by Tina Kelly, Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea | photo by Jeff Reindl –
La Niña – two small words reflecting a big influence on our weather. As I type, the sun is shining and shoppers in Sidney are notably toque-less. Not bad for December, but predictions suggest that’s about to change. Peppered into news reports – between pandemic and politics – have been warnings of our winter weather to come.
Wetter and colder are not descriptors we particularly want to hear, especially as we navigate restrictions on our indoor activities and limited access to the people we typically share them with.
These restrictions, bleak weather and the season’s limited daylight is a recipe for a long, miserable winter but there is one saving grace, one constant that has remained throughout this pandemic: access to the natural world. Time spent in nature is scientifically proven to have a significant positive influence on our mental and physical well-being.
Finding the motivation to head out into inclement weather, however, is the challenge. Here are a few tips for spending time in nature when the weather is anything but inviting:
1) Know you don’t need to commit to a three-hour hike up a mountain 40 minutes away; there is likely nature nearby, even in urban areas. (Within a 15-minute walk of my concrete jungle home, I have access to the ocean, city parks and pockets of garry oak habitat.)
2) When it comes to understanding our local weather, we’re intimately familiar with the phrase “wait 10 minutes; it’ll change.” It’s still important, however, to consult the forecast for special weather notices. Extreme wind warnings, for example, should factor in when choosing your destination – avoid heavily forested areas due to the potential for falling branches, as well as certain beaches as sea conditions can change dramatically. (Though storm watching can be fun if you maintain a safe distance from the shoreline.)
3) Bundle up! Dressing in layers is key to being able to adjust to fluctuations in the weather and in your activity level. A waterproof layer is ideal, including footwear; cold, damp feet, or cold, damp anything, can end your adventure prematurely.
4) Where to go? We’re somewhat spoiled for choice with municipal, regional, provincial and national parks, not to mention all of those random pockets of greenspace, a series of neighbourhood trails and access to creeks, rivers and beaches. You can find information and directions to parks on your municipality’s website, the CRD website, and even Google maps.
5) Consider your destination’s space in terms of physical distancing. Open expanses, wide trails and beaches during lower tides provide more area to maintain the two-metre / six-foot distance from others.
6) Set a theme, goal, challenge or checklist. Maybe this is quantitative “I’ll spend X minutes a day / X minutes a week in nature”; “I’ll visit five different greenspaces a week”; “I’ll explore one new-to-me park each month.” Maybe it’s experiential: “I will record my adventures in a journal”; “I will take this opportunity to learn how to identify birds or plants.”
7) Reflect on your experiences through photography, art or journaling. Reliving your experiences in nature can be an additional mood booster.
8) Inspire others to get out by sharing your experiences, favourite places and any new discoveries that had an impact.
Embrace La Niña, explore nature. Get outside, breath fresh air – your health will benefit.
The Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea is a non-profit aquarium and education centre located on the traditional territory of the W̱SÁNEĆ people. Open Friday through Tuesday (closed Wednesday and Thursday), 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. www.salishseacentre.org.