You’re not alone if you find it hard to motivate yourself to get outside, even if you know it’s good for you (research finds that 65% of people felt better after being outdoors in the daylight*).
We also know that spending time with each other is beneficial, helping to reduce loneliness, reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression and improve wellbeing. So grab a friend, neighbour or colleague and head outdoors together for a double dose of dopamine!
Here’s our five easy ideas for winter walks.
1) Community Nature Trails
Knowing the power of biodiverse places, we’re proud to have partnered with the RSPB, More Human and members of the Community Action Collective to help you share the nature where you live.
In just a few simple steps, creating a Community Nature Trail helps more people enjoy and appreciate their surroundings. You decide what local nature treasures you want on your route (think trees, bird feeders, a lovely view), then add them to your trail and share it with your community. Or look for local trails nearby that others have already created!
2) Organise a fancy dress walk in your community
It’s a fun way to get people up and out taking steps and talking together. Pick a date and plot a route, then invite your whole street, neighbourhood or project, your school families, or even work colleagues. You could suggest everyone comes along in silly hats, in Christmas Jumpers – offer people a dress-up theme or give everyone creative freedom. You might get Christmas Elves, Superheroes or even people dressed as a Brussel Sprout turning up!
If there are members of your community who aren’t able to join you, can you deliver surprises along the way? Perhaps a mince pie, cheerful card or just a chat at the door – it can really help to include those more isolated.
3) Visit a local nature reserve
Do you know where your nearest local nature reserve is? If not, why not make it your mission to find out where it is and visit with a friend?
Some bigger reserves are brilliant places for a wild winter walk followed by cosy hot chocolates and cake, while smaller reserves can be perfect for an outdoor reset from work – just wander and watch and listen. In good news, RSPB announced in October that they’re allowing free access to all their reserves for young people (18-24).
Many reserves often host practical conservation volunteer days, which can be fantastic for meeting new people and getting some exercise whilst also making a difference.
4) Embracing the outside doesn’t have to mean leaving your house
If you’re not able to get outside for any reason, don’t worry. You can still get the benefits of being outdoors, even without going for a walk. Sit next to a window (getting that daylight) and take some time to notice what you can see, what you can hear and what you can smell.
There are lots of great ID guides online, if you’re not sure what you’re seeing. Look out for interesting flowers or shrubs (remember, most weeds are wildflowers in the wrong place!). Try Woodland Trust for tree ID guides or RSPB for birds and birdsong. The Big Garden Birdwatch takes place at the end of January – a brilliant opportunity to come together with thousands of others to notice the birds in your garden.
If you try watching for the same time each day, you can notice what changes as the season goes on. Create yourself a little spotting board (you could always put it up outside to share with others!).
There are lots of easy ways to support wildlife from home, too. You can leave food and water out during the colder months when many birds and small mammals like hedgehogs struggle to find enough to eat. The Wildlife Trusts have loads of easy and family friendly activities to do to help wildlife near you.
5) Litter pick
A great way to bring your community together is to do a litter pick of your local area. Set a date and a time and put some posters up. This type of activity can work really well to help people achieve something together and take more pride in your community. Sometimes litter picks can be the start of something more – perhaps that piece of verge could become a community garden, or some planters used to spruce up an alleyway?
On the day, all you need is some gloves and bin bags, although litter pickers can be a useful addition. If you let your local council know they’ll often collect additional bags for you.