At this time of year we get a lot of pretty gloomy advice in the media – supposedly to help us deal with the after–effects of the Christmas period; the weight we’ve added to our hips… and lost from our wallets! Added to that there’s the dark evenings, the mountain of work to do, and the 6 months to wait before our next chance of some time off. It can all feel rather depressing.
So today I am going to cheer us up by reminding you of some of the good things nature has on offer to help us get rid of the winter blues. Here are three of my favourite seasonal pick-me-ups you might like to try:
Make the most of small opportunities for being outside
I’m not talking route marches across country or even jogging round the park here! What I do mean is: taking 30 seconds to stop and look up at the stars when you’re on the way from the car to the front door; or consciously noticing the bright berries on the neighbours’ holly tree while walking to the corner shop. Doing these kinds of things keeps us in touch with the turning of the seasons and also reminds us that we’re part of something bigger than ourselves. In my experience it’s very good for the soul.
Consciously replay your memories of good times past in the outdoors
Shut your eyes, make yourself comfortable and remember the warm days of last summer – the feeling of sun on your face, the sound of birds singing, the colours and scents of a favourite spot – maybe your own garden, maybe a local park or walk. Breathe slowly and let your imagination transport you to a time of relaxation and pleasure. Wallow in it, visualise it, let it become real again for a few minutes. You’ll enjoy those same feelings of leisurely calm all over again, gently easing down your stress levels. This is a really great mental exercise to do on the bus or tube (put your headphones on if you feel a bit self-conscious, so people will think you’re listening to music!).
Enjoy the winter wildlife
If you don’t want to spend time in your garden over the winter, there’s plenty who do!
Birds especially are a joy to see when they visit your garden or park. The antics of the blue tits jostling for position on the fence; the gorgeous peach plumage of the male bullfinch strutting his stuff; the cheerful red robin with his cheeky eye, they’ll all lighten your mood if you take a few minutes to watch them.
Get involved with all this wildlife action by setting up a feeding station with water and seeds or fat balls, place it where you can see it easily from the house (but preferably also near shrubs to give them a perch while they wait in the queue), keep it topped up, and birds will be gathering there for breakfast at the same time you’re eating yours! If you’ve not got a garden try a ‘window feeder’ which attaches to your window with suckers – hungry birds will still come.
You will enjoy your birdwatching even more if you can identify what you’re looking at – there’s a great little guide to help you at https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/birdwatching/
Listen out for bird calls too. Mating season is about to begin so the male birds are really starting to belt out their song to attract the ladies! Often perching prominently on trees or buildings, you should hear great tits, blackbirds, robins and wrens as these are all relatively common birds in our parks and gardens. I find thrushes especially lift my spirits; they have a beautiful fluid song, and sing well into the evening where there are street lights nearby.
You could keep an eye out for other animals too: If the weather is mild you may find the local hedgehogs stirring. There’s very little for them to eat in winter so putting cat food out for them will help them through the lean times. A neighbour of mine showed me last week how she had put out a saucer of sugar water for an overwintering butterfly that had woken up too early.
I hope these simple ideas will help keep up your spirits until the spring arrives. It won’t be long now until the first signs – the aconites, snowdrops and crocuses – appear. As Shelley said in his Ode to the West Wind:
“If winter comes, can spring be far behind?”
Thanks for taking the time to read our blogs. We’d love you to share your thoughts on winter nature therapy – or anything else – with us.