FINDRA Founder, Alex, shares her thoughts on uplifting January and finding ways to make the most of a tough month!
January doesn’t have the reputation of being the toughest month for nothing. Lack of sunlight, bad weather, post-Christmas bills, dealing with festive over-indulgence, mean it’s no surprise we all feel like hibernating.
Stress, anxiety and depression are often heightened at this time of year, and more often than not we tend to shy away from doing the things that need that extra energy or take a bit more effort. When the days are short, finding time never mind the motivation to get outdoors can be very challenging. So how do we get ourselves through one of the darkest months of the year?
For me, personally, it is usually a combination of accepting that hibernating to some extent is ok and actually aligned with the flow of nature.
However, research proves that exercise has many mental health benefits and exercising outdoors further increases the feel-good factor. It can reduce stress, improve your mood, self-esteem and confidence, concentration and stamina. The better we feel, the better we can cope, physically and emotionally, with life’s challenges.
It might feel daunting to get yourself outside in the depths of winter, but give it a go. I promise you, you’ll be grateful that you did!
You don’t have to run a marathon, even a daily walk boosts your mind and body. Start slowly, but be consistent. Lay suitable clothes out the night before – once you are dressed for activity, it’s one less barrier to doing it. Build getting outdoors into daily life and make it a habit – that way you’ll miss it when you don’t do it.
Set a goal
I don’t mean, ‘Bag 10 Munros within the next month’. It could be something as simple as, ‘I challenge myself to get out of the house for a walk every day, regardless of the weather.’ Give yourself 30 minutes in daylight, ideally in green space, and surprise yourself with the sense of achievement that doing something every day brings.
Exercise with a friend
Research shows you are more likely to commit to regular exercise if you do something with a friend. There is the social aspect to enjoy, but you can also hold each other accountable. Walk and talk, run, cycle or swim – encourage each other and reap the rewards.
Layer up to keep warm
Of course we would mention layering! However, it is key to enabling you to enjoy the outdoors in winter. Merino layers create the perfect combination. They will trap air within the fibres to keep you warm and insulated from the cold. If you do manage to warm up through some New Year exertion, then lightweight top layers are essential. You can tuck them away in your rucksack for later.
However, the key takeaway I want you to feel today is that it doesn’t matter if you manage to leap out of bed and race to the great outdoors this January. Even Scotland’s flora and fauna hide away in the coldest of months, preparing for warmer seasons, so if your idea of surviving January is warm baths, log fires and endless mugs of tea, then embrace it.
Whether hibernating or not, here is some inspiration to help you through January! Enjoy!
INSPIRATIONAL INSTAGRAM ACCOUNT!
Whether you are planning for January adventures or for later in the year, @chrispaullawlor highlights some of Scotland’s most interesting walks and secret locations. This always has me checking Google Maps to see if it is logistically possible for me to fit in these walks at the weekend! Whether you are going to be visiting Scotland soon, or currently live here, a beginner or experienced adventurer, I guarantee there will be some amazing locations for you to discover.
Image Credit - @chrispaullawlor
HEARTY WINTER SOUP
I am a big fan of warming soups in January - combining comfort with much needed vitamins. My copy of “Happy Soups” by Leon is dog-eared and stained, I love it so much. This is one of my favourite recipes from it.
Smoked Haddock Chowder
500ml of whole milk
250g undyed smoked haddock fillets or any smoked white fish
Knob of butter
1/2 an onion, finely sliced into half-moons
350g potatoes (around 3 and a half medium potatoes), peeled and cut into 1cm cubes
1 leek finely sliced
Pinch of lemon zest
Salt & ground black pepper
Pour the milk into a large saucepan and bring to simmer over a medium heat. Add the fish and bring back to simmer for 2 minutes. Lift the fish from the milk and set both aside.
Place a frying pan over a low heat and add the butter. When melted, add the onion, leek and a pinch of salt and cook without colouring until just soft and translucent - about 8-10 minutes.
When the fish is cool enough to handle, flake it into bite-sized pieces, removing any skin or bones as you go. Set aside.
Return the pan of milk to the heat and add the cooked onion and leek along with the potatoes. Bring to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 10-15 minutes.
Return the fish to the pan and warm through for a minute or two. Add the lemon zest and season with black pepper and more salt if necessary. Smoked fish can vary a lot in its salt content.
Serve with frazzled chorizo and chopped chives sprinkled on top of the soup.
The festive parties may all be over, but that doesn't mean you can't blast a dancefloor classic on your speakers as you toe tap in a reclining position. I love this song, it is an instant mood booster!!