Winter Survival Guide 2020/21 - NOVEMBER

The theme for November is MOVE.

Things to think about

It’s so well-documented, the link between physical movement and mental health, especially if you can get outside, or as close to nature as possible. There’s a strong case for prevention being better than cure, both physically and mentally. The evidence is pretty compelling: according to reliable sources (including Sport England, the NHS and Mind) physical activity can have a positive impact on mood, stress, self-esteem, energy levels, sleep, depression and anxiety. Who doesn’t want more of that in 2020? Many of us are familiar with the 10,000 steps daily target, and while the number is somewhat arbitrary it’s a reasonable aim – a bit like your 5-a-day, which reliable sources tell me should really be more like 7-to-10-a-day; I assume that was deemed too ambitious to engage the masses.

I digress.

But oh, it’s getting harder as the weeks go by, the clocks go back and the (Northern European) climate fails to beckon us outside. Quite apart from lockdown restrictions and work commitments, getting out and moving every day is squarely in the camp of the more you do, the more you feel the benefit, but while your rational brain KNOWS it’s a good idea in theory, the level of inertia can be pretty powerful - unless you have a canine companion who demands activity every day without fail! (I can understand the huge surge in demand for pets this year.)

If last month was about creating a habit of gratitude, let this month be that AND the habit of moving (yes this will be a cumulative toolkit!). The trick here is to commit to a plan and then make it really easy to comply with. Within the limits of your mobility and safety, walk, run, skate, cycle, swim, skip, dance – EVERY day, and in daylight if you can.

My top tip will not surprise you: do it first thing in the morning. In your pyjamas, whatever. Once you’re up and sorted and making coffee you’ll want to get on with the day. This is a trainers-by-the-bed moment – lay out what you need in the evening and then get moving before you have the chance to engage your brain and BEFORE checking your phone!

Already got the MOVE habit? Great! Don’t forget to move your mind too - maybe at the same time. Find something new and interesting, entertaining or otherwise stimulating to read, watch, learn or listen to. I have put some suggestions below, but this will genuinely be different for everyone so tap in to what works for you.

Things to do:

1)     Sort your kit out - Dig out or buy a decent coat that you can run or walk in no matter the weather. Get a hat. There’s a saying that goes something like, there’s no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong sort of clothes. Let’s go with that thought and bypass the barrier. I’ll admit its not fun if you’re wet and cold. It doesn’t have to be ‘spendy’ – I have a bright yellow rainproof jacket from Aldi.

2)     Contingency planning. Move when you’re inside if caring responsibilities or safety issues (or air quality, my Californian friends!) preclude getting out. This may not be quite so much fun but is even easier and still entirely free of charge. Whether it’s Yoga with Adriene or PE with Joe, there are dozens (hundreds) of free resources online making at least some movement totally accessible, no matter what your level of fitness. There’s something nice about joining an online class live if you can, to maximise a sense of connectedness when we’re mostly still distant.

3)     Find music or a podcast that you find diverting, engaging, funny. Something new. Have someone read you a story. Again, this can be absolutely free, and while there’s also a lot to be said for quiet time, it can certainly take your mind off inclement weather. A few of my favourites are listed below.

Tools and resources:


Akimbo from Seth Godin – Innovation, entrepreneurship and critical thinking. I’m a massive fan. Good when running.

Everything is Alive – Imaginary interviews with inanimate objects. So random and creative – I love an old episode with Maeve, the lamppost. Good when folding laundry.

TED talks daily – Short and sweet, learn something random you would never otherwise choose, from deep space to urban design. Good when driving, although that does not count as movement in this context!

And on the BBC Sounds app:

You’re Dead to Me with Greg Jenner – history, but fun. Try the chapters on Boudica, Harriet Tubman or The History of Chocolate

Audio books: there are over 70 titles there at the moment. I’m working through the classics I never got round to reading – Jane Eyre, Frankenstein, