January can be a difficult time of year for a range of reasons. Christmas has come and gone, we've over indulged, spent too much and have had our fill of going out. On top of that, it's still winter so the weather isn't exactly inviting.
With a new year upon us, the month means new beginnings. Whatever we did or didn't do last year can be put behind us. We can wipe the slate clean and move forwards into something new; new desires and dreams or perhaps the reigniting of old ones. So of course, with a new year comes a list of resolutions.
Yet if we are honest, how many of these will be long forgotten by spring, if not sooner?
Perhaps this new year, we should start January off differently by taking our guidance from nature - learning to slow down mentally, take on board our energy gradually, all whilst looking inside ourselves to reassess what we truly desire, and working out what is needed from us to turn these plans of how into reality.
These colder months can make it all too easy to want to hibernate indoors. Don't get me wrong, I will not deny that there is huge value in curling up with a good book and cradling a hot chocolate. Yet with all that said, I am not suggesting inactivity, as getting outside into nature is exactly what we need to revive and inspire us.
Being outdoors for 20 minutes with our face and arms exposed can help us get exposure to natural vitamin D, critical for bone and muscle development. Sunlight can also provide a pick-me-up for when we feel down and ease seasonal affective disorder (SAD) as sunlight is important for the regulation of mood, helping to lift our spirits.
Outdoors, the trees are bear and the sky is dull and on the surface, things appear still and inactive, yet below our feet, the earth is in preparation for regeneration.
As we walk we should slow down, take smaller, more considered steps, listening to the sounds the ground makes below our feet. Above us, we see that the lack of leaves on the trees allow us to see the small bird that inhabit their branches, picking off few winter insects hiding among the moss as lichen.
Tiny long tailed tits, fly from tree to tree in their undulating flocks filling their tiny bodies with whatever food they can find, while the tuneful robin sits alone, alerting all around of its territory, preparing for nesting in spring.
Adjusting your eyes to distant fields or hedgerows, you may be lucky enough to spot redwing and fieldfare overwintering from lands far away.
Rotting tree stumps and fallen branches, will be secretly hiding insect larvae that are awaiting the warmth of the coming months to escape into the wide, vast world around them.
Winter is a period that gives the soil a rest, allowing its health to improve. Snow on the ground acts as a blanket for the soil, providing a layer of insulation and preventing moisture from evaporating.
The leaves that fell in autumn and plants that died back since allow nutrients to return carbon back into the soil. It makes sure it has everything it needs in order to have a successful year ahead.
In these winter months, roots still grow, be it more slowly than at other times.
Of course, winter is not completely devoid of plants. Flowers such as snowdrops, wood sorrel, sweet violet, laurel, red campion and primrose can bring joy and signs of the colours and growth to come.
While the seeds of many other plants are lying dormant, many surprisingly requiring a drop in temperature in order to germinate, with the frost and cold rain acting as the necessary tools helps to soften their coats, making it much more likely to sprout and develop into a hardy plant.
As we know from plants at home, those that survive the frost and harsh weather result in being the stronger plants.
In addition to what we observe around us, listen to the thoughts that come whilst walking. Do your best to still your mind; clear it of all the lists and worries, negative thoughts and pressures that life brings. Replace them with the colours and the sounds and smells of what is around. Touch the bark of trees and the wet leaves at the base of their trunks.
Pick up soil from the undergrowth, preferably in wooded areas and devoid of dog mess! and breath in the sweet organic matter. Healthy soil contains geosmin which is the sign of bacteria and microbes, vital for life. Some studies have shown that this can stimulate serotonin production, a neurotransmitter produced in our brains which increases happiness.
After rain, this smell is more present and has it's own name; petrichor.
Look up at the grey skies and search out for the glimpses of blue or think of how it would feel to walk through any visible rain clouds. Breath in the humid air and let it fill your lungs.
Let the world around inspire you and bring you new thoughts. Let the soil below your feet gift you some of its trapped energy, helping you to grow with each footstep you take.
Don't see winter as a difficult or dull time, but one where our seeds are laying dormant, waiting to break free.
- Chantal, January 2023
Photos from Unsplash