the app https://www.splitwise.com/ where you and your housemates can see who’s paid for what, and what you owe each other. This takes away the scenario of heated arguments over money – important when you’re on a student budget.

You may have found the love of your life at uni, and want to jump at the opportunity to live with her/him. It might be an idea instead to find separate places nearby, so you can see each other as often as you want, while still having a personal space when you need it. student revising

During the revision period and exams it’s difficult not to be distracted if your girlfriend/boyfriend is constantly around and not necessarily taking exams on the same days.

So before you sign any contracts or agree to share, why not go long to the Life Tools talk on House Sharing:  how to make it work on Wednesday 11 November, at 2.00pm in Carrington 101.  lifetoolslogo

Take a trip into RUSU or look online at www.rusu.co.uk/advice/housing_advice/ and see what’s available, and how to get started. RUSU and Student Wellbeing both have helpful leaflets on every aspect of looking for a house, what to check for when you’re viewing a place, dealing with the landlord/landlady, getting to grips with bills, and more.

Can’t get started? Always finding other things that need doing?

It’s an all too familiar story. We have the best of intentions to get cracking on that assignment and then, having tidied up our room, made that all important trip to the gym and yes of course…”I can’t start this before sending those urgent emails and replying to texts”  – suddenly it’s well after 10pm and there are no words in your Word document.

suddenly it's late and there are no words in your Word document!

suddenly it’s late and there are no words in your Word document!

It’s so draining sitting in front of your laptop all day and achieving little.  The task can hang over you, spoiling your fun and making you feel guilty for not having done it by now.  So…how do we conquer procrastination, ignite our enthusiasm and recapture our ability to concentrate?

Helpful tips:

Try meeting a study buddy from your course or form a group.  Sit down together and chat about the topic, throw some ideas around and answer each other’s questions. Soon enough confusing aspects become clear and you will feel more motivated.
Galvanise your inspiration, begin with the part of the subject that you find most interesting, then add the other bits around it.
Break down the assignment into short, bite-sized chunks that are easier to manage. Then give yourself limited timed targets in which to complete them. In this time let nothing distract you, just focus on the task and enjoy the distractions in your breaks – which brings us on to…
Take regular breaks to recharge your batteries and improve your ability to concentrate.

The university campus has some great places to take break, have a walk and recharge your batteries

The university campus has some great places to take break, have a walk and recharge your batteries

 Calling all perfectionists out there – Good enough is good enough. Waiting for that light-bulb moment so that it’ll be ‘perfect’, can block you from getting started. You’re not writing the definitive work on the subject…yet! Just get writing and you can edit it at the end.
Make your targets SMART: Specific; Measurable; Achievable; Realistic; Timeframe. By gaining a sense of satisfaction from completing something in the time boundary, we feel more motivated to do it again another time.
Remember to reward yourself in some way for your accomplishments. It’s encouraging to have something to look forward to, and the ‘procrastinator’ part of you will soon learn that it’s worthwhile to get on with things.

If you would like more support with organising your academic work, please see the Study Advisers’ webpage: http://www.reading.ac.uk/studyadvice which is packed with loads of helpful information.

Tired of being Tired?

Don't let your bed space get taken over by the rest of your life!

Don’t let your bed space get taken over by the rest of your life!

After a summer away from uni, perhaps working full-time, or reverting back to family routines, the return to student life, let alone Welcome Week, can come as a bit of a shock to the system! One issue that is consistently brought to us here in the Counselling Department, is the difficulty that many students have with their sleep patterns. Unfortunately student life is not really conducive to a regular 9 – 5 lifestyle, and thus it can be really easy to slip into a habit of late nights, and long lie-ins…and then struggle when 9am lectures are scheduled.
If this sounds like you, try the following tips:
Keep to a set bed-time; if you are a night owl and prefer to go to bed around midnight, that’s fine, but make sure that you don’t then over-compensate by getting up at lunch-time the following day. Our bodies produce a hormone called melatonin that helps us to sleep; levels start to rise as the sun goes down, and then decrease as the sun rises meaning that you will be working against, instead of with, your natural sleep hormones if you go to bed as the sun is coming up.

use an alarm clock - not your mobile phone!

use an alarm clock – not your mobile phone and try to get up when your alarm goes off

Get up when your alarm goes off; repeatedly hitting snooze doesn’t provide you with refreshing sleep, it just messes up your ability to go to sleep in the evening! Our bodies are designed to get the most refreshing sleep early on in our sleep cycle, so dozing does not provide the quality of sleep that you need. It’s better to get up when the alarm goes off, and if you still feel tired, just schedule in an earlier bedtime.

Use an alarm clock, not your phone – that way you will not be tempted to check it through the night, and you won’t be woken up by alerts sounding during the small hours. Although research is conflicting on this, there is also some evidence to suggest that the blue-light of the phone screen can interfere with your production of melatonin as well.


Wondering who to hang out with?

So, you’ve come to Reading Uni. Well done for making it here! 

You’ve brought things that are important to you, you’ve got paper, files and pens, stuff that’s necessary, and things to personalise your room, to make it your “home from home”.

NOW WHAT? What events to go to? Check out the events schedule at the Uni site and the Students’ Union site:

Who to hang out with?
• Being at uni can feel great – free at last! It can also feel quite weird – being away from everything you know. Most likely, everyone who’s here for the first time is feeling a mix of these emotions, as they’ve all left important people and places behind.    Plus, there’s a mass of information to take in.
• Take each day as it comes, and sift out what went well so you can retain the information you’ve learnt today: people’s names, where they come from, where the library is, which flatmates prefer coffee to tea, who’s studying what, who stays up till late and who prefers socialising in a quieter way….
• Notice one or two people who are on your wavelength. Start trying to be around when they are. Do you prefer clubbing, or watching films together?
• Be prepared to share a bit about your personal life back home, so others can get to know you.
It takes time to settle in, so although you might feel a bit up and down for a while, remember it’s normal when you’ve been ‘transplanted’. Everyone needs a while to put roots down. Once you have, you’ll notice yourself feeling less blown around by your emotions, getting steadier, and feeling you made the right choice.

Everyone needs a while to put roots down!

Everyone needs a while to put roots down!