In the summer months we can often take the warmth and greenery for granted. The feel of grass on bare feet, swinging open windows and doors to let in a summer breeze, walking through shaded forests and dipping toes into lakes and seas.
The winter blues is more than a cliche saying. A lack of sunlight and an increased risk of depression is actually medically diagnosed as ‘Seasonal Affective Disorder’ or SAD for short… an unfortunately apt name.
Even for those not affected by these conditions, winter can be dark, long and seemingly unending. Holiday festivities can provide a bit of distraction for some. But when celebrations tail off, we can often be left with a long stretch of winter, with spring lingering in a far off future.
Getting outside when it’s freezing cold, the trees are bare and the weather is more temperamental and wet, can be a challenge. But, it’s so important to spend time outdoors and amongst nature. Even a little can go a long way.
Connecting with nature is a value that makes us human. We have developed a mindset where we assume we are separate from nature. There are humans, and there is nature (wildlife and ecosystems). But truthfully we are a part of nature, and separation from it can be detrimental to our health.
So, in the deep depths of winter, what can we turn to?
Getting outside and into nature in winter doesn’t have to mean a wild and wet, miserable walk down the street. There are others ways to connect with the natural world.
Visit Glasshouses and Gardens
There’s nothing better than walking through a steamy glasshouse in a botanical garden when the weather is anything but tropical outside. Don’t rush through, take your time to read about the plants and examine their textures and colours. Being surrounded by tropical lushness feels incredible when the trees outside are dormant and void of leaves.
Even parks and formal gardens can be landscaped in a way that highlights and maximises the beauty of winter plants. Trees and bushes like winter Honeysuckle or Winter-flowering cherry will be in bloom, and look to the ground for delicate snowdrops or purple cyclamens!
Head into the Forest
Woodland walks and forest pathways aren’t just for summer. In winter, without the cover of leaves, these landscapes take on a completely new light. Light pours down between bare branches, exposing birds and wildlife that you might not have spotted before.
Streams are likely to be much fuller, and waterfalls even more impressive. With water pouring down from hilltops or snow capped mountains. So listen out for the soothing sound of running water.
What to look out for in woodlands in November
Look out for golden autumn leaves still clinging to trees. Collect horse chestnuts or forage for wild edibles.
Forest walks in December
Forage for holiday decor like pinecones and sprigs of holly or mistletoe. Look out for the recognisable call of the robin, or head out in the morning to see everything coated in a crisp layer of frost.
What to find in the woods in January
Snowdrops begin to appear from January onwards, peeking out from frosted forest floors, and coating woodlands in a carpet of delicate flowers.
Grow something indoors
Something from Seed
Perhaps you collected an acorn on a forest walk and want to see if you can grow it, or maybe even an avocado seed from that guacamole you made… Nuturing plants grown from seed gives an amazing sense of fulfilment, and satisfaction.
With houseplants you can bring the evergreen beauty and greenery of tropical plants in to your home where they thrive from the warmth of being inside. Scheduling in one day a week to check and water any plants that need a top up soon becomes a soothing ritual. Orchids are perfect for colour and long lasting flowers, for unusual foliage try Oxalis triangularis or the Chinese Money Plant, and for hardy plants with epic endurance, try spider plants, pothos or the snake plant! Wander into a local high street plant shop, or try garden centres and supermarkets. There are even brilliant websites where you can order houseplants to be delivered straight to your front door, like Beards & Daisies!
A windowsill full of plants is a beautiful sight. Whether you grow mint for mint tea, basil for all the pasta you eat, rosemary to up your roasted veg game. By growing and nurturing herbs, you’re not only improving your wellbeing, you have some ingredients to cook with too!
Grow Something Outdoors
If you have the space, whether it’s a pot on your front door step, a balcony, or a whole garden, there are plenty of evergreen plants that will add natural beauty and colour into your life. Whether it’s a pot of ornamental looking carex grass or winter heather sat on your doorstep that greets you ever time you come home, leafy winter vegetables (like kale and Swiss chard) that can sit on your balcony and provide you with tasty ingredients too. Or even a collection of colourful winter flowering pansies and cyclamens that you add into a planter on your patio.
Visit the Coastline
Coastal towns and villages become so much quieter during the winter. Not only is a coastal winter walk a great way to get outside into fresh sea air, but it also supports local shops and businesses too. Stop at a cafe to warm up with hot chocolate and soup, before wrapping up again and heading back out.
There’s something about being by the sea that helps to calm the mind. Whether it’s the fresh air, the expanse of the ocean or feeling humbled by its power. It helps you feel connected with nature again.
Stormy winter seas might coat the shoreline in driftwood, seaweed and other fascinating beach finds that you can look over. Even just admiring the power of waves is a beautiful winter sight. Just make sure not to get too close to seawalls if the sea is powerful!
Give your walk out into nature a purpose. It’s a simple act, but one that benefits people, wildlife and ecosystems. Your local area will only be all the better for it, and you’ll connect with nature, whilst also doing something positive to help protect it! Take a tough pair of gloves, an old bucket or supermarket bag, and wander along seeing how long it takes you to fill it (you might be shocked at how quickly it does fill up!).
Set Up a Bird Feeder
If you have a garden, or even the smallest of outside spaces, hang up a bird feeder, or even just sprinkle a handful of seed or breadcrumbs. You might have to wait a day or two, but once a bird associates your garden with food, they’re likely to keep coming back!
Birds can struggle to find food in winter, when the ground is frozen and berries begin to dwindle. So setting out seeds is a great way to support local wildlife, whilst also giving you the opportunity to connect with nature. It’s one of the most beautiful sights and sounds of winter, the sweet song of a robin, or watching goldfinches battle for a spot at the table. Don’t forget to set out a shallow dish of water too!