Rooted Ecotherapy Newsletter
January 2023 Edition
Gaining Motivation to Connect with Nature in the Winter
January can often be a tough month for feeling motivated to get outside and connect with nature. Where I live in the Mid-Atlantic region, it is often a cold, grey, and damp time of the year. However, it is often in the off-season that I really enjoy getting a park, trail, or beach all to myself. There are rarely many other people around to interfere with my ability to connect with my surroundings.
Here are a couple of ideas for how to connect with nature this month:
- Take advantage of the sunlight, when it is available. This might mean going outside during your lunch break to get some fresh air and taking a few moments to appreciate the light. If you work a typical 9-5 weekday job, it may also look like making time for nature on the weekend, when you have more availability to get outside during daylight hours.
- Practice bundling up and dressing for the weather. Connecting with nature during the winter months is rarely a fashion show, but rather a task of putting on all your warm layers. However, I find that when I am appropriately outfitted with my layers, jacket, gloves, hat, etc, I am often more than comfortable to enjoy a cold environment.
- Take up a winter sport. There is a wide range of winter sports to consider depending on where you live. Some ideas include, winter hiking, ice skating, ice hockey, snow shoeing, skiing/snowboarding, ice fishing, snowmobiling, and cross-country skiing. While many of these require some equipment, others need very little to get started or can be rented for a modest price. In addition to getting outside in the winter time, trying out a new sport can also help you learn a new skill and test your body in new ways.
- Curl up by a fire. Sometimes, it just feels too dreary to go outside. On these days, I enjoy sitting by a warm fire and engaging in a mindfulness practice of listening to the crackle of the flames, feeling the heat of the fire on my skin, and watching the flames dance.
- Start planning for Spring. Lastly, when winter starts to feel like it is dragging on, it can be a fun practice to start planning for Spring. This may include planning your garden and purchasing seeds, mapping out projects for your yard, or looking up places you want to visit in the warmer months to come!
Ecotherapy Around the World
The idea of spending time in nature to support wellbeing and mental health is not a new idea. For thousands of years communities around the world have emphasized connection with nature. Each month, I’ll be sharing about how folks around the globe, presently and in the past, have connected with nature.
For January, we will be exploring the Japanese concept of ‘shinrin-yoku’ or “forest bathing.” Forest bathing is a practice that was developed in the 1980s in response to the extreme burnout and stress many Japanese workers were experiencing. It is the practice of going into a natural setting, such as a forest, and connecting to that place using all of your senses. Over the last couple decades, the Japanese government have established several forests dedicated to forest bathing practice, where folks are guided through mindfulness activities to facilitate their connection to the natural world. Often data is collected on various stress markers, including cortisol levels, blood pressure, and heart rate. Researchers studying this data found that spending time in nature forest bathing, reduces cortisol levels, blood pressure, and heart rate, as well as improves memory, sleep, and the immune system. These results suggest that shinrin-yoku practice is beneficial for managing stress and improving mental health. To learn more about forest bathing from one of the leading researchers studying this practice, please follow the link below to a short video.