Its almost mid May now and here in my bit of the UK, and springtime should definitely be here, but the temperature hasn’t quite caught up. I’ll still be getting out there though, and visiting my regular walking routes as I’ve found its been a really positive change in my life over the last, difficult year.
You may be the most outgoing extrovert, who thrives on being around people most of the time, who loves parties and get-togethers and lots of social interaction.
You may be a more reflective introvert whose ideal evening would be sipping tea while reading a book, curled up on the sofa with your cat and glad to be inside your own headspace for some downtime.
Or you could be somewhere in between.
One thing we all have had in common during 2020 and into 2021 as the pandemic rages and ebbs and flows around the world is STRESS.
Feeling trapped by restrictions, not being able to see close friends and family, being stuck between holding onto a job and homeschooling, worrying about your health and the health of those close to you, suffering a bereavement… no-one has managed to live through the last year without experiencing regular and sometimes intense anxiety.
Many people now find themselves working to try to improve their mental health after developing significant symptoms of depression and mental illness. But even if that’s not you, its still important to recognise that mental wellbeing needs to be nurtured and cared for, so that we can better weather whatever life is going to throw at us next.
As an introvert and someone who has worked at home for decades and love it, I’ve still experienced many difficult moments worrying about other people, seeing the situation worsen in different parts of the country and different parts of the world, and have been really stressed about not being able to plan effectively for the future because of the ongoing uncertainty. Reaching out to others via my YouTube channel through daily vlogs during springtime last year was a real help at the start of the pandemic and it encouraged me and helped me enormously to get feedback from those watching that it was helping them too.
The other activity that I think is vitally important is to restore our connection with nature and the natural world. This doesn’t mean trekking in the Himalayas or camping in the wilderness; it can be as simple as spending time in your local park or in your own back garden.
By the time of our first lockdown here in the UK in March 2020, I had already started thinking about growing vegetables in my back garden. Once the prospect of not being able to leave home very much for weeks if not months became a reality, my gardening became a real lifeline. As did taking the daily walks from my front door. I count myself spectacularly lucky to be able to walk for 10 minutes and find myself in open countryside, with a beautiful canal and riverside within easy reach and my walking has expanded over the last year.
As we entered the second UK lockdown in November 2020, I bought a step counter watch to connect with my phone so that I could check on just how much I was walking and set myself new goals. Its amazing how the need to achieve things gets scaled back under lockdowns, but the combination of fresh air, regular exercise and the chance to look at the local landscape through the changing seasons is a real mood lifter and has helped take my mind away from the worry and into a pleasant place for a couple of hours each day.
I read recently that some research (which wasn’t referenced) showed that just being outside for around 4 hours a week taking in some type of nature has a measurable positive effect on mood and mental wellbeing. For myself, I’ve found that doing three long walks of two hours, first thing in the morning, three times a week, combined with occasional shorter walks and working in my garden regularly makes me much more able to concentrate on work, more motivated to do the things that I need to do, and gives me a sense of peace and contentment.
By the time of the start of the fourth and, I think, longest lockdown in January 2021, there was widespread disappointment that the much-awaited New Year didn’t change very much. Coronaviruses throughout the world just didn’t get the memo! So that meant upping my walking routine, even in the bitter cold of East Yorkshire with its decidedly puny snowfalls. As springtime felt far away, I still felt the benefit of getting my feet cold and wet on a regular basis, even if the rest of me was toasty warm from wearing all the handmade sweaters I’ve made this season.
But as springtime edged closer, I realised that this last 12 months have given me the chance to experience the changing of the seasons in a way that I’ve never appreciated before. Yes, it can get a bit boring trudging round the same old walk, week after week and month after month. But on one of those regular walks, I would see the signs of buds on the trees, a lessening of flood pools near the river, some glorious blue sky reflected in the still water in the canal on a sunny but frosty morning.
As we’ve moved past the Spring Equinox and into springtide proper, marked for me by the transition to British Summer Time, the sunny days and the (sort of) rise in temperatures has resulted in the yearly explosion of green, the appearance of blossom and spring flowers. Springtime is really one of the happiest seasons for me, one in which everything that looked dead one week is suddenly vibrant and alive the next.
I’ve mentioned in a couple of my recent videos that the pandemic has had some positive effects on my life and I think the reconnection with the seasons and with the beautiful nature in my local area has been a major change for me. Now our restrictions are being eased and its possible to venture further afield, one of my resolutions is to stay focused on the natural landscapes all around in the beautiful county of Yorkshire.
As springtime makes way for summer, I want to really appreciate the natural scenery that is within a drive of an hour or two. Its so easy to think that there is no time to stand and stare, but really, that’s one of the great pleasures in life and one that gives your mental wellness a lovely big squishy hug.