Twelve simple ideas to lift your happiness this winter

Let’s face it, we’ve had a lot to deal with in 2020 and with national restrictions in place again and October’s changing of the clocks signalling the beginning of winter, the next few months may not be easy.

Getting outside however, is vital for our all-round health (even just a few minutes can lift the spirits) so we have listed twelve simple ideas to inspire you to get your daily dose of fresh air and exercise. Pick and choose as you please, or work through our list one by one – top down or bottom up, whatever lifts your happiness!

  1. Dust off your trowel

Fill your garden with colour next spring by choosing, ordering and planting your bulbs now, before the first frost. Easy to grow, snowdrops, crocuses, daffodils and tulips are all good bets, flowering from January onwards to lift your plot – and your mood.

 

  1. Do your bit for the birds

The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) is giving everyone free access to Garden BirdWatch during the pandemic, helping you stay connected to nature whilst contributing to important scientific research. You’ll be helping Britain’s birds and feel good doing your bit. Join here now.

  1. Embrace outside hygge!

Fire pits and outdoor blankets are a worthwhile investment whilst we are confined to our homes, adding another dimension to family life. String up the Christmas lights, snuggle down with a cosy hot chocolate and you’ll be surprised at the relaxing transformation in your outside space.

  1. Take up outdoor meditation

Oh so simple and an excellent way to reduce anxiety and lessen stress, the use of nature and outdoor space in meditation is proven to yield mental health benefits. We don’t purport to be experts, but finding a quiet spot outside, closing your eyes and focussing on your breathing is a great place to start.

  1. Get snapping

Your best camera is the one that is always with you and who doesn’t leave the house without their smartphone these days? Next time you head out for your daily dose of exercise, use it to capture a view or a moment in time. Perhaps you could document your walks each day or challenge yourself to achieve a magazine-worthy wildlife shot? 

  1. Exercise with a buddy

What better way to motivate yourself to get outside for a daily dose of exercise than teaming up with one pal from your support bubble or another household? Walking, running or cycling in unfavourable weather is far more enjoyable with someone by your side (albeit 2 metres away). So put the feelers out and you’ll be surprised at the response!

  1. Organise a scavenger hunt

Unleash your inner Bear Grylls and organise an outdoor scavenger hunt for your family. A super boredom-buster, children (and competitive parents) will love exploring whilst working through their checklist in your garden, a local park or nature reserve (you can still visit outdoor public places with the people you live with). Anything goes, from leaves and flowers to insects and animal tracks!

  1. Plan a winter picnic

Layer up, fill your flask with hot coffee and pop some warm snacks in a thermal food container (foil works pretty well too). Find a sheltered spot and, unless the weather is biblical, you will be surprised how enjoyable it can be. Beaches and countryside are all outdoor public places we can visit with the rules and mulled wine and mince pies (totally acceptable in November) notch up the indulgence levels.

 

  1. Have a go at foraging

Don’t be put off by short days and cold, damp weather – November is officially one of the best months for foraging! Dandelions, hawthorn berries and sweet chestnuts are just some of the goodies found on chilly walks. Take a good field guide with you (positive identifications are vital) and be sure to check first that you are allowed to forage in an area – never taking more than you need.

  1. Cook al fresco

Most people don’t think about cooking outside at this time of year, but why shouldn’t we extend our barbeque season? Providing its dry, cooking al fresco in the winter is still good fun and can be very satisfying. Food always tastes better when cooked outside and you could start with roasting those chestnuts you’ve foraged!

  1. Try cold water swimming

Yes, we are serious! An icy dip releases endorphins, adrenaline and cortisol, helping to lift mood, whilst the effect of submerging your body in cold water increase the body’s white blood cell count, improving immunity and your reaction to stress. Whether it’s (your own) pool, a lake or the sea that appeals, clue yourself up on safety advice first: nowca.org

  1. Plan your next holiday (outside, with a coffee)

Because, let’s face it, we’re ready for one! We don’t mean actually booking and paying for it, but there’s nothing wrong with a bit of escapism. Whether it’s beaches and mountains, or lakes and hills that tick your holiday box, dreaming about your next trip (and even the one after that) should put a smile on your face.

Please stay safe and follow the rules at all times.

Government information on the new national restrictions and staying safe outside the home is available here