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Twelve simple ideas to lift your happiness

Let’s face it, we’ve had a lot to deal with in the past 12 months and with national restrictions in place, it hasn’t been an easy ride at all.

Getting outside however, is vital for our all-round health (even just a few minutes can lift the spirits) so we have listed twelve simple ideas to inspire you to get your daily dose of fresh air and exercise. Pick and choose as you please, or work through our list one by one – top down or bottom up, whatever lifts your happiness!

  1. Dust off your trowel

Tend those borders and vegetable patches, weed the paving and generally spruce up your garden so you are able to enjoy it to its fullest in the warmer months. Spending 20-30 minutes outdoors each day, whether it is watering or weeding will certainly help lift the spirits.

  1. Do your bit for the birds

The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) is giving everyone free access to Garden BirdWatch during the pandemic, helping you stay connected to nature whilst contributing to important scientific research. You’ll be helping Britain’s birds and feel good doing your bit. Join here now.

  1. Embrace outside hygge!

Fire pits and outdoor blankets are a worthwhile investment for your outdoor space, adding another dimension to family life. String up fairy lights, snuggle down with a cosy hot chocolate and you’ll be surprised at the relaxing transformation in your outside space.

  1. Take up outdoor meditation

Oh so simple and an excellent way to reduce anxiety and lessen stress, the use of nature and outdoor space in meditation is proven to yield mental health benefits. We don’t purport to be experts, but finding a quiet spot outside, closing your eyes and focussing on your breathing is a great place to start.

  1. Get snapping

Your best camera is the one that is always with you and who doesn’t leave the house without their smartphone these days? Next time you head out for your daily dose of exercise, use it to capture a view or a moment in time. Perhaps you could document your walks each day or challenge yourself to achieve a magazine-worthy wildlife shot?

  1. Exercise with a buddy

What better way to motivate yourself to get outside for a daily dose of exercise than teaming up with one pal from your support bubble or another household? Walking, running or cycling in unfavourable weather is far more enjoyable with someone by your side (albeit 2 metres away). So put the feelers out and you’ll be surprised at the response!

  1. Organise a scavenger hunt

Unleash your inner Bear Grylls and organise an outdoor scavenger hunt for your family. A super boredom-buster, children (and competitive parents) will love exploring whilst working through their checklist in your garden, a local park or nature reserve. Anything goes, from leaves and flowers to insects and animal tracks!

  1. Plan a winter picnic

Layer up, fill your flask with hot coffee and pop some warm snacks in a thermal food container (foil works pretty well too). Find a sheltered spot and, unless the weather is biblical, you will be surprised how enjoyable it can be. Beaches and countryside are all outdoor public places we can visit with friends now, so lets make the most of it.

  1. Have a go at foraging

Don’t be put off by cold, damp weather – we are in some of the best months for foraging! Dandelions, hawthorn berries and sweet chestnuts are just some of the goodies found on chilly walks. Take a good field guide with you (positive identifications are vital) and be sure to check first that you are allowed to forage in an area – never taking more than you need.

  1. Cook al fresco

Most people don’t think about cooking outside at this time of year, but why shouldn’t we extend our barbeque season? Providing its dry, cooking al fresco in the cooler months is still good fun and can be very satisfying. Food always tastes better when cooked outside.

  1. Try cold water swimming

Yes, we are serious! An icy dip releases endorphins, adrenaline and cortisol, helping to lift mood, whilst the effect of submerging your body in cold water increase the body’s white blood cell count, improving immunity and your reaction to stress. Whether it’s (your own) pool, a lake or the sea that appeals, clue yourself up on safety advice first:

  1. Plan your next holiday (outside, with a coffee)

Because, let’s face it, we’re ready for one! We don’t mean actually booking and paying for it, but there’s nothing wrong with a bit of escapism. Whether it’s beaches and mountains, or lakes and hills that tick your holiday box, dreaming about your next trip (and even the one after that) should put a smile on your face.

Please stay safe and follow the rules at all times.

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Hygge the Nikwax way… embrace a Scandinavian Autumn for ultimate outdoor happiness.

Without even realising it, there’s so much around us that makes us feel content, comfortable and downright cosy, at times when the weather may not be so great, the nights are drawing in, or perhaps when just feeling like we’re having a bit of a ‘grey’ day. It may even just be something that we physically do, which is so simple, that evokes this feeling of contentment. Perhaps sitting indoors on a dark, cold autumn evening and having candles lit around you, making you feel calm and relaxed. Or on a snow day (when we are lucky enough to get them!) getting together with friends and sitting outdoors sipping hot chocolate whilst enjoying the beauty and silence of the dusted white landscape.

Simple things in life bring about this feeling of contentment; things that we all may take for granted on a daily basis, but stopping to think about it, these things allow us to unwind and just feel happy! This is the essence of Hygge – the Denmark art of cosiness and there are simple ways to create the feeling it represents.

But did you also know that there is a way of life in Scandinavia that is all about embracing the outdoors – known as Friluftsliv (meaning ‘free-air-life’). Evolving in Norway, this concept is all about capturing a closeness with nature and getting outdoors to appreciate all the natural world has to offer. But it is not just being outdoors that is the point of this lifestyle, it is to fully interact with the outdoors and create a relationship with it – go camping, running, hiking, skiing… The benefits are great: a sense of well-being, health benefits through exercise, stress reduction, the list goes on. Norwegians could shut themselves away during the depths of autumn and winter when the weather can be bad, but they don’t – they get themselves outside no matter what, and even employers actively encourage people to do more outdoors and live the Friluftsliv lifestyle.

Both concepts sound fantastic and what if you could bring a bit of each to your daily life? Both Norway and Denmark rank highly as being amongst the happiest in the world, so there is something about being outdoors and having simple pleasures that give your endorphins a healthy boost!

Here are our top tips for you to capture a bit of each and make your step into the outdoors one that is cosy and magical when the nights get longer and the weather may not be so welcoming!

Cosy up your garden space
You may want to slink indoors as the days get shorter and the nights get colder, but your outdoor space can be transformed to bring peace, calm and happiness, that will make you long to sit outside to enjoy an autumn afternoon with friends, or spend an evening watching the stars.

Candles: invest in some garden lanterns that you can place around your garden. Large lanterns with pillar candles, small lanterns filled with tealights that you can hang up, or even make your own out of little jars that you can decorate! Place in nooks and crannies so that the golden flames spring up like fireflies, creating a warm ambience all around you.

Solar powered lighting strung along a fence or in a tree create a soft glow, much calmer than bright outdoor electric lighting and no money is required to power it! Soft lighting instantly relaxes and creates a new way to view your garden or any outdoor space as daylight turns to dusk. Small solar lanterns or lights in your window or balcony are equally enchanting.

Join the dawn chorus
Think of those gorgeous autumn mornings when the sun is rising and yet the temperatures have been low overnight, resulting in mist rising up from the fields and the hills – the kind of mornings that we would often choose to stay indoors with the heating on and a warm mug of tea. No, brave the outside – you will not regret it!

As the sun is starting to rise, put your snug scarf on and your warm layers and step out to the fields. There is nothing more special than realising you are pretty much alone as you walk through the frosted grass, hearing the birds singing and watching the sun as it turns the frost to jewels as the warmth hits the grass. This is a photographer’s dream time of day and a time when you see different colours, hear different sounds and it makes you feel special to be experiencing it. Make it your moment.

Watch the stars in comfort
Autumn and winter can give us crisp nights when the stars are at their clearest, yet often we would be battling really cold temperatures if we want to enjoy them. To be ‘hygge’ about it then you need a fire! Think firepit or chimenea – any size outdoor space can incorporate one of these. Grab some chunky throws, get the logs burning, make a hot chocolate and lay back to watch the night sky whilst feeling toasty warm from the flames.

Portable firepits are also great news if you are braving some camping trips at the latter part of the year. Check the site where you are staying as not all camping spots allow fires! If you are allowed to use your firepit then you could be out in the wilds, truly living Friluftsliv as you sleep under the stars, whilst relishing in the simple pleasure of keeping nicely warm outdoors.

Be creative outdoors
Friluftsliv is said to boost creativity and happiness, but not through solely being ‘active’ outdoors. Perhaps you can look into another hobby that encourages you to participate with nature and really experience it? Painting and photography are great things to consider taking up. Step outside and take yourself off to a place where you feel inspired by the view around you and give one of these possible new hobbies a go.

If this type of creativity is not your thing, then why not investigate taking part in a woodland craft class that will definitely get you hands-on with nature!

Encourage wildlife into your garden
Whether living in a town or the countryside, wildlife is all around us. There is nothing more rewarding than sitting and watching the wildlife enjoy your garden space. Plant shrubs that produce winter berries the birds can eat, pop up a feeder to entice birds or squirrels…then sit back, turn off the TV or radio and just watch and wait. Your outdoor space can become full of activity, with many diverse species possible to spot. A lovely way to relax and apart from bringing you enjoyment, you will also be helping the birds as natural food sources may decline.

Whatever you choose, you can make your time outdoors one that is relaxing, stress-free, enjoyable and peaceful. Take time, slow down and just enjoy simple pleasures that the outdoors can bring.