Wintertime

In some seasons we flourish yet in others, life does seem so much harder. Winters can be long, cold, and dark. The inherent nature of winter can make it difficult for us humans to endure happily. I prefer warmer climes so the cold, grey starkness of Winter it is not the easiest time of the year for me. Like many I always look forward to the end of this season. From around October to March, as the longest season ( it actually can be half of the year) it certainly feels like an eternity!

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a form of depression, caused in the main due to the reduced daylight, which lowers the Serotonin levels. (The key hormone that stabilizes our mood, feelings of well-being and happiness) Its prevalent in the UK and Northern countries. Showing the importance of light on mood and health. There is nothing more uplifting than a blue sky or depressing than a grey one. When days are dark its emotionally tough on many people. The people we come in contact with might be struggling in ways that we cannot comprehend.

When we talk about the winter of your life, it’s the last (dark) section of your life, when perhaps fewer exciting things happen, the slowing down of your life, before dying. Whilst we look forward to the renewal that Spring brings, the joy of spending more time outside in Summer and Holidays, even the rich beauty of Autumn. It’s harder to look forward to Winter with the same enthusiasm. Yet of all the seasons, Wintertime can be the most insightful and the best time to put our houses in order, so to speak. As a time of reflection and a slower time to recuperate from our busy life’s. We often fly to warmer climes during the Winter months, but is this actually the best way to combat the season, to push it away rather than embracing it?

The world of nature doesn’t try to fight Winter in the same way we do. Animals adapt by withdrawing and hibernating. Now whilst we don’t have the luxury of staying in bed for several months, as great as that would sound at 7am on a cold, dark morning, we can at least try to see the pleasures of this season rather than only the negative points.

Many colder climate countries plan for the winter months. In Finland, in the regions of Lapland, generations have spent Summer and Autumn, hunting, freezing and collecting and foraging for berries and mushrooms, as the growing season is short. The entire cultivation process has to be completed two months faster than in the warmer south, before Winter sets in. Food, is preserved in advance and stored away for times when there is less abundance of fresh food. This is how our ancestors would have lived before the times of polytunnels and imported foods. Eating only seasonal foods. Some well-known chefs like Tommy Banks, are returning to this with a farm to table approach using preserved foods for the Winter menu.

Hot drinks and foods have a way of soothing our souls and warming our bodies on cold, dark nights. Keeping it healthy most of the time, with thick homemade soups and stews but allowing for occasional indulgences too like hot chocolate with warming spices like cinnamon, can be such a treat.

Hygge, became a lifestyle trend in the UK in 2016 and whilst you can be forgiven for thinking that this is just a marketing term to sell us more stuff, like blankets and candles. Hygge is as Danish as æbleskiver and it goes far in illuminating the Danish soul. In essence it means creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people. Its very much a way of life for the Danes and we could learn from it too.

Our bodies need more sleep in winter, and allowing the body and brain to relax is looking after our health. Our ancestors survived without electric lights and modern conveniences, so had to adapt to the seasons. They slept more in the Winter and less in Summer.

 Rather than complaining about the cold weather, how about finding pleasurable activities, we would not normally have time for like craft projects, reading or staring a new hobby. For many of our ancestors, Winter was the time spent on making clothing or rugs or items that could help them earn money. What was made in the winter was taken to town in the spring for selling or traded with their neighbours.

So, snuggle up under your blanket, with a cup of something warm, light some candles and get lost in the pages of a book you’ve been meaning to read for months. Or if you’re feeling more social, cook and invite your friends over for a board game night.

Perhaps wintertime is not so bad after all, and we should give gratitude for the down time!

Reading in Lockdown 2021- World Book Day

On 4th March 2021, World Book Day was held, just like everything else, this year it was very different. With events adapted online as most bookstores are still closed for business. World Book Day sends a powerful and positive message about books and reading in particular for children and even more so in lockdown, when reading is a powerful tool for all ages to cope with the stress, isolation and boredom. This year, authors talked about what World Book Day means to them, and how storytelling can be more important than ever in challenging times like these.

I read a lot, I have since childhood, it was through my grandfather that I came to have a love of reading. But as a family, we have always encouraged bedtime stories and bought books as gifts. Children follow the example of their parents and families, so if they see someone reading, they want to try it too. I owe my sanity in Lockdown to the written word, as the chance to escape to a different world and to learn something different. Life-long learning is essential to all of us, in keeping our brain cells active and staying interested.

The mission of World Book Day is to promote reading for pleasure, by offering every child and young person the opportunity to have a book of their own. Reading for pleasure is the single biggest indicator of a child’s future success, more than their family circumstances, their parents’ educational background or their income. Changing lives through a love of books and reading, it aims to see more children, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, with a life-long habit of reading and the improved life chances this brings them.

Designated by UNESCO as a worldwide celebration of books and reading World Book Day is marked in over 100 countries around the globe.

