“Apricity”, I learned from Susie Dent recently, is the warmth of the sun on a winter’s day. She explains that if you are luxuriating in it for a while you are “apricating”. As I write this, on a freezing, hoary January day, anticipating “apricating” is deeply attractive!
If there is one thing that I know will give me a wellbeing boost without fail this Winter, it’s a walk in the woods. I love it at any time of year, but that boost is turbocharged if it’s winter time, and even more so in milky winter sun. Very little compares, and considering such experiences are mostly free of charge if we live within easy access of open space, the benefits are immense.
Fortunately, we have a growing body of research which demonstrates how important it is for us to connect with nature (and if you would like to find out more about that a great place to start is Professor Miles Richardson’s blog, Finding Nature – see below). While our busy lives in the education profession may not always allow us to achieve that, we need to consider ways in which we can appreciate nature in small ways throughout our days. For example:
- First of all, consider what you know you enjoy doing outside. Are you a runner, cycler or a walker? Or do you really prefer to stay indoors? If the latter, what circumstances would motivate you to get outside? Would you want someone to walk with? Safe places to go? Drill down into how you feel about the possibility of spending more time outdoors in nature. What are your motivators? What are your blocks?
- If the thought of walking in wild places feels potentially unsafe, consider going to places that are relatively wild yet within organised boundaries, for example, National Trust grounds, Wildfowl and Wetlands Centres, English Heritage grounds, local nature reserves and so on.
- Explore the potential for engaging with nature during the school day. For example, walks in school grounds or in the immediate locality (nature reserves, local parks and green spaces and so on) or even bringing nature into your school (plants in the classroom, creation of a school garden and so on).
- Find out if there are any local walking, cycling or running groups you can join. Local libraries, Facebeook pages and GP surgeries often carry such information.
- There are many opportunities to volunteer with conservation groups, which can have the dual benefit of spending time outside and doing some good in your local area. That said, time is an issue for teachers like almost no other profession, but if you do want to devote some time to being outside, this is a great way of achieving that, meeting others and taking care.
- If getting out is not possible for any reason, reading about nature may be beneficial too. Try authors such as Roger Deakin (for example Waterlog and Wildwood) or Robert Macfarlane (for example The Lost Words or The Wild Places) for starters.
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Whether you go alone or with others, committing to feeling the cold air on your cheeks, hearing the myriad sounds of nature, tasting a winter day and walking, cycling or running through terrain other than road or pavement surfaces has known and demonstrable benefits. We live at a time when our wellbeing invariably needs our focused attention. We cannot assume that the institutions and structures within which we work will nurture our individual and personal wellbeing to the fullest extent, and should not be disempowered into thinking that wellbeing initiatives are of questionable value. Wellbeing matters, something we should never forget, and the potential for wellbeing in nature is well worth exploring.
Find out more…
There are some great initiatives designed to get people out in nature. These ideas may help:
- If you have children, you may enjoy the Nature Tots and Nature Watch sessions (name can vary) run by local Wildlife Trusts. Many run on Saturdays and welcome children and siblings. Find out more here
- If you want to learn more about the research around our relationship with nature, Professor Miles Richardson writes a blog called Finding Nature in which he explores research on nature connectedness
- Check out the #3naturethings hashtag on Twitter where people share what they have noticed in nature. Research suggests that doing this may help nature connectedness and wellbeing.
There is additional information on nature and wellbeing in Elizabeth’s new book, A Practical Guide to Teacher Wellbeing, published by Sage, 2018.
About the author
After graduating with a degree in Politics and International Relations from the University of Reading, Elizabeth Holmes completed her PGCE at the Institute of Education, University of London. She then taught humanities and social sciences in schools in London, Oxfordshire and West Sussex, where she ran the history department in a challenging comprehensive. Elizabeth specialises in education but also writes on many other issues and themes. As well as her regular blogs for eTeach and FEjobs, her books have been published by a variety of publishers and translated around the world.