Baby, it’s cold outside — so how do you bring nature inside?
Keep up your sylvan connections and nature-loving ways even when you’re inside this winter, with these simple tricks:
- Nature-themed coloring books are a relaxing way to stay connected to flora and fauna while staying warm and chilling-out indoors. Or, if you’re feeling creative and want to freestyle, pull out your favorite photos of treasured nature spots and try your hand at painting or sketching them. Any kind of artistic expression like this soothes the mind.
- Your windows can be your canvas When the weather is just too freezing to get out, or the slush is making you immobile, prop up a place in the window and look for something you love. Cloud-watching allows you to drift off into a dream, and watching a blizzard come in and settle over your street is nothing short of enchanting.
- Bring the outside in via your postman. No, I’m not suggesting anything untoward! I mean the festive season is a great time for mail — fewer bills, more cards from loved ones and little-seen friends — so spend the time indoors really relishing this charming communication with the outdoor world, and pay it forward. Forget e-cards or emails; choose cards that lift your spirits — reindeers, log fires and snowflakes, Mother Nature is the perfect muse — and send them sealed with a loving kiss and a heartfelt message.
- Go to a Christmas tree farm and drag a fir tree home. Plastic just isn’t the same. Then spend time decorating it with collected ornaments and trinkets from bygone years. You can also add items from the natural world: paint and glitter pinecones and acorns. Use mistletoe and ivy to make wreathes and mantelpiece decorations. Fruit also makes for pretty decorations — a kumquat and red-ribbon wreath anyone? A sprig of holly in a glass vase is a simple yet stunning addition to a coffee table.
- Build the perfect log fire, if you can. Go out into the woods to forage for suitable sticks and small logs.
- Create a mini nature scene in a glass bowl, with fake snow, bird ornaments and real pine cones and leaves. For a splash of color, add the deep redness of pomegranates or that stocking favorite: a tangerine. Or fill glass bowls with cranberries and balance lit tea lights on top of them for a ruby glow.
- A collection of pint-sized pine trees make a foresty feel-good display on a dining-room table. Spray with red and gold glitter or snow-in-a-can for a whimsical look, or leave them bare in their natural state. The scent is wonderful and they look Lilliputian-lovely.
Can hibernation heal?
In this socially busy season of non- stop partying, you may want to spend some time on your own, and make like a forest creature and hibernate for a while. If you’re going to hide away, make it worth it: treat yourself to thermal pajamas and toasty socks, ask for new books as holiday presents, take a break from shaving your legs, bake shortbread, drink hot cocoa and catch up on sleep. Make a corner of your home a refuge, a den, a hideout perfect for hibernating with blankets and cinnamon- scented candles. Because sometimes there are brief moments when we do need to squirrel away from society and do a dormouse.
When you’re stuck indoors, you have more time for the deep-and-meaningfuls with loved ones. It's okay if, for a while, in winter you venture outdoors only briefly, to head to a friend’s house for a chat or a board-game marathon, or if the dark evenings give you time to prioritize longer phone calls, Skype sessions or FaceTime catch-ups, because there is a therapeutic benefit to staying in touch this way, too. As the world falls into a sleepy state, you can unplug too. This will help you reboot your circuits for the new year ahead. Unwind, disconnect, stop worrying about work emails. Reconnect with yourself and the people you love rather than worrying about staying connected to cyberspace.
Hibernating on particularly icy days also gives you the chance to complete the niggling projects of the year, the things you’ve wanted to finish for months but have placed on the back burner. Finishing them before a new, fresh year begins will give you a deeply rewarding feeling of satisfaction and achievement. You can read the pile of books that has built up on your bedside table, save all your photos properly or update your address book, which is useful for holiday-card sending.
Don’t hide away for too long, though. An absence of natural light and the constant presence of electric lighting can throw off your internal rhythms. And, as you know by now, being out on the green scene is like having a therapist who improves every aspect of your life, and throws in plenty of vitamin D and fresh air for good luck. There’s also the social impact. Hiding away can become addictive. Saying no to friends, family and fun gets too easy after a while. But you are not a furry forest creature — you have enough food to survive the winter. So be a Santa to your soul and take the time you need to recoup from the year, then answer the phone, accept the invitation, pull on your waterproof boots and get out into the beautiful, sparkling, chilly world with your loved ones and toast it! It will be the greatest gift you could ever give yourself.
Winter Flowers, greenery and berries
These blooms, leaves and berries are abundant at this time of year and symbolic of the season, so treat your home — and yourself — to a posy if you can this winter:
- Pine and pine cones
- Winter-flowering iris
New Year’s Resolutions
I prefer setting myself targets in spring, when I seem to shake off the cold and get a new lease on life, or in autumn, when the back-to-school vibe makes me sit down and study what I am doing with my life and how I can improve it. But if you are a traditionalist, there is only one time to look back with self-awareness, and then look forward to a better you — and that is January 1. For many of us, New Year’s resolutions are key to setting an agenda for our health and mental well-being that we can keep over the following twelve months.
Why? Because there is no neater, clearer date to have a fresh start than on the first day of a crisp new calendar, when the overindulgences have been so much that you actually yearn for a time of simple food, no booze and some exercise. You want to take the high jinks down a notch or two and find some peace in nature.
New Year’s Day is the perfectly positioned precipice to look back on what you didn’t like about last year, to think about what made you feel bad and what made you feel good, then jump off into refreshingly clean ideas and notions. And it feels like the world is cheering you on. There is a mass push to take control and improve one’s health and well-being on this day, and the positive encouragement is invaluable. We’re all in this together, the world is singing to you.
New year, new you — it sounds simple, right? But don’t be too harsh on yourself if “Auld Lang Syne” is still ringing in your ears when you mess one of your resolutions up. It doesn’t matter. They are a self-contract, an agreement with yourself. Plan a reset date. The first of February is just as good as the first of January in my book. The worst thing you can do is feel disheartened and throw away all your life-enhancing dreams, ideals and plans because you feel beaten. And don’t be too self-critical if you’re not noticing changes fast enough. Any good change is worth doing, however insignificant it might feel at first. Good luck!
Excerpted from Forest Therapy: Seasonal Ways to Embrace Nature for a Happier You by Sarah Ivens. Copyright © 2018. Available from Da Capo Lifelong Books, an imprint of Perseus Books, LLC, a subsidiary of Hachette Book Group, Inc.