Thousands of bookshops and supermarkets took part in World Book Day. This charity brought together the UK’s leading reading and educational charities: Book Trust, CLPE, National Literacy Trust, and The Reading Agency, children’s publisher Egmont and Nielsen Books, in a collaboration providing insights into the impact of the last year’s Lockdown on reading and the improvement to a child’s life chances. Together, they found that many children and parents embraced reading at the beginning of the pandemic, with huge benefits for their wellbeing and development. (Although this was to decrease slightly as the pandemic continued)

The research found that many children embraced reading at the beginning of the pandemic. The majority looked on-line for reading inspiration on YouTube and with social media. Books have provided a valuable resource to support children’s wellbeing. Young people reported that it helped them relax and made them feel happy. 82% of Teachers found ways of reading aloud to their classes during the pandemic because it provided an emotional support as well as developing literacy skills.

The latest research for the National Literacy Trust shows the positive impact World Book Day has had during the pandemic in 2020. With 3 in 5 primary children saying that they had read more books as a result. Over half had talked more about books with family and friends. A third had also read more books with their family. One surprising fact was that 3 in 10 of the children receiving a World Book Day token in 2020 said it was the first book they ever had of their own. So, it’s wonderful that they get to own a book which is something they can treasure.

Thanks to National Book Tokens and lots of lovely book publishers and booksellers, World Book Day, in partnership with schools all over the country, distribute over 15 million £1/€1.50 World Book Day book tokens to children and young people (that’s almost one for every child/young person under 18 in the UK and Ireland) every year on World Book Day.

During the pandemic, access to books remains a serious issue, particularly amongst disadvantaged children and families. Despite many schools implementing quarantine schemes and delivery services, 40% of primary-level children were unable to take books home. However, many local libraries have offered online free books and audio books, although a tablet or android phone is necessary. Libraries have been using mobile units to deliver books to the sick and elderly. Also, in the second and third lockdowns some library offered collection services, a bit like click and collect. I am a big fan of the work local libraries do for the community at large and we should all try to continue to support them. In part so they are able to carry on offering us a service.

A selection of free audiobooks for all ages is available from the World Book Day website as well as a full range of reading and learning resources for the rest of the year. Visit the website for details  https://www.worldbookday.com/

Libby is the local library app and free online library cards are available if you don’t have a card, just visit your local library website for details.

I do hope you get chance to read a little, either a physical, kindle or audio book, I am sure you will enjoy it!

Escape For a Few Hours….

I had the idea about this blog a few weeks ago before we went back into a second lockdown. It has now become even more relevant. Sometimes we all need to escape; this is made ever harder by been confined to our homes once more. But you can escape without leaving your home or even your sofa for that matter! In my blog post on brainpower it mentioned than daydreaming is essential to maintaining a healthy brain, which is a big sigh of relief to the daydreamers (myself included) amongst us and payback for all those folks who always say that no good ever comes of day dreaming.

Many people use daydreaming as a way to escape their daily life or even the moment that they are in at the time. Daydreaming can provide a quick method to get away from reality, it can also be a healthy method for dealing with certain situations and ideas. Normally, this has a negative connotation but it can be useful when you need to induce creativity or a few minutes of relaxation. Depending on the way you use your free time, it can be either a positive or negative. Even though this is often a spontaneous action, you can still set a certain time when you sit in a quiet spot and begin daydreaming. Many people find this to be an ideal stress-relieving technique. Daydreaming allows your mind to wander and forget about reality for a short time. This attribute alone can help you keep your sanity when you are going through some rough times. By allowing yourself to escape from a stressful situation, you can return to the situation with a new attitude and possibly even a solution to the problem that may be causing the stress.

We all just need some time alone to heal and nurture ourselves. When we have this feeling, it might be that our minds and souls are sending us messages. We’re being reminded that it’s time to step away and indulge in some self-care. There are both healthy and unhealthy forms of escape. The healthy forms are a better choice as drinking and drugs whilst offering an escape can cause more harm than good.

As and aid to mentally escaping: reading, practising Yoga, music and film and TV can all help this process as well as just taking the time to relax on your own. I would offer the advice that computer games can be mindless but are not really offering the sort of mental release, I am suggesting. Excessive gaming can lead to dopamine exhaustion, emotional suppression, and lack of motivation, among other issues, so can be harmful to your health.

I love reading, and its totally possible to escape to a different country, time even world. Audio books and kindle books are free online through your local libraries though the Libby app. You could be attending a ball at the French court of Versailles, seeing the wonderful costumes, décor and dancing, perhaps you could be in a sunny, warm climate instead of a grey, dull one. You could be walking through a beautiful forest or climbing mountains to see wonderful vistas. The sheer number of places to escape is limitless.

Not everyone likes to read and apps like Netflix gives you a wide variety of films and TV series that offer a chance to escape of a short while. I am loving Rivera, I am on series 3 but you can catch up, if you haven’t seen this yet. Some critics have called this as a modern-day Dallas, and I don’t think it was meant in a complimentary way! But personally, I loved Dallas, the plots don’t always ring true, but the settings are fabulous as is the weather, designer clothes, fast cars, boats and amazing houses and hotels, so what is not to love? We will never live in this world so its great to see how the super wealthy live, be it fictionally.  I never totally get the popularity of the British soaps, set in markets and greasy joe cafes? Who wants to see real life, give me glamour every time to escape to once a week.

I do hope that you get a chance to escape just for a short while, taking time for yourself to clear your head, re-charge or relax is vital during stressful times. So, take care of yourself and don’t forget to keep day-dreaming…..