January is always a time of New Year’s Resolutions, making promises to yourself and making plans for the year ahead. So many of us choose the same resolution each year – to do more exercise, lose weight, drink less alcohol, eat better food, travel more – but we often struggle to stick to them.
So this year, I will be striving towards a healthier and more sustainable lifestyle for myself and the beautiful planet that we call home – giving me more motivation to succeed in the knowledge that I am helping not only myself, but the natural world around me too. I already have a passion for nature and will be nurturing this on a daily basis in lots of little ways.
One of the biggest ways I will be doing this will be developing a greater appreciation for nature and all it can offer, by spending more time outdoors.
Here are five inspiring reasons to love nature and ways to make the most of what is on our doorstep in Wales:
1. An open gym and natural playground
In my opinion, the great outdoors beats any man-made gym. No sign-up fee or subscription, no limited opening hours, no cringey mirror selfies, no queuing for the cross-trainer and no sweaty equipment. Combining fresh air with physical activity is invigorating and with such good sportswear available these days, there’s no excuse – you can get out in any weather to enjoy our 24/7 gym… even in Wales!
Mountains like the Brecon Beacons are ideal for hill-walking, rambling, scrambling and climbing; natural lakes are perfect for open water swimming; and inner-city parks, canals and cycle routes like the Sirhowy Valley Trail are great for running and cycling. It doesn’t cost a penny and you might be surprised at how beneficial it can be for your health as well as your bank!
Many of us now use pedometers and fitness trackers to count our steps and record our physical activity, so a simple walk or cycle to work instead of your usual drive can greatly increase your physical activity, help you appreciate nature, get less road rage and reduce your negative impact on the environment at the same time. What’s not to love?
2. A natural spa and beauty oasis
I am a great advocate for botanical, cruelty-free and sustainable beauty products that harness the power of nature. Mother Nature supplies us with an array of beneficial ingredients from tea tree oil and honey to algae and clay, which can be effectively used in a range of beauty and cleaning products.
I believe that as our largest body organ, we should take good care of our skin, as much as we would with our internal organs. Our skin is our greatest defence, a natural barrier and a crucial part of our immune system and therefore I don’t like to use anything on my skin that I wouldn’t be happy to ingest. This is the reason why I use natural and botanical products sourced from nature, without any nasty chemical ingredients.
As care-takers of our planet, I also believe that we should look after all other living things within it. To me, this means not causing harm to animals and being advocates for their well-being. I make a conscious effort to use cruelty-free beauty products using ingredients from sustainable sources, which gives me peace of mind that animals and our natural world are not suffering for the sake of beauty.
I am a keen supporter of independent and local businesses that hold the same values as me and I proudly use products from companies like Honey Bee Beautiful, Natural Dermatology, Spiezia Organics and Arbonne, which all offer luxurious natural products worthy of any spa. In fact, as part of my Christmas present, I will be spending a day with Honey Bee Beautiful, learning how to make my own natural perfumed scrubs and balms. I’m sure another blog will follow shortly afterwards!
3. A gourmet, fine-dining experience
For Christmas, I bought my Dad a book on foraging in the wild. He is a huge outdoors-enthusiast, most often found navigating in the Brecon Beacons mountains as a walk-leader or wild-camping with a Duke of Edinburgh team in the Lake District. Every time I go out hiking with him, he comes out with insightful stories and useful nuggets of information about nature and the great outdoors, from the history of drovers to the best type of moss to use as a toilet paper substitute! As an avid chef and from a family of foodies too, I thought foraging would be right up his street. He already often comes home from rambles with a bag full of wild garlic to make a risotto and now the opportunities are endless.
Nature is bountiful in its supply of fresh, seasonal, organic ingredients if you know where to look and I am excited to see what natural delights my Dad brings home from his escapades with his foraging bible. I am passionate about understanding where my food comes from and I appreciate locally grown ingredients, whether that is vegetables sourced from a local farm shop, home grown herbs, finding a supplier of local honey or foraging for ingredients in the local woodlands. Nature already offers us a gourmet experience on our doorsteps!
4. A great adventure with friends
The great outdoors offers plenty of opportunities for socialising with friends, whether you go exploring new places, trying new activities, making new discoveries, embarking on adventure holidays, enjoying a picnic, or going for a walk “en plein aire”. Spending time with others in nature is an escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life – a digital detox and a chance to genuinely appreciate each other’s company without interruption or distraction from mobile phones (except to take photos, of course).
There are so many adventurous and fun activities to try in Wales, from exploring hidden caves on the Pembrokeshire coast or in the Brecon Beacons mountains, to canoeing or kayaking on the river Wye and abseiling a rocky cliff face in Snowdonia. You could even try paddle boarding in West Wales or zip-lining in North Wales and so much more, or explore further afield with a staycation in the UK. I am always bemused by how little we travel around our own country, despite the rich and varied landscapes, regions and cities it offers, just waiting to be discovered and appreciated as they deserve.
I made it my mission last year to try and experience as many new things and new places as possible and I think I will continue that trend into 2019 with the aim of enjoying being out in nature as much as I can, especially with 2019 being the #YearOfDiscovery in Wales!
5. A remedy for your soul
Not only is nature and the outdoors great for your physical health thanks to fresh air, natural products, good food and physical exercise, but it is also beneficial to your mental health and wellbeing, while providing a healthy dose of vitamin D to boost your mood and immune system too. Nature is like a tonic for the soul and essential for good health and wellness. Being outdoors is great for mindfulness, relaxing and, as mentioned previously, a digital detox – all great for recovery, recuperation and restoration.
Taking a walk on my lunchbreak refreshes my mind after working at my computer all day. It gives me inspiration and ideas, helping me be more productive and creative. Stretching my legs and getting some fresh air also wakes me up and relieves the familiar after-lunch lull. It is energising to spend half an hour in the park, in natural daylight and surrounded by things that stimulate the senses. From the sound of the river and the singing of the birds to the sight of squirrels collecting their nuts or the sun casting shadows across the ground, nature offers hundreds of reasons to feel grateful and opportunities to be mindful and appreciative of our environment and everyday lives.
All in all, the benefits of nature are overwhelmingly positive. It offers solutions to so many problems, being a source of activity, beauty, food, socialising, inspiration, adventure, discovery, relaxation and recovery. Maybe GP’s should start prescribing the great outdoors alongside other treatments for a healthier and happier population!
I certainly think that my new year’s promise to be more conscious and appreciative of our natural world will not only be easier to maintain than other resolutions, but also more enjoyable too.
What are your favourite things about nature and how do you make the most of it in your daily life?