As part of a new series of articles, we’ll be exploring how to deepen our connection with the world around us, and embrace the seasonal gifts nature has to offer. So, first let’s set foot into a winter wonderland…
Wrapped in my dressing gown, I pad out on to my front step, into the biting cold darkness of the morning, and listen to the quiet. There is the occasional rumble of a car driving down the nearby dual carriageway, and the twittering of birds waking up, their song abrading the dawn. It is peaceful, tranquil, and I stare down my suburban street, at the orbs of streetlights and the rows of houses where some are still asleep, while others’ windows glow as people make their breakfasts and prepare for another winter’s day.
Despite the often hectic weeks around Christmas and New Year, there is a sense of quiet during winter. Beyond festive parties and presents, this is the perfect time to reflect, and take stock of our lives.
Most of us are familiar with the idea that nature is beneficial to our physical and mental health. But for many, it isn’t entwined in our days. For me, that’s definitely the case. When I go for a hike or spend time in my garden, my mood is lifted, but I don’t do this enough. So, what can I do to increase my connection with nature?
I’ve experienced serious mental health issues in the past – five years ago, I was in hospital, struggling with severe depression. And while low mood and anxiety are still a part of my life, I have moved on a long way since then. Doing things like connecting with nature to benefit my wellbeing seems particularly important as I try to move forward and reclaim myself.
Can a year of living more seasonally help?
The Wheel of the Year
Observing how nature shifts with the seasons is a joy. Though the skeletal trees may make us think of winter as a time of lack, there is so much happening beneath the surface as the northern hemisphere prepares for spring.
I’m drawn to the idea of the Wheel of the Year, which is how some neo-pagans mark the changing seasons through the observation of eight sabbats spread throughout the year.
From Yule, otherwise known as the winter solstice, on December 21, the hours of daylight begin to increase, as each day lengthens little by little. This year, I am getting up to watch the sunrise on the solstice – something I have always wanted to do. Clutching a flask of coffee as the sun emerges on the horizon, this will be a chance to reflect on the past year, and set intentions for what I want the next to bring, my hopes expanding as the daily sunlight waxes.
Imbolc is a sabbath marked on February 1, and celebrates the stirrings of spring. We can plant seeds and think about our hopes growing. I will light a candle and reflect on how the daylight is increasing, and what I need to do to make those intentions I set at Yule become a reality. These little rituals are a way of working with nature, of thinking about how it relates to our lives.
Learning about nature
Learning about nature is also a great way for us to connect with it more. I’m lucky to have a park near where I live where I often go for a walk and feed the birds. There is a joy to know the breed of each goose I throw seeds to. Lots of beautiful Canada geese are here, and others too, searching the ground for food. There’s the greylag goose, eyeing the bag of waterfowl food I clutch. It’s a delight to place a handful of feed on the ground for it to peck at gratefully. This time of year especially, helping wildlife get through the cold months is important. It reminds me of the difference we can all make.
And I think, too, there is something mindful about simple acts like feeding the geese. I’m not worrying about that upcoming deadline, or the email I need to reply to. Instead, I am focused on making sure each bird gets a good amount of seed, and the joy of watching their little heads bob as they peck away at the ground, circles of them surrounding each pile of food.
After I feed the geese, I walk a lap around the lake, admiring the coots and ducks I spot along the way, sleeping on the shore or waddling along the path. Even in winter, there is beauty for us to experience.
Nature can remind us of life beyond our day-to-day worries. And so, this year, I am making more of an effort to get out there. Each day, I will do something to connect with the seasons, from marking the sabbats to helping wildlife, with the hope it brings me closer to the world.
Join in a year of living seasonally, and tag Happy on social media – we can’t wait to see your adventures!