A message from volunteer Dr Nick Summerton
Nobody wanted to start 2021 in another lockdown. Some will be angry whereas others might feel sad or anxious. Many of us are finding it difficult to sleep with disturbing dreams. Also, at this time, it is all too easy to get into the habit of drinking or eating more than we should.
But a vaccine is winging its way to all of us and, as the countryside warms up, coronaviruses find it tricky to survive. We know that reducing our contacts, restricting our travel, washing our hands, keeping our distance and wearing a mask all help to stop the spread of this horrible disease.
Although the lockdown rules stop many of us travelling into the North York Moors National Park it is still important to try to get outside every day for some exercise, fresh air and sunshine.
Walking is a powerful medicine, and you don`t even need a prescription. A regular daily dose lowers stress levels and improves the quality of our sleep. It can help to treat the symptoms of depression in addition to preventing it starting in the first place.
Exercise improves the way our bodies work and, if you are particularly out of trim, then you will have the most to gain by even a small increase in activity such as going for a short walk. For those of us who do – unfortunately – catch coronavirus it seems that if we are fitter we can fight off the illness better.
Getting outside in the winter sunshine will increase our vitamin D levels and immersing ourselves in evergreen woodlands boosts our immunity due to chemicals - phytoncides - released from trees. On any ramble I always aim to include some woodland walking to lift my spirits and make me feel better. Wandering amongst trees is enjoyable at any time of the year with the sights, sounds and smells constantly changing. The Japanese even use the term 'Shrinrin-Yoku' to highlight the health benefits of spending time in a forest atmosphere.
Consciously watching for small wonders in the world around us during an otherwise ordinary walk can also amplify the mental health benefits of a stroll, according to a recent study of what are termed `awe walks`. Look out for the first snowdrops, listen to the birds and feel the cold breeze on your face.
There is still a hard journey ahead and we need to look after ourselves and others. In addition, it is important to recognise that we are not powerless, and all of us can control our reactions and our responses to the current situation. We can also prepare for a brighter future – on my part I am already planning walks through the bluebell woods and across the purple heather of the North York Moors National Park.