Winter lockdown mental health tips

Winter lockdown mental health tips: how the outdoors can help

Lockdown 3.0 has affected many of us more than lockdown one in spring and summer 2020, when the days were long and warm, and lockdown two, in November 2020, when we at least had the excitement of Christmas to come.

Now, in winter 2021, cold weather, icy conditions, and muddy paths are enough to put even the hardiest outdoors types off a bracing winter walk.

If you are suffering with low mood and lethargy and in need of mental health tips, the outdoors can help – despite the bleak conditions out there.

Winter lockdown mental health tips: how the outdoors can help

Get outdoors

I don’t know if it’s the fresh air, the exercise, the change of scenery, the connection with nature or the chance to think, and frankly, I don’t care: the outdoors has a proven healing power. Something as simple as a half-hour walk can be enough to lift a low mood and throw a little light into a dark day.

It can be tough to get out when feeling low – believe me, I know – but I find that if I put my excuses to one side, pop my boots on, and just get out, the magical power of the outdoors does the trick.

I’m going to be talking more (A LOT MORE) about walking on Ever Wild Outdoors, as I believe it is a simple, effective and free way to boost your mental health. I often walk on my own for the peaceful headspace, but walking with a friend and discussing any troubles can be very useful. With one particular friend, we introduced a “moaning mile”: the first of our usual three miles is given over to having a good moan, getting it out of our system before mile two. It works!

For family walks, create winter treasure hunts for children who are bored by “just” walking; they could find pine cones, robins, holly, and learn the difference between evergreen and deciduous trees.

Winter foraging is another activity worth trying. Ever Wild Outdoors’ Darren Parkin has year-round foraging tips in Ever Wild Pro.

If you would rather stay at home and you have a garden then get your warm-weather gear on and step into the natural world that borders your house. Build a bird hide, make a fire pit, spend an afternoon or evening camping, cook breakfast outdoors… there is no end of ways to feel that healing connection with the outdoors.

Bring the outdoors in

If you don’t have a garden or are housebound, there are still many ways to create that bewitching tie with the natural world.

Have plants or fresh flowers delivered, cultivate an herb garden on the kitchen window shelf, or put bird feeders near windows (you can get feeders that stick directly to the glass). The birds will be especially grateful for food during the harsh winter months.

For an outdoors fix using technology, watch a wildlife documentary, listen to an outdoors-themed podcast, or check out some of the online videos that explore the natural world.

Start a new hobby

A hobby is a fantastic way to focus the creative part of your mind, transferring more troubling thoughts into the recesses of your mind. If only for a little while, anyway.

There are loads of indoor hobbies with an outdoors slant: wildlife drawing and painting (you can buy paint-by-numbers kits if you’re not particularly creative); rock painting; star gazing; writing about your encounters with nature; and bird watching, to name just a few.

Virtual arts and craft classes are running. Facebook and Google are good places to start a search for courses that might interest you. It doesn’t have to be local, it’s virtual, after all.

Lockdown and home schooling drove me back towards art last year – a hobby I had long since abandoned. I have enjoyed it so much that I have set up my own business: Ever Wild Art Co. So who knows where your new hobby might lead.

Plant seeds of hope

“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow”. Did you know who said this oft-quoted line? It was iconic movie starlet Audrey Hepburn. To plant a seed is to have faith in the future, hopefully a better future. So take a leaf from Audrey’s book and plan a veggie patch or a new feature in the garden.

For your wild friends outdoors, consider a project such as building a hedgehog home, crafting a bird box, or building a pond for frogs.

The Wildlife Trusts has a hedgehog-home tutorial, the RSPB can show you how to make a nestbox, and Countryfile magazine offers tips on creating a wildlife pond.

Stay connected

“We’re all on the same rough sea, we’re just in different boats”. I don’t know who first coined this little phrase in reference to the pandemic, but it’s so true. Some of us are living on our own, suffering with loneliness and isolation. Some are working hard to keep people alive during this health crisis. Some are enduring the trials of home schooling children, while working from home. Some are battling other illnesses and isolating from their nearest and dearest.

Whatever your unique situation, whatever struggles you tackle each day, staying connected to your wider circle of friends and family is vital for your mental health.

But how on earth can you apply outdoors nourishment via Zoom, FaceTime or WhatsApp (or whatever video call service you use!)? For a start, you can get video backgrounds featuring nature. Fancy a scenic chinwag in the woods or a virtual picnic by a mountain lake? You can make it happen with a little tech wizardry.

If you’re able to get out for your daily exercise and have a housebound friend or relative, take them on a stroll with you via a video call (just watch how much data you’re using – I’ve made that mistake taking my parents on a virtual walk in the Welsh hills!).

It can be difficult to get children engaged with video calls to family, so suggest to grandparents that they read a book connected with nature. There are countless titles for children that explore the natural world, usually beautifully illustrated and engaging for even the youngest minds and the fidgetiest of fidgets.

A final note…

Finally, if you are struggling, please reach out and talk to someone. Message a friend, call a relative, email me if you like. There are so many people out there having similar feelings of desperation, despair and depression, more than you think. A problem shared is a problem halved.

Written by Jeanette for Ever Wild Wellness at Ever Wild Outdoors.

Ever Wild Wellness: promoting wellness via outdoor pursuits and therapy techniques inspired by nature.

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