Well 2020 was a strange old year and following on from the new national lockdown announced on 4th January 2021 by the Prime Minister, it has never been more important than now to stick to those New Year resolutions. Winter is upon us and many of us are working from home again; home schooling; and juggling a 101 other things. Winter however provides so many opportunities to see the natural environment completely differently, both as adults and for children. Walking through woodlands and listening to the crunching of the morning frost on the ground; seeing the sun rising through the silhouettes of trees; and listening to the winter bird calls are just some of the things you may not have previously appreciated.
Here are some of our ideas to beat those January & lockdown blues and to help manage your mental health, whilst appreciating the natural environment:
Create Small Habits
January is the time for setting goals and ambitions for the year ahead. Many of us will have the familiar experience of setting goals to lose weight, get that job, start that course, call your parents regularly or to give up a particular habit, only to have lapsed back into old habits by the end of the month. This is because habits, once engrained, are more powerful than willpower and the best way to stick to your goals is to keep them small and attach them to an existing habit.
Tiny Habits author, Dr B.J. Fogg of Stanford Professor of Human Behaviour suggests attaching a baby step to a habit that is completely natural to you, such as brushing your teeth in the morning or making a cup of coffee. Over time that baby step will become natural to you and take you one step closer to achieving your ultimate goals.
What will you attach to your walk in the woods or local green space to make it a habit?
Get Some Vitamin D
It is reported that at least 1 in 5 of us in the UK is deficient in Vitamin D and this is reduced further in the winter months. We need the sun’s rays to make this vital vitamin and this can be hard to achieve when the days are short. The NHS advises that we all take a supplement during the winter months and have offered free supplements to those vulnerable to the worst effects of Coronavirus.
One simple way of getting your daily dose of vitamin D is a 20 minute daylight walk in the green space each day. Perhaps you can head out at lunchtime? Make time each day to get this key ingredient for good health.
Whether you are an experienced runner or have never got much further than the end of your road, the winter is the perfect time to get outside and get moving. Invest in gloves, a warm hat and windproof jacket and brave the cold. That chill on your face and refreshing cold air in your lungs, not to mention that sense of achievement for getting out in all weathers and the warm shower on your return, make it all worth it.
If you are new to running, apps like Couch to 5k will help you go from walking to running. For the more experienced runner, why not set up a competition with your friends and challenge each other to clock up as many miles as possible during January. You could also try different types of running such as off-road or trail running through local woodlands such as the Heart of England Forest. If running at night, a word of warning wear something bright and reflective.
Focus on New Life
Local woodlands, forests, parks and even grass verges can be beautifully sparse in the winter months. The beauty in its stillness is that it’s building the new life for spring just beneath the surface. On your walks in green space, look out for signs of life beginning to stir already and consider what new things might enter your life this year. It can be really reassuring to see that nature is cyclical and life will return. Look out for snowdrops emerging at the base of tree trunks, and early violets bringing colour to the woodlands.
Walk ‘n’ Talk
If you’re home schooling, working in close quarters with your partner or living alone and needing to talk with someone on the phone, why not get outside either in a local woodland or green space to break the monotony of being at home. Taking short regular breaks to accessible green space provides many benefits particularly in these slightly unusual times we are living in, The Land Trust have provided much research on the importance of green space. Modern urban lifestyle is associated with chronic stress, insufficient physical activity and exposure to anthropogenic environmental hazards and this is further compounded in the winter months. Urban green spaces, such as parks, playgrounds, and residential greenery, can promote mental and physical health, and reduce morbidity and mortality in urban residents by providing psychological relaxation and stress alleviation, stimulating social cohesion, supporting physical activity, and reducing exposure to air pollutants, noise and excessive heat.
From the above we challenge you to try just one thing this New Year and see how it impacts you for the better! If you are undertaking a new habit or hobby as a resolution let us know how you are getting on, and just what the great outdoors has done for you!