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Happy hibernation: winter wellness tips inspired by nature 

Charlie Jordin
By Charlie Jordin

As the air turns cooler, our lifestyles change too – we spend more time indoors and might notice we feel more sluggish or tired. 

But nature and the great outdoors can help – both in getting out in the countryside whatever the season – and learning from the wildlife that survives the cold and dark. Charlie Jordin has put together some tips on how to learn from nature, embrace the winter and take care of your body and mind. 

Get settled in your sett

During the winter we spend much more time indoors, so it’s the perfect opportunity to make your home as cosy as possible – and timely, given current coronavirus advice. Mix textures and patterns that bring you joy and pile the cushions and blankets high. But don’t forget to connect with nature: why not bring the outside in with our foraged winter wreath tutorial? 

In the autumn, badgers eat as much as they can and spend most of winter in their setts. Badgers don’t hibernate but reduce their activity when it’s coldest. | Hans Veth

Looking for a rainy-day activity with children? Make an indoor den or sett and help show your little ones the importance of wildlife habitats:   

  • Grab some chairs to use as the scaffolding of your den and place in a square shape, as big as you want your den to be, with the seat part facing outwards. Alternatively, you can use a four-legged dining table 
  • For the flooring, use blankets and cushions to create a comfortable place to sit 
  • Use a bedding sheet or blanket and drape over the chairs, using books or other heavy items to secure on the seat. 
  • Get creative and decorate your sett with fairy lights and dig out your favourite board games for a fun-filled afternoon 
  • Optional: if you have a play tunnel squirrelled away somewhere, this is a sett-sational den entrance. If you’re feeling especially adventurous, you can also use it as a connector between two dens. 

Preservation society

In preparation for the colder months, some animals preserve their food in their burrows and dens, while others hide their supply, or cache, in trees or even buried underground. Squirrels even go so far as to create fake holes to deceive thieves, and woodpeckers use their unique skills to peck their supply directly into trees. Thankfully, we don’t need to take such drastic measures to store our food. You can take inspiration from our wildlife by preserving your home-grown or locally-bought fruit and veg into delicious jams and pickles. 

Not just a cute face: squirrels are experts at preserving food throughout winter | Bob Brewer

Let there be light

Light is something many people miss in the winter. You might be finding that you’re travelling to and from school or work in the dark, missing essential time outside.  

You can get more sunlight by: 

  • Sun-basking. Ever noticed how our pets love lounging in beams of sunlight? Try soaking in the light during sunrise while you’re eating your breakfast 
  • Spend at least 15 mins outside during the day to raise your spirits. 
Copy cats and enjoy the sun when you can | Victoria Naumenko

Ramble on

When it’s cold outside, it’s tempting to stay indoors and hibernate. Just 20 minutes of brisk walking a day has heaps of health benefits and gives you the perfect opportunity to connect with nature.

Listen to your favourite music or podcast – we’re biased, but we think our Countryside Voices podcast is the perfect walking companion. If you’re not a morning person, aim for an early evening walk or a stroll on your lunch break. On your days off, wrap up warm and explore the countryside with our winter walks. 

Go natural

Unlike our wonderful wildlife, we, unfortunately, have work-related stresses and commitments which can be centred around our phones.

Checking your phone in the evening stimulates your brain which can delay sleep, and the blaring light from the screen can suppress melatonin, a hormone that regulates your sleep cycle. If you can, turn off your phones, or at least mute notifications.  

This fox is relaxed because he isn’t in a work WhatsApp chat | Ray Hennessy

‘Tis the (hibernation) season 

Take tips from our wildlife friends and slow down a little – use the season as an opportunity to recharge and pay extra attention to your mental health. Make a list of all the things that make you happy – like getting connecting with naturefamily fun or baking winter treats – and try and incorporate them into your weekly routine.  

If you need a helping hand 

Our mental health can suffer in the winter. Support is available if you need it.  

MIND have great advice on how to reach out for help.  

YANA (You Are Not Alone) provides confidential mental health support to those in farming or rural businesses. You can call their helpline on 0300 323 0400. 

Andy Holmes

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