Updated: Feb 11
New Year Challenges
There is no doubt that this early part of 2021 continues to be challenging for us all. Many of us are feeling the bite of social isolation or maybe shielding for health reasons. Winter is always a more pressurised time for our local health services and that is more true in 2021 than in many previous years.
Nature is perhaps challenged in Winter too but finds strategies to cope with the colder months. It is a time in nature for rest, storing up energy and shrinking back into the soil ready to regenerate in the Spring.
As this blog is written there are signs of the green shots of recovery that herald the end of winter and the onset of Spring, a time of new possibilities.
Making Connections in the Winter months
So what can we do to keep well during the rest of the Winter months?
There are many benefits to getting out in Nature during the winter – there are studies that show that connecting to nature is so vital for our health and wellbeing. An increasing number of programmes on the television present that evidence – Countryfile has had features on Forest Bathing and Winterwatch featured a Mindfulness feature on each episode. Watching Nature programmes on TV can in itself, helps you to stay connected to nature if getting out is challenging.
Bringing Nature into the Home
Opportunities to get out may be limited by time, ability or weather so why not try bringing Nature into the Home environment? This can help us feel connected and can benefit our health in so many ways. Here are some examples that you might like to try:
Incorporating the Smells of Nature in your Home
Walking in the woods or in the park in Winter can reveal unexpected scents and smells which trigger positive emotions. The damp earth, decomposing leaves and vegetation can trigger memories and feelings of walking as a child, kicking leaves wearing colourful boots and splashing in puddles.
Our Limbic system is situated in our brains, close to our olfactory system which includes our nose and nasal passages. The Limbic system supports several important processing functions including our emotions, behaviour, long-term memory, and sense of smell.
Saving dried petals, rose hips, twigs, fir cones and leaves can bring in the scents of Nature to our homes. Essential oils (aromatherapy oils) used very sparingly can preserve the natural smells of all four Seasons.
People who find Winter challenging may like to keep rose petals in a jar or bowl or put together a bowl of pot pourri with natural treasures from their walks, garden or parks.
Making a Natural Mobile
Mobiles are a great way to be creative and have a beautiful piece of natural art to hang in your home. Why not incorporate natural objects found on your walks such as sticks, feathers and pine cones.
Stones make a beautiful display – forage for them on your walks (only taking a few as they are part of the ecosystem) and display them in an artistic way.
Adding House Plants to your home
It is particularly important at the moment to help us feel connected to Nature outside as we spend more time indoors. House plants are a perfect way of providing oxygen to us as they photosynthesise. Some studies have shown that they can have air purification properties too.
Connectivity in the winter months is particularly important to combat loneliness and social isolation. We can follow Nature’s patterns of rest and regeneration but we are social animals and need connectivity to each other to be well.
Wellbeing at Whistlewood facilitates connections in so many ways. Our Vision to provide a Community for Health is more challenging during lockdown as we cannot be together physically so we continue to build up our social media sites such as our Facebook group Wellbeing@Whistlewood which is an open group site where you can post and comment, connect to Nature and to each other through our posts within our supportive community. Why not join and post pictures of your walks and what you have been drawn to in Nature? We also offer opportunities to become a member of our wellbeing community by subscribing to our Newsletter through our website.
Wellbeing at Whistlewood is also now a member of Derby Action for Happiness and are pleased to be working in partnership with the organisation which supports people in positive, practical and simple ways to enjoy good emotional wellbeing. Anne recently gave a presentation to the group and we look forward to sharing resources and news from Action for Happiness with our wellbeing community including monthly calendars which offer daily wellbeing opportunities. Please feel welcome to look at the wealth of ideas, resources and videos available on the Action for Happiness website https://www.actionforhappiness.org/
Food for Health in Winter
Healthy eating is a very important element of staying well this Winter and Food for Health is one of Wellbeing at Whistlewood's Vision elements. Many of us have more time to cook and are making the most of this. Andy Mason of Suburban Peasant, who caters for many of our events in normal times, has provided a healthy, immune boosting recipe. We call our Caterers “Nourishers” because they really do nourish both Body and Soul with their gorgeous cooking!
Sweet Potato, Mushroom & Spinach Roast
During the winter months it's nice to get the oven fired up.
My go-to for simplicity, nutrition and flavour is based on the sweet potato, now surprisingly, and increasingly grown in the UK. As usual temperature and time are critical, as is seasoning and the oil that's used. Good for winter, full of antioxidants!....We’ll come out of lockdown looking healthier and younger!
It's really quick and easy... fantastic with a cheesy omelette!
Gas mark 6, Approx 45 - 60 mins. Approx 4 servings
1 x large sweet potato (500gms) roughly chopped into large chunks. Rolled in light olive oil, Fine sea salt and bouillon powder.
250 gms brown cap mushrooms, thickly sliced
250gms frozen spinach, defrosted and drained
Tips and optionals
Ideally use a large shallow ceramic or pyrex type oven dish.
I gently scrub my sweet potato rather than peeling it so it retains some of the nutrients from its skin.
Any other dried herbs can be rolled in.
Make sure the sweet potato is spread out otherwise it steams rather than roasting. Use two or more dishes if necessary.
Mushrooms and spinach can be added from the beginning or at any point during the roast.
The light olive oil gives a hotter crisper roast
Ideally use an organically grown spinach as non-organic can have pesticide residues
Maybe red onion. If I use Red onion I like it lightly braised separately to give a different lighter flavour and fresh texture
Partnerships and News
We are pleased to announce that our Partners, the National Forest as part of an initiative led by the NHS team “Joined Up Care Derbyshire”, have been successful in a bid to become one of seven UK “Test and Learn” sites for Green Social Prescriptions. Social prescriptions are a positive development for the future of the NHS and urgently needed for green recovery and mental health as we emerge from the Pandemic. For more information about the National Forest’s involvement in this project please visit: https://bit.ly/3sArm2g
Wellbeing at Whistlewood, as part of the “Test and Learn” initiative aims to be delivering Nature Connection interventions soon as Green Prescriptions. We have also become members of Thriving Communities, an NHS led organisation, which facilitates Social Prescriptions locally and Nationally. We will continue to work with Derbyshire Mind who are also working in partnership within this initiative.
We are running our free on-line “Winter Warmer” Event on the 28 February. We will be exploring many of the topics covered in this blog and invite you to take some time out for your wellbeing! More information is provided on our bookings system www.wellbeingatwhistlewood.co.uk/book-now