Coping with lockdown when it's cold and grey outside
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Coping with lockdown when it's cold and grey outside

Has this been the longest winter ever?! With restrictions still in place and all the different types of weather we've had thrown at us, how can you make the most of the outdoors?

When young people go on an Outward Bound course in the winter, the weather will not stop their adventure. Participants go outside no matter what the weather. That's because we believe the best learning happens not only when you go outside, but when you go outside your comfort zone. And there's not much that will push you further than hiking in the rain or canoeing in the wild. It's also LOTS of fun. Yes, really!

So, we really do understand. Going outside for daily exercise is less appealing when the days are wet and grey. But even a short period of time in the fresh air can have huge mental and physical health benefits (even in the rain). Although there is light at the end of this long and dark tunnel, continued restrictions on social activities mean we all still need to be creative about how we connect with ourselves and others.

We know that, even before the pandemic hit, young people were facing a very particular set of challenges and a corresponding trend in declining levels of wellbeing. Whilst spending time outside has positive effects on wellbeing, inequality of access is a huge challenge, with those with the least access to nature also having the lowest levels of physical and mental health.

That is why our priority is to make the outdoors accessible and enjoyable for young people from every background. Here are some simple tips for getting young people outside whilst the weather isn't at its best, to keep their bodies moving, minds active and positive emotions flowing.

Enjoy nature from the inside.

Okay, this one isn’t strictly about going outside, but it is a good starting point. Why not think about how to use books to stimulate even the most indoor-orientated minds. We recommend books like Put on Your Owl Eyes by Devin Franklin, A Girl’s Guide to the Wild by Ruby McConnell, and The Wild Weather Book by Fiona Danks and Jo Schofield. These are great for motivating young explorers and nature lovers. There are plenty of other nature books to choose from to suit all ages and interests.

Wear the right clothing.

You don’t need expensive jackets and wool base layers to make the most of your local outdoor space. A pair of old trainers or wellies and a warm coat is all you need. And if you have a pair of waterproof trousers chuck them on too as they will make de-muddying that bit easier. Don't forget to take a drink and bring a snack to keep you going (we suggest the classic Outward Bound flapjack, and our legendary recipe can be found here).

Cook outside.

Speaking of flapjacks, do you have space outside to light a fire and do some food cooking? If so, this is an awesome outside activity that you can do in your garden or in another safe outside space. How about setting a challenge to cook your whole dinner over flames? We recommend sausages on a stick and flapjack apples for dessert. Just make sure young adventurers are supervised! Here’s a nifty video to get you started.

Try orienteering.

This is a fun outdoor activity that you might not have tried before. You don’t need any experience or equipment. In its simplest form, it involves using a map to find checkpoints. It’s something we do on our Outward Bound courses because it involves the perfect mix of decision making, being outside and being physically active. British Orienteering has some options across the country so it's an excellent place to start.

Get into a routine.

We know it is much easier to go for a quick walk around the block when the sun is shining, but it’s not impossible when it’s raining. To make it easier in all weathers, commit to spending some time outside every day and moving your body regardless – even if it is just 15 minutes. Try doing it as a household or meeting a friend as it's much easier to commit to when you’re in it together.

Go out in the dark.

Grab a torch or a phone light and explore the dark. The world looks completely different at night, and until the clocks change, shorter days mean you can have some fun without staying up too late! Or use a star-gazing app or a book to help identify some constellations on a clear night.

Plant some food.

You don’t need a garden to be green-fingered – windowsill or small patio vegetables are a great alternative. There are plenty of edibles that can be planted at this time of year if you’ve got a bit of spare earth – think potatoes, leeks, peas and onions. Indoor windowsills are perfect for winter salads and herbs. And yes, growing veg indoors isn't an outdoor activity, it does link us to some great values around being self-sufficient, eating seasonally, and connecting us to what we nourish our bodies with.

If you’re looking for more opportunities for young people to connect with nature, keep your eyes peeled for news around Generation Green. This National Lottery funded project aims to provide more than 100,000 progressive opportunities to connect young people to nature, prioritising young people from BAME groups, disadvantaged backgrounds and coastal communities. We’re very proud to be involved in this - watch this space!

Further Reading

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