We think of winter as a time for staying indoors, cosying up around the fire, watching classic movies and playing board games. But it’s also the season of snow flurries, evergreens, icicles and Christmas trees.
Winter is both when we want to hibernate and when there is real magic and beauty to be found outdoors.
I still remember, as a child, watching my breath unfurl in the chilly morning air on my walk to school, pretending to ice skate across the shimmering pavement as bare branches twinkled with icicles.
Embracing nature gave me a sense of awe and gratitude and made me feel calm.
We think of winter as a time for staying indoors, cosying up around the fire, watching classic movies and playing board games
It still does today, and even more so after spending a year researching the incredible power of connecting with nature for my book, Forest Therapy.
Spending time among trees, or even just looking at images of forests, has been shown to do everything from reducing blood pressure, depression and anxiety, to improving sleep, creativity and energy.
That’s why I’m excited to support the Mail’s Be A Tree Angel campaign. For me, nothing is more important for our mental and physical health — and the futures of our children, grandchildren and planet — than preserving, nurturing and creating woodland areas and green spaces.
Trees play an enormous role in improving air quality, supporting wildlife and tackling climate change — and every newly planted tree counts.
Spending time among trees, or even just looking at images of forests, has been shown to do everything from reducing blood pressure, depression and anxiety
At the moment, we are planting only a third of the trees we need to each year. The Mail’s campaign gives us a chance to turn that around.
Christmas is a time to reflect on what is important and, although we often think of spring as Mother Nature’s most glorious season, never is she more comforting and beautiful than at this time of year.
As trees glisten and gleam around us, whether peeked at through steamy windows or marched among on frosty outings, the importance of nature, and the power of trees, is undeniable.
But we don’t have to limit our connection to nature to when we venture outside — we can bring its beauty and benefits indoors.
Here are some easy ways to turn your house into a woodland wonderland, to bring the outdoors in, so that you can find the calming joy of nature in your own home this winter…
GO GREEN WITH DECORATIONS
Spend time decorating your home not with the usual plastic or metallic decorations, but trinkets from the natural world.
A Christmas tree can be beautifully adorned with fir cones and acorns — painted first, if you prefer. Use ivy and mistletoe to make wreaths and mantelpiece decorations.
Even putting a sprig of holly in a glass vase makes a simple, yet stunning, addition to a table
Fruit can also be pretty — I like a kumquat and red ribbon wreath.
Even putting a sprig of holly in a glass vase makes a simple, yet stunning, addition to a table.
If possible, go to a sustainable Christmas tree farm and bring home a rooted fir, which can be replanted and used again.
You’ll be starting a green festive family tradition.
FIND A FEEL-GOOD FOCAL POINT
If your home has a working fireplace, build the perfect log fire by using sticks foraged from the woods (and well dried), rather than relying on shop-bought logs.
Or find other outdoor treasures to make a woody focal point — load up on pine cones and leaves for a foresty, feel-good display on a dining-room table or bookshelf. These can be painted red and gold for a whimsical feel, or left bare for a natural look.
MAKE YOUR OWN SNOWGLOBE
Create a mini nature scene in a large glass bowl using fake snow, bird ornaments and real twigs, pine cones and leaves.
For a splash of colour, add the deep red of pomegranates or that stocking favourite, a tangerine.
Be creative: look around outside and see what you could use and draw upon. You could even try recreating an outdoor space you know and love — such as your own garden or the local park.
Or try filling glass bowls with cranberries and carefully balancing tealights on top of them for a warm, natural ruby glow.
IT’S ALL IN THE DETAIL
Focusing on small details from the natural world enables our brains to take a break from work worries and think more creatively.
So keep plants on your desk, treat yourself to a bunch of flowers for your bedside, keep plants in your bathroom — these little nods to nature boost general happiness and change our mental gears.
So keep plants on your desk, treat yourself to a bunch of flowers for your bedside, keep plants in your bathroom
HOUSE PLANTS TO BOOST HAPPINESS
Gardening doesn’t have to take place outside — horticultural habits really are therapeutic, and the same benefits can be found indoors.
Growing and nurturing plants from cuttings and creating new life inspires mindfulness aswell as contentment.
Spider plants and succulents flourish all year round; or make the most of the winter sun and turn a bright windowsill into an indoor herb or tomato garden.
Spider plants and succulents flourish all year round; or make the most of the winter sun and turn a bright windowsill into an indoor herb or tomato garden
SOOTHE THE SOUL WITH A FOREST BATH
Bring the benefits of ‘forest bathing’ — the Japanese practice of spending time in woodland — into your home by having a bath with woody essential oils. Look for notes of pine, cypress and juniper.
Bring the benefits of ‘forest bathing’ — the Japanese practice of spending time in woodland — into your home by having a bath with woody essential oils
A warm bath soothes muscles, relieves cold symptoms and helps us sleep better, and adding drops of these oils (available at organic stores including nealsyard remedies.com) to your tub boosts those medicinal benefits.
Studies also show that valuable antibacterial, antifungal chemicals emitted by trees called phytoncides make their way into the finest oils.
P.S EVEN PICTURES OF NATURE ARE CALMING
Research shows that just looking at pictures of nature reduces mental fatigue and increases positive thinking.
So switch your phone’s locked screen or laptop screensaver images to your favourite photograph of nature, frame pictures or artworks of beauty spots, or even try a nature-themed colouring book.
Just looking at a green scene decreases the stress-related hormones cortisol and adrenaline, helping to calm us down. Which is exactly what we need at Christmas.
Is it just me, Or are people who don’t send Christmas cards just churlish?
Research shows that just looking at pictures of nature reduces mental fatigue and increases positive thinking
■ Sarah Ivens is author of Forest Therapy: Seasonal Ways To Embrace Nature For A Happier You (Piatkus)