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Make winter nature your healing wonderland

For all of our Koala Eco community who are braving a cold northern hemisphere winter, this one’s for you!

Adrienne, managing director of our US operations, is a true winter enthusiast. She says that the colder, darker months remind her to tune into stillness and compassion. “I also love their restorative energy: the cold and dark makes for an internal strength and light. When it’s cold your body must work harder, leading to increases in endorphin production, which can result in a happier mood.”

What’s more, says Adrienne, getting out into nature is a wonderful tonic whatever the season, but especially in winter months. While it’s true that shorter days can lead to less sunlight and even bring on Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), research has consistently shown that routines—like regular walks outdoors—are a plus for mental and emotional health, and for helping people establish long-term ‘good-for-you’ habits.

“Interacting with nature is healthy for the brain, and that’s going to have a whole host of other consequences such as handling your own stress,” says Dr. Marc Berman, director of the Environmental Neuroscience Lab at the University of Chicago.[1]

When it’s cold you don’t even have to be out for a long time, advises Adrienne: “just five minutes outside in the cold frosty air can do wonders for a bad mood or rough day at the office.” And it can also improve attention span and memory. “If a path is walkable, just bundle up and do it,” says Dr. Berman.

“Connecting to the nature around you is powerful and calming at the same time,” says Adrienne. It can help us with mindfulness and kindness, because: “it makes us part of something bigger than ourselves, a notion that’s so important for our actualisation process as human beings.

“I love bringing in the season of light with a meditative walk in the evening,” she adds. “It makes me think the of the Robert Frost poem, ‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening’.[2] I light a candle and observe the beauty around me.”

So what else can help us connect with the beauty and healing power of winter nature? Here are some of Adrienne’s ideas:

  • Watch the moon and stars
  • Follow animal tracks in the snow; examine a snowflake close-up
  • Whether it’s cross-country or downhill – go skiing! Or go snowshoeing, sledding, ice-skating. Make snow angels, forts and sculptures: just exercise outside whenever possible
  • Gather friends or go solo for a picnic in the snow
  • If you’re a city-dweller, go on a walk round the streets. Visit your local botanical gardens. Or just walk outside your front door with a warming mug of hot chocolate or tea
  • If you’re close to the coast, take a beach walk. Winter sunrises and sunsets are a magical time to do this
  • Get a birdfeeder and watch out for birds
  • Plant a winter garden of garlic, potatoes, kale, and onions. Learn the names of the native species of plants and animals in your neighbourhood
  • Create a winter ritual that means something special to you. It could be journaling outdoors for 15 minutes, or listening to the sounds of winter, noting the healing feel of the cold and the stillness after a snowstorm

 

[1] Sourced from https://www.healthcentral.com/article/benefits-of-nature-during-cold-winter

[2] Read the poem here https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/42891/stopping-by-woods-on-a-snowy-evening

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