On the 21st of December, we celebrate (or at least notice) the shortest day and longest night of the year. It is on Winter Solstice that, rather than being glum about yet another evening of early-onset hunger pangs for a 4pm dinner, we rejoice at the prospect of lighter days from here on.
It certainly feels as though we have experienced many of the darkest days this year, and for most of us the end is still not really in sight. Although there may be a constant underlying feeling of uncertainty, and perhaps even a question of safety, it is nature that serves as a grounding reminder that the world continues to spin on its axis in the same way it has done for eons. Seasons continue to change, and year-on-year we can still rely on the same appearance of hedgerow fruits, flowers and bright leaves before dying back again, certain to return the following year.
Our connection to nature is one of the few things that has not been taken from us this year. Christmas may be celebrated with fewer loved ones, but the traditional stomp through the park after three helpings of roast potatoes and pudding will still be there. If our minds are overwrought with anxieties or fear, the simplicity of wind in the trees and birdsong can still remind us of a continuation of natural life in a time when life no longer feels like what we came to know as "natural".
Being in nature has been proven to lower our heart rate, reduce anxiety, boost immunity and improve our focus. We all know that nature is mother earth's medicine, yadah, yadah - but it is easy to forget that it is there when we are so used to seeing it, or when we become caught up in simply getting through each day. Even for those who live in the city, when was the last time you noticed the trees lining the road you live on, or took a detour through the park?
A conscious decision to be in nature and breathe it in for even a few minutes may be the reminder we need that the world is still turning; that this, just like the seasons, is one phase of a bigger picture. Just as the flowers wilt and leaves fall for Winter Solstice, they will bloom again as surely as we will celebrate Christmas with our families and loved ones in another season of our lives.