Well, it's been a rather surreal few weeks, since I wrote my last blog.
Ironically, I have been busier than I have ever been... but that is because what I do and love has suddenly become even more relevant to everyone; appreciating what is right on our doorsteps.
The way that we all interact with the world has changed. For some, this will have completely turned their world upside down in so many ways. It is a frightening time, when everything around us seems to be changing and our lives feel like they will never be the quite the same again. Many now feel like they are not in control and, as restrictions bite harder, people are forced into smaller and smaller spaces, often with very limited access to the outside world. Suddenly, that freedom to be outside and to interact directly is fast disappearing.
I am lucky. I live in a rural location. I have a lovely garden and my house is surrounded by fields. Perhaps, most significantly for me, I am used to spending quite a lot of my time alone and in the areas immediately around my home; my garden and its surrounding land. For me, this part of my life has not changed much. I am not one to frequent busy town centres, eat out regularly in large (or small) social groups or have coffee and cake in a cafe. I do not work in an office, surrounded by others, or commute on busy tubes and trains every day. My children are grown up and I do not have young people to ferry to school, college and to care for at home any more.
My life has changed though. My teaching is now cut down to a rota as we offer a school place for pupils of key workers. I am interacting with pupils via the Internet, rather than the close social contact that I love. I can't just jump in the car and drive to a favourite location with my camera or binoculars or to take Wren for a walk in the Peak District. I can't travel weekly to Yew View to check on the wildlife and all my cameras. My guiding trip in Shetland is cancelled and planned trip to Ecuador squashed. My self-employed consultancy work has been shaved down to a bare minimum.
What did change for me, most significantly, was the time I spent watching the news. Report after report, I found I had the news on loop. Over and over again, I saw the same stories. As soon as I woke in the morning, I'd put on the news. As with all of us, I wanted to know and understand what was happening, how the virus was progressing and what I need to do to help halt its progress. It was only when I went outside, walked with Wren or went for a run, did I feel that tension and worry lift. As soon as I was out in the garden, bathed in the glorious sunshine we have had, or treated to the melodious serenade of the blackbird, did I find a release. It was nature that bought me and my mind back to earth.
For nature, business is as usual. Spring has sprung and whether it be the blackthorn bursting into to flower, the marsh marigolds around my pond or the wonderful Spring-proclaiming call of the returning Chiffchaff, life goes on. Nature is a powerful force and, for me, contact with it is an essential part of my being. Every day, I notice nature. It may just be frosted leaves, new buds on the hawthorn or a buzzard soaring over the fields by my home. On nearly every early morning dog walk, I tweet an image... something I have noticed; a beautiful natural form that has caught my eye. I am always looking for them. May be now, it has made me realise how much I do this and how good it makes me feel.
All the things I love doing most are free and they make me feel good. I obviously have a strong connection with nature. That connection with nature is good for our mental wellbeing. This is now more important than ever.
With only that one session outside suddenly people, who may not have normally cherished time in nature, are trying to make the most of it. They are realising their need for fresh air and sunlight. After a long, wet and dull Autumn and winter, we were all ready for that sunshine we had last week, yet many of us could not enjoy it as much as we might have done. For those lucky enough to have a garden, I have seen so many say how much they have cherished that time outside and how much they have noticed that they would have not noticed before.
I now start my day with nature, not news. If warm enough, I take my cup of tea into the garden. I listen to the robin singing and notice the daily changes in Spring growth. I stand at the window and watch the birds on the feeders. I relish a sunrise. Only when I have had my nature dose, do I put on the news.
Nature IS good for your mental wellbeing. I challenge you all to connect with it every day, in as many ways as you can. If you are house bound, open the window and feel the sun or the breeze on your face. Wherever possible, listen to the birds, smell a flower, touch a leaf or watch wildlife. On your precious outside exercise period every day, take time to actually notice nature. Instead of having the headphones on, leave them at home and listen to nature's playlist. Instead of walking with your face in the phone, look around you and find something natural that is special or beautiful.
I guarantee, you will come back inside feeling more ready to face the day.