January can be a bit of a dull month. The excitement of the holidays have passed in a rush and now there are at least four months of cold weather stretching ahead. Missing out on important sunlight and short days can make you feel a little down, but don't despair: we've put together a list of our favourite ways to cheer up when it feels like you haven't seen the sun in weeks.
If you look at it another way, January is pretty special. All the stress and rush of Christmas and New Year are over: there's no shopping to do and nowhere you need to be. You can finally take a breath and look forwards to the new year. Snow and cold weather might get in the way when you've got a long list of jobs to do, but in January you can really enjoy winter: step outside on a cold, crisp morning while the sun is coming up and you'll be a world away from bustling Christmas crowds. The outdoors are quiet at this time of year, and it's a great time to enjoy the silence. So long as you're prepared, winter camping can be an amazing experience: you'll feel like the only people in the world when you wake up in your tent in a snowy forest.
If you're feeling down and you need a pick-me-up this January, here are our top five tips on how to use nature to beat the winter blues.
1. Go for a walk. It's simple, it's free, and in our opinion it's the best cure of the lot. Bonus points if you can get to a wood or open fields (studies show walking in the woods can improve mental health), but anywhere quiet and outdoors will do nicely. Take some deep breaths and focus on your surroundings to give your mind a break from the chatter of everyday life.
2. Eat well. With the excesses of Christmas and New Year out of the way, now's your chance to nourish your body. Take time to cook a healthy meal that's full protein and seasonal vegetables: cooking can be incredibly therapeutic, and with a bit of planning it's always cheaper to cook from scratch. Which leads us on to...
3. Grow plants. There are lots of herbs that will grow well even in winter if they're placed in a sunny windowsill. Rosemary, thyme, parlsley, winter savoury, mint and sage are good options.
4. Be mindful. If you're feeling swamped, take a moment to focus on your breath, noticing it flowing in and out. Do this a few times a day, and you'll notice yourself feeling more calm. When you're outside, notice the leaves on the trees and the sound the wind makes: becoming more mindful of your surroundings helps the mind to quieten down. Finding practical solutions that you can slot into your day, rather than making ambitious resolutions to meditate for an hour every morning, mean that you're more likely to stick to them and reap the benefits.
5. Plan adventures. We strongly believe in the joys of winter camping: so long as you're warm and well-prepared, a winter camping trip can be as good - if not better than - a warm-weather adventure. A good canvas tent, a wood-burning tent stove and lots of blankets are our essentials, along with good food and something hot to drink. If you don't fancy getting out there while it's still frosty, cheer yourself up by planning an adventure for later in the year. You don't have to go abroad to give yourself something to look forward to: a weekend car camping or even a night planned under the stars with a bivvy bag and a book can be amazing experiences, and they'll give you something to daydream about while you're stuck inside.
We hope that's helped cheer you up! If you get stuck, our advice basically boils down to: get outside as much and as often as you can, be good to yourself, and remember, your next adventure is just around the corner.
Want more how-tos, recipes and adventure tips? Sign up to our newsletter below.