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Have a crafty Christmas for your wellbeing

Specialist Health Editor at Bupa UK
09 December 2020

Christmas 2020 is set to look slightly different this year due to the pandemic, so it may be the perfect time to reinvent certain traditions or habits.

Crafting, or learning new skills or hobbies, is linked to increasing your wellbeing. So with that in mind, I’ve pulled together some Christmas craft ideas that support the planet, as well as your purse.

Homemade Christmas decorations

Steer clear of plastic baubles or buying new decorations in plastic packaging if you can. Think outside the box, making your own or using different materials to decorate your tree and home.

You’ll feel good knowing you’re reducing waste and using less plastic, while adding a personal touch to your decorations. Here are some ideas.

  • Material bunting.
  • Paper origami decorations hung on brown string.
  • Dried fruits hung with string or ribbon.
  • Salt dough decorations.
  • Ribbon bows.
  • Holly, mistletoe and other winter greenery.

red origami stars


Amy Garner, Head of Technology at Bupa and advocate of sustainability initiatives, shares her craft ideas and why she is opting for an environmentally friendly festive season.

“My journey into sustainability began at the start of lockdown. I noticed the positive impact fewer commuters were having on the environment. As lockdown continued, disposable gloves and face masks littered the ground and I began to consider all the single-use items we waste every day.

“With Christmas coming, I thought it was an ideal time to reduce my waste and explore crafting more. I’ve always liked kraft paper (a common form of brown paper made from wood pulp) because it’s so versatile and eco-friendly. I wanted to go a step further this year and walks in the woods opened my eyes to so many natural materials for Christmas craft.

“I’ve been making my own decorations and it’s so rewarding! There is also something really satisfying about using recyclable paper, which equally will be recycled again. My friend is an origami expert and helped with some very impressive decorations for my tree!”

origami-snowflake

Mindful wrapping

Crafting, colouring, writing and wrapping are great times to practise mindfulness. This is the art of being in the present moment, focusing on your senses and what’s around you.

Although it may seem like a chore, try to see wrapping presents as a mindful practice and time to reflect. Using your hands forces your brain to focus on a physical task, and to be more ‘present’ and in the moment.

Follow these steps from Amy Cook, Mental Wellbeing Practitioner at Bupa, to enjoy a mindful Christmas moment.

  • Create a relaxing environment. Turn your phone to silent and put on some relaxing music. Christmas carols may help create cosy, nostalgic feelings.
  • As you wrap each present, think about the person that the gift is for. Recall some fond memories you’ve had with that person or think about the qualities they hold that you admire.
  • Really notice your senses. Take in the pattern of the paper with your eyes, feel the textures of the gift and the paper, and take time to purposefully fold the corners.
  • Don’t rush – take your time. The act of giving is about recognising that person and being thankful. Also, showing kindness and connecting to others is linked to increased wellbeing and happiness.

Eco-friendly wrapping ideas

Keep the crafting theme going by putting a bit more thought into your wrapping.

  • Use recycled kraft paper and reusable ribbon.
  • Decorate with pinecones, bells or a sprig of mistletoe or other winter greenery.
  • Use brown string and biodegradable paper tape.
  • Make gift tags from last year’s Christmas cards. Cut them into squares or rectangles or into the shape of the recipient’s initial.

wrapped presents


Festive baking

Just like crafting, baking and cooking can bring about a sense of wellbeing and accomplishment. It can also be meditative and have a calming effect. There is a strong connection between creative expression and wellbeing, so try your hand at a new recipe or experiment with new flavours or decorations.

Recipe: Gluten-free orange Christmas cake

Abbey Stanford, Registered Dietitian and Specialist Health Editor at Bupa, shares an easy but delicious Christmas bake. It contains less sugar than your average cake and is packed full of fruit. It’s also suitable if you’re coeliac or have a wheat intolerance.

a piece of orange cake cut on a plate

Ingredients

  • 2 oranges with the skin on (wash them well).
  • 5 eggs, separated.
  • 100g (7oz) caster sugar.
  • 225g (8oz) ground almonds.

Method

  • Put the oranges in a saucepan. Cover with water, bring to the boil and then simmer for 30 minutes, or until the oranges are soft. Leave to cool.
  • Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F, gas mark 4). Line the bottom and sides of a 23cm (9in) springform cake tin with baking paper.
  • Blitz the oranges in a blender (including the skin) until they become a pulp.
  • Put the egg whites in a large bowl and whisk until they form stiff peaks. Gradually whisk in half the caster sugar for one minute.
  • Using the same whisk, whisk the egg yolks with the remaining caster sugar in another bowl for two to three minutes or until pale and quite thick – they should look like custard.
  • Whisk the pulped oranges into the egg yolks then carefully fold in the ground almonds.
  • Stir in a couple of dollops of the whisked egg white before gently folding in the rest with a large metal spoon.
  • Transfer the mixture to the tin.
  • Bake for around 50 to 55 minutes, or until the cake is golden brown and a skewer or knife comes out clean. Check the cake after around 20 or 30 minutes and cover it lightly with foil if it’s browning too quickly.
  • Leave the cake to cool in the tin.
  • Try finishing it off with some pomegranate seeds for a festive look.
  • Delicious served with thick, plain Greek yoghurt and a drizzle of honey.

If you’re worried about your mental health, our direct access service aims to provide you with the advice, support and treatment you need as quickly as possible. If you’re covered by your health insurance, you’ll be able to get mental health advice and support usually without the need for a GP referral. Learn more today.

Alice Windsor
Specialist Health Editor at Bupa UK

    • Five ways to wellbeing. Mind. www.mind.org.uk, accessed 2 December 2020
    • Groves P. Mindfulness in psychiatry - where are we now? BJPsych Bull 2016; 40(6):289–92. doi:10.1192/pb.bp.115.052993
    • Rowland L, Curry OS. A range of kindness activities boost happiness. J Soc Psychol 2019; 159(3):340–43. doi:10.1080/00224545.2018.1469461
    • Davies C, Knuiman M, Rosenberg M. The art of being mentally healthy: a study to quantify the relationship between recreational arts engagement and mental well-being in the general population. BMC Public Health 2016; 16:15. doi:10.1186/s12889-015-2672-7

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