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Connecting with the great outdoors can help your wellbeing

Dog walkers do it whatever the weather. (c) Getty
Dog walkers do it whatever the weather. (c) Getty

Even as the daylight lingers a bit longer this month (it truly does), the winter's grip remains firm, nudging us to spend more time within the shelter of our walls. Wintertime beckons us to slow down and replenish, yet our non-stop, always-on culture often ignores the rhythms of nature.

Embracing rest and seeking daily communion with the natural world, is proven to enhance health, ease stress, combat obesity, and sharpen focus.

As we navigate the early stages of 2021, prioritising self-care, community, and local wildlife is paramount.

Picture your arrival to a warm and welcoming home after a brisk walk, cheeks flushed, hair tousled by the wind. This sense of fulfilment differs vastly from the simple relief of returning from errands or work. Engaging in outdoor activities such as walking boosts serotonin levels, naturally lifting our mood.

For the outdoor enthusiasts and seasoned walkers, you know the drill: dress in layers and pack a flask to endure the winter weather. Warmth is essential – layer wisely and carry a lightweight backpack for adjustments as you go. Comfort in our daily lives shouldn't be a luxury. Remember, self-care is vital for well-being: it's okay to seek out a little extra snugness.

But what do we do when the prospect of stepping outside is unappealing? I’ll be straightforward: venture out for a brief stroll regardless. Dog owners are familiar with the internal debate on dreary mornings, the weather beckoning us to remain indoors. Yet, the simple act of walking the dog compels us to face the elements, no matter the forecast.

Counteract the voice that urges you to stay put by recalling the initial reasons for your outdoor plans. Your resolve to embrace the outdoors will soon pay off with the invigorating rewards of nature's embrace.

Great British Life: These boots were made for winter walks. (c) GettyThese boots were made for winter walks. (c) Getty

When the rain falls, seek the shelter of a forest's gentle protection; if you're drawn to water, meander along a river's course. If you are those pressed for time or dependent on public transport, explore the conveniences of local routes, parks, and trails right from your doorstep.

Try a short walk, and if you’re still not feeling it once you are out (try to give it 20 minutes before making the final decision), head back, no problem, you gave it a go. See what the weather is like tomorrow and go for a short walk, either way. Hats, waterproof trousers and singing in the rain can work wonders.

Walking is an experience that transcends mere movement. It's a pathway to re-establish a bond with nature, which not only enriches how we feel but enhances our overall function in life. Walking ticks off the first of the five key actions known to bolster well-being, foster equilibrium, and fortify resilience: staying physically active.

As you stroll, pay attention to the birds around you. The colder months present the perfect opportunity to indulge in birdwatching. Slow down, absorb your surroundings, and be mindful of your internal landscape as well. Such awareness can elevate your spirits. Channel your creative energy by giving back to the environment. Gather natural items along your path, and, with a few household extras, try crafting a bird feeder, a nest box, or even a makeshift pond. Visit the Wildlife Watch website for additional inspiration and instructions.

Nurturing relationships is vital to our mental health, offering a shield against psychological distress. When conditions allow, invite a friend to join you, or exchange greetings with fellow walkers. Nature holds lessons for us all. Learning about our avian, arboreal and berry-bearing neighbours deepens our connection with the world around us. For help identifying the wonders you encounter, the iNaturalist app is a handy, free tool.


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