Jan 20, 2020
Welcome to episode 21. I should start by saying that I’m not a winter person. I like spring and summer. I like sunshine, warm weather and the beach. That said, I do love a crisp, sunny, blue sky winter day, but I live in the North of England, so I don’t see that many of those. My natural inclination, therefore, would be to hibernate in the winter months, avoiding the great outdoors, avoiding social activities that take me outside the house, and staying warm and cosy inside.
Regardless of the weather, however, research(1) has linked time spent outside, particularly in nature, with improved mood and emotional well-being, so it’s worth wrapping up warm and getting outside whenever we can. I’ll admit, I don’t take my own advice on this often enough, but yesterday, I decided to go for it.
I have been exercising more frequently and regularly lately, since losing a lot of weight with the help of weight loss surgery - the exercise helps with the weight loss AND the weight loss makes exercise more enjoyable - but have managed to hurt both my shoulders in the process, so I’ve had to back off some of my gym activity and exercise classes. This meant I had to think about other ways to exercise that wouldn’t strain my shoulders and I thought “I know! I actually really love walking!” I’d had to stop walking before my weight loss as it had caused me Achilles tendon injuries, but that is no longer an issue, so …yay! I convinced hubby it would be lovely for us to go for a Sunday morning walk ending in a lovely country pub where we could indulge in a hearty post-walk lunch and he could enjoy some delicious real ales…nothing wrong with a bit of gentle bribery! 😉 So we decided to go, regardless of the weather, and were actually pretty lucky on this occasion. It was the perfect winter day. Crisp, sunny and, most importantly, dry. But I’m sure we’d have enjoyed the walk even if it had been raining, because we’d set out intending to enjoy being outside, getting some fresh air and stretching our legs. Of course, doing this activity together was an added bonus, but the research(1) suggests that it’s the time outside, rather than the social aspects of the activity, that make us feel better.View of Damflask Reservoir (near Sheffield, Yorkshire, UK, on the edge of the Peak District) on 19th January 2020
View of Damflask Reservoir (near Sheffield, Yorkshire, UK, on the edge of the Peak District) on 19th January 2020
Hubby and I at Damflask Reservoir (near Sheffield, Yorkshire, UK, on the edge of the Peak District) on 19th January 2020
Being in nature is ideal, but even a city stroll would be beneficial. Exposure to light has also been linked in a research study(2) to improvements in mood, energy levels, memory and the ability to think clearly. In this particular study, increased light was only one of the factors; the other elements included in the research were regular brisk walks and daily vitamin and mineral supplements, with the aim of increasing the activity of neurotransmitters such as serotonin to achieve the improvements I just mentioned. The researchers suggested some simple ways to increase our regular exposure to light, for example using a transparent umbrella when it rains, or choosing a window seat on a train or bus, or making sure you open the curtains or blinds on your windows, even if it’s a dull day you’d rather not look at.
So, how can you build more time outside, or more daylight, into your day? Of course, Sunday strolls in nature can be wonderful, but I appreciate that as a busy teacher, you may not always have time for those. Besides, looking at the research, little and often is likely to give you more benefits. So can you carve out 20 minutes a few times a week to get outside? It may even just be that you volunteer for more lunch supervision duties in the playground! For the children in school, how can we facilitate them spending more time outside? I remember when I was at school, I would do just about anything to avoid having to be outside during break time in the winter! But the playground was bleak, cold and uninviting. Can we make our outside spaces more welcoming? Can we take some lesson activities outside?
I hope this episode has helped you reflect on simple ways to look after your own emotional wellbeing and build on the amazing work you’re already doing to support children’s wellbeing. As always, I look forward to catching up with you next week and, until we speak again, For Flourishing’s Sake, have a great week!