As the temperature drops and lockdown restrictions remain in place, we’re investigating how you can continue to connect with nature during the winter months
Whether it’s exploring a local park or finding solace in plants in the garden, over the past year many of us have come to appreciate the outdoors better, closer to home. According to research by Charity Mind, being in nature can benefit our mental health, and anyone who has experienced the sensation of the air on a winter morning can testify to how it can clear our minds.
Here we explore how we can celebrate our connection to nature and the changing seasons without having to go too far beyond our front door.
Learn more about nature
When we appreciate what we have around us, we can feel more connected to where we live and see the beauty of the world around us. Try to be mindful and curious about your surroundings. What breed is this friendly bird that keeps ending up on the windowsill? What flowers grow in the local hedges? The RSPB and Woodland Trust websites are a great place to start learning how to identify wildlife.
The next time you go outside, take the time to notice what is around you. Can you hear birds chirping The wind teases the trees? How does the air smell and feel? Even in winter there are signs of nature to be noticed and enjoyed.
Start a nature journal
Keeping a nature journal is the perfect way to follow and celebrate nature and the changing seasons. We can record our thoughts and observations of the natural world, for example when we see the first snowdrops of the year peering through the grass or when a hedgehog rummages in the undergrowth while it comes out of its hibernation.
If you have trouble getting pen to paper, try it as soon as you get back from outside. Brew your favorite hot beverage to warm you up, then settle in a comfortable spot and give yourself five or 10 minutes to write uncensored. You can detail any plants or animals you came across, the weather, the smells in the air, your feelings – anything that captures your experience.
Celebrate the seasons
Sometimes we get so excited about our lives that we forget to stop and notice the world. Celebrating the changing seasons is an easy way to reconnect.
When the days seem dark and long, watch out for traditions like lighting candles around February 1st to mark the ancient festival of Imbolc, which is the midpoint between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. And if you can, consider eating seasonal foods. BBC Food is a useful resource for finding out what is in season each month, along with delicious recommended recipes.
Help the environment
More and more of us are realizing the impact of our actions on the planet and wanting to make a difference. Growing your own food, be it a potato lot in the garden or lettuce leaves on the windowsill, is a great way to connect with and learn about nature while reducing the waste caused by growing food commercially can.
If you are able, ditch food for wildlife like badgers or birds – they will especially appreciate it at this time of year when food is scarce. Think of other ways you can care for the planet at home, from composting food waste to using energy-efficient lightbulbs to creatively upcycling old clothes and furniture.
Get inspiration from writing in nature
Nothing beats snuggling up with a book on a winter day. Natural writing has been around for centuries, and authors capture the natural world and our relationship with it.
Nan Shepherd’s The Living Mountain is a popular example of nature writing. Written during World War II, she writes in powerful, poetic prose about her years in the Cairngorm Mountains of Scotland.
The 2020 Wainwright Laureate’s Diary, Dara McAnulty’s Journal of a Young Naturalist, The Persistent Light of Things by Melissa Harrison, and the poetry of Alice Oswald are other wonderful examples of nature writing where you can relax and inspire.