As winter fast approaches and our instinctual hibernation mode begins to kick in, it gets increasingly hard to stir up enough enthusiasm to even get outside let alone do any exercise out there.
But getting outside at this time of year is arguably more important than it is in the Summer, especially if you’re one of the 1 in 3 people in the UK who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). This condition, also referred to as winter depression, is thought to be caused by lower levels of sun exposure, causing sufferers to feel irritable, lethargic, have a continual low mood and can also result in weight gain due to eating more carb heavy foods and exercising less.
And it’s not just us adults, if you’re a parent you’ll also relate to the endless struggle of trying to peel your kids away from a screen and the resulting behaviour can be detrimental to both parent and child.
Whilst I don’t have the magical answer to perfectly behaved kids, nor would I want to deny you of those beloved PJ clad evenings, what I will say is that if you can get outside, even for just the odd half hour here or there, you’ll soon be reaping those healthy body and mind benefits.
Let me explain more…
The other week we were fortunate enough to be given some tickets to visit the Wildfowls and Wetlands Trust in Arundel. It’s about an hours drive from where we live, so we picked a suitably fresh sunny Friday during half term and pootled on over there. Sounds idyllic right? Well yeah on paper, but had you been a fly on the wall at our house before we left that morning you’d have witnessed an almighty breakdown from child number one, who couldn’t bear the thought of going out for the entire day, because that would mean he wouldn’t have time for Minecraft. Cue plenty of eye rolling, a ton of tutting and a world record for the slowest shoe lace tying competition, we finally managed to shoe horn him out off the door and into the car. Needless to say we were all a tad grumpy before we’d even started.
But that’s the thing with technology, devices and screens isn’t it, they’re addictive, especially for kids. And as they become so absorbed in having to reach that next level, having to recreate what their YouTube idols have done, or having to beat what their friends are doing, they become totally switched off from the world that is happening around them…the real world!
As we discovered that day, WWT Arundel is the perfect antidote to that digital frenzy. Set in a pocket of pure tranquillity, it harks back to a life that was simpler, where kids could be kids, they could run free, listen to birds and be at one with nature and the world around them. Of course a beautiful sunny blue skied day is going to make everything seem good, but aside from that it was an absolute joy to see the kids trying to spot birds through the binoculars in the hides (although it would have been nice to have more of these available), marvelling at the kingfisher as we took a boat ride through the reed beds, and well just breathing in the fresh air, listening to the rustle of the reeds and feeling content. It was the most relaxing day ever, and whilst the kids got a little bored after a while – another curse of modern society being that kids are losing the ability to occupy themselves – we had fun as a family, learnt some new things and our bad moods had lifted. It was as if we’d had a much needed reboot, our systems had been filled with all the good stuff and we’d been recharged. For a brief moment, we’d experienced mindfulness, we’d showed gratitude and we were able to appreciate the simple things.
It’s only when you’re stripped of life’s luxuries that you’re able to do this, and getting out and about in nature is just about the best thing we can do for our health. That day we all got our exercise by walking and running around, our mood improved due to the endorphins created from fresh air and space, we felt alive and energised and any stress just melted away. And yes obviously it may have been a different story if it had been pouring with rain, but it’s all about how you approach it isn’t it.
Whether you chuck on the wellies and raincoats and head out for a walk in the woods, don the lycra layers and get out for a run, take the dog for a walk, ditch the car and walk to work or school instead, or if you have a family day out at one of the numerous nature centres we are so lucky to have in this country, it’s all about just getting out there.
At this time of year there aren’t as many sunshine hours, but it’s still essential to get as much as possible in order to absorb enough Vitamin D, which the body struggles to produce itself. Vitamin D is essential for bone and cell growth, reducing inflammation and for healthy neuromuscular and immune function, and the best news is you only need around about 15 minutes of sun exposure every day. It’s not much to ask is it!?!
So make a pact with yourself and the rest of the family today to make a few changes in your daily habits that will result in you switching off and getting back to nature.
A few suggestions include:
- Kicking leaves – Get’s the gardening done, an all over body workout and it’s fun!
- Geocaching – Treasure hunt with a walk.
- Pooh sticks – Let your competitive streak kick in.
- Birdspotting – You get better at spotting birds if you can hear them. A lot of us have a significant amount of ear wax build up we may not be aware of. Get your ears ready for the challenge by visiting London’s ear wax removal clinic – remember, first to spot 6 different birds wins (up this number if you’re going to a Wetland centre!!)
- Den building – Everyone’s fave!
Give it a go and see if you start to notice an improvement in both your own mental wellbeing as well as how your kids behave.
Disclaimer – Sorry, but I don’t offer a money back guarantee. Unfortunately kids work to their own rules and in my experience the best you can hope for are little glimpses of loveliness and good behaviour…hey you gotta take what you can right! For the times when they’re being proper narky, downright rude and disrespectful…? Just bung ’em out in the garden, lock the back door, pull the curtains, turn up the radio to drown out any noise and pour yourself a large glass of wine – works a treat I tell ya!
How Do You Switch Off and Reconnect With Nature?
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