Losing the ability to get outside in the daylight after work is a hard adjustment for me, and the lack of daylight can get me feeling very low. The dark nights of winter pull me into bed, and I feel an animal-like urge to cuddle down, pull the sheets around me and, like a hedgehog or a dormouse, hibernate until the flowers start to bloom again. What can be done to hold off the winter blues?
Feeling glum in the winter isn’t a new phenomenom. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a common condition that many people can experience at this time of year. The main theory is that lack of sunlight and vitamin D can impact your levels of serotonin, melatonin, as well as affecting your body clock.
Discussing mental health is slowly losing its stigma. As a society we are beginning to understand that looking after ourselves mentally is just as important to our wellbeing as our physical health. Talking to people, eating healthily and ensuring that we get enough sleep are all well documented ways of improving our mood. However, there is still one method that is still less discussed: time outside.
Ongoing science continues to highlight the vast importance of spending time out in nature. Nature has been shown to reduce our blood pressure, improve sleep quality, lower stress and boost our mood. We’re also becoming aware of other exciting effects, such as improvements in creativity, problem-solving and empathy. Making time to get outside, especially during the winter, to enjoy nature can do wonders for our wellbeing.
Avon Wildlife Trust is using this promising science to try and use nature to boost people’s mood and to help them with their mental health. We run various nature wellbeing sessions that are structured around work carried out by the University of Derby, known as ‘five ways to nature connection’, to engage participants with the natural world. Studies have shown that individuals who are more connected to nature report improved wellbeing and feelings of personal growth.