It’s February 23rd and, in England at least, we have a Road Map out of Lockdown.
Yes, indeedy. By June 21st, all being well, we should be free of all restrictions and ready to roll. I hope the whole world can be free soon, and that coronavirus can take its place among the ‘things we worry about that probably won’t happen but it’s good to be prepared for them’ list, along with asteroid strikes and electro magnetic pulses caused by solar flares.
For now, I’m concentrating on the rules of the game (give or take a day or two).
- 8th March: I can meet a friend legally outside. Coffee,anyone?
- 29th March: Outside number rises to six people or two households meeting outside. Yes! Picnic season!
- 12th April: Hospitality outdoors opens, so I’m off for a gin and tonic in the local pub beer garden. I can also start planning a self-catering break.
- 17th May: Entertaining friends can move indoors, and hotels open up (weekends away!!!)
I cannot be the only one who feels like this year has lasted forever already. Lockdown during winter struck me hard, coming on top of my usual post-Christmas slump and, this year, seasoned by my finally accepting that the never-ending ailments I kept complaining about were all, actually, menopause symptoms. Oof. Make me feel aged overnight or what? I’m going to do a post on menopause and the role of hygge in helping with it later on, but this post is about making the most of our time to meet up with mates in what, hopefully, will be a golden and warm spring.
For a few more weeks at least we’re being asked only to meet up outside, whether in our garden or at a safe place. I know a lot of time will simply be spent catching up, just chatting and glad to see each other, but once the gloss fades and we start wanting to do things together rather than just sit and talk, what sort of activities can we do in the great Outdoors?
Just Be: Of course, the most obvious one is just simply to be together, sitting or walking and let the conversation ebb and flow as it naturally will. If you meet up in a special spot, a hill top, say, or a bench by the sea, by a lake or river or simply in a wonderful public garden, then there will be plenty to occupy your eyes and ears and let your mind go sliding around. A true friend is someone you can stay silent with and not be awkward. In the evenings, a firepit can help keep you warm, and provide another meditative activity to do together.
Be Active: Having a gang of friends meet up is a great chance to get active. A frisbee, a ball, a beanbag and you can play a game together. Six people (legal from 29th March) is enough to organise a game of French Cricket, which needs no more than a bat and ball to be playable. Or, on a windy day, pack a pocket kite in your bag and have fun flying/trying to fly it. Nobody is ever too old to enjoy kite flying, and if the pocket kite works well, you can always upscale to a proper kite.
Take Your Group Activity Outside: This last year, I have really missed my monthly bookclub meetings. It’s a group of 6 ladies from WI or church who meet together monthly to talk about the book we’ve read, for a few minutes but mostly to talk about life and provide support to each other in various life stages. It’s possible that, with longer evenings, a firepit and decent coats or blankets, a small group like this could meet up to enjoy outdoors together. Perhaps meeting mid morning would be better, or in a sheltered outdoor spot, like a carport or open garage. Bookclub, a sketching group, a knit and natter group, or any small group that usually meets inside and does not rely on using delicate materials that could be blown away by a puff of wind could be held outside, if only temporarily until indoors is available again.
Live the Friluftsliv as much as possible: Invest in decent clothes to keep you warm and/or dry, commit to daily time spent outside and share that time with your family and friends, start an outdoor activity or hobby (nordic walking sounds ideal, especially since there’s some classes running near me at a time I could just about justify on mental health/menopausal reset grounds) or simply take your morning coffee outside as much as possible. From March to September is an ideal time for us to build up our Vitamin D reserves, which is vital for our wellbeing with or without the extra push it gives the immune system. I’m pushing my gang into afternoons spent in the local park, when I’m at work, walks in local nature reserves with a friend or relative and just throwing the doors open and letting the fresh air in after a winter of small living. A sunny spot in the garden or a bench by the ducks in the park and a thermos flask, and I’m well away. I’ve found Forest Therapy by Sarah Ivens a useful little book here: it has chapters that discuss outdoor living seasonally as well as status-wise, with ideas to use as a couple or a family in the outdoors.
Think Like a Tree: In her excellent book, Think Like a Tree, Sarah Spencer sets out how living with and around trees helps her deal with an ongoing illness and the stresses of life by thinking like a tree: building community, seeing the world around her as a support system designed to keep her in the present, provide the oxygen she needs and recognising her small, but crucial, role in Nature. Nature supports her, she supports Nature. It’s a symbiotic relationship. Take your friends to a forest and see how you all respond. Tree hugging sounds like a crazy thing to do, but actually making contact with a living organism that may well have been planted before you were born and will possibly continue living after you’re dead has a habit of putting small problems back in their box. I have long held that cathedrals are man’s half-hearted effort at rivalling Nature’s Natural Cathedrals. I find greater peace and calm in woods and forests than almost anywhere else. Take your spiritual support group (bible study, yoga, or simply the people you spend most time problem solving with) out to a forest, and let the greenery work on you.
My plan this year is to use the summer to prepare for the winter ahead: if coronavirus (or another respiratory disease like it) is going to be a regular winter visitor then, aside from any vaccines available and in certain cases instead of them, it behoves me to shift my thinking and proactively guard against being ill. Exercise, losing weight, boosting Vitamin D intake and building up mental resilience will all help when the next pandemic (and there will be a next pandemic) strikes. Having an active social life, inside and outside, will make a difference to my mental health. At the start of the first UK Lockdown there was a lot of talk about how it had concentrated people’s minds, made clear what was important and highlighted changes they wanted to make. It would be a real shame if, after the end of what we hope will be the final Lockdown, we just slid back into our old ways without actually implementing the positive changes we need. How about you? Are there any big changes you’re likely to make? What life lessons are you taking with you into the new future that awaits?
Today’s header is a photo of snowdrops by Simon Berger on Unsplash. I chose it because snowdrops are the harbingers of spring: I haven’t actually seen any this year, mostly because my fitness walks have been done in the evening and the shoots in the garden don’t show off to their best in the dark. I love their symbolism as the start of hope, of new life and of exiting from the dark, cold chill of winter time. I especially loved this photo for the use of light: that blurred sun in the background adds another symbol of hope and renewal to the season. May we all be brighter, lighter and happier this year.
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How to Hygge the British Way is my gift to the world. I don’t get paid for writing it, I’m not in it for the kudos, financial rewards, to become an influencer, work with brands or otherwise make any money from the blog. That’s why there are no ads, and any products I mention and recommend have either been gifted to me or bought by me with my everyday wages or donations from supporters. Every book I review has been bought and read by me, unless stated otherwise.
I do get a couple of pennies each time someone buys from the Amazon links on my page, as an Amazon Affiliate, but otherwise if you’d like to support me, I like to give something back in return. That’s why I write books. You can find a full list of my books at my Author’s Page on Amazon, but especially recommended for this time of year are:
Happier: Probably my most personal book, it’s the story of how I used hygge and the little things in life to help boost my happiness. I still go back and reread to remind myself what I need to do to be a happy human.
Cosy Happy Hygge: Setting up a rhythm to life and rituals to enjoy it to make for a more balanced life that handles waves and storms better.
If you’d like to support me, but don’t want to buy a book, I have a Paypal.Me account as Hygge Jem. Every little helps, so even a few pence goes towards the books, goods and courses I use and recommend on the site. I’m grateful for every little bit that brings me closer to my dream of full-time writing, and I know I couldn’t still be writing if it weren’t for the support of many readers and friends out there. Thank you all for every little bit of support, emotional, physical and financial, you give me.