As we entered a second lockdown in the UK, we started to notice the toll working from home is having on the population’s mental health and wellbeing. This combined with moving into the winter period has created a struggle to stay positive.
The colder, longer and darker nights create a feeling of hibernation and a need to stay indoors, but with so much of that being done already due to the pandemic, we want to focus on some ways to inspire you to get outside and experience nature during winter.
Appreciate the rain, celebrate the sun, feel the wind, get out into the elements and bask in the benefits exploring the great outdoors can bring. And for the days you can’t get outside, we’ll also explore ways to incorporate biophilic design into your home.
Here are Oliver Heath Design’s ways to boost health and wellbeing during winter. Inspiring you to reconnect with nature, even if the sun isn’t shining.
Invest in warm and waterproof clothing
That feeling when you have a waterproof coat, warm socks and dry feet – you can head out and face any weather and enjoy it. Make getting outdoors part of your everyday life. Not only does it mean more time spent getting active and therefore staying healthy, but it also means spending more time surrounded by nature. As the Swedish say “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.”
Volunteer for Nature Monitoring Schemes
Thanks to lockdown we now have a fresh and rejuvenated awareness of nature and how important it is in our daily lives. This year saw volunteers seeking to contribute in nature monitoring schemes numbers rise. The UK Pollinator Monitoring Scheme – whereby people spend 10 minutes counting insects landing on a flower – had its highest number of submissions this year.
Now researchers have used citizen scientists to prove the health and wellbeing benefits of taking part in such projects. Levels of happiness, satisfaction and feelings of connection to nature all rose in participants surveyed for the Nature Up Close and Personal experiment. People were also more likely to engage in conservation activities outside the project. So if you need more of a reason to get outside, monitor or experience nature, take a look for some nature monitoring schemes near you.
There is something about the quiet calm of nature that is contagious, sometimes it can feel like a vista that we live outside of. The act of actually feeling the grass or touching the leaves, creates a direct connection we as humans require as an essential.
According to the ‘contact comfort hypothesis’, touch is a primary factor in reducing anxiety and activation of the sympathetic nervous system.
Boost your wellbeing by focusing on your gut health. 70% of our immune system is within our gut, so it is important to look after our Microbiome.
One way to do this is to eat seasonally. Nourish your body with fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes that are growing now and picked at their freshest. Shopping local is key and on the whole, this way of wellbeing will help the environment too.
Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower may be your top defence against winter sickness as both are high in vitamin C and root vegetables like carrots give you a boost of beta-carotene, both of which are associated with enhanced immune function.
Some seasonal foods to try now:
Root vegetables: beetroot, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, swede, turnip, kale, butternut squash, carrots, pumpkin and sweet potato
Whole grains: brown rice, quinoa, oats and millet
Legumes: beans, chickpeas, lentils, soybeans.
Green vegetables: broccoli, spinach, kale, celery, rocket, and artichokes, dark leafy greens
Fruit: apples, pomegranates, citrus fruits, and pears
Herbs: ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, rosemary, thyme, basil and dill.
Increase Light Exposure
As the days are at their shortest, it’s more important than ever to find time to increase your light exposure and top up your levels of vitamin D. Plan brisk strolls in your daily routine, position your desk by a light source and consider moving around the home throughout the day to get the best possible light you can. Seeing colour in nature, like the little bit of greenery and getting direct sunlight exposure are all really positive for our mental health.
Increased light exposure also helps rest and maintain our circadian rhythms. Overall, this will help us sleep better, making us wake feeling more rested and productive for the day ahead.
Establish and maintain routine
Maintaining a sense of routine and ‘normalcy’ has been proven to boost our wellbeing, especially during these times where we’re working from home and not having many reasons to leave the house.
Follow a routine by getting up, having a shower, getting dressed. Taking a walk before logging on mimics your walk to work, giving you the space to breathe and get ready for the day ahead. It also allows you to get some natural light first thing. You may even live close to a park or green area where you could interact with nature to give yourself an extra boost of vitamin N (nature).
Maintaining a schedule in this way can help regulate the circadian clock but also has a whole host of other benefits for mental health and wellbeing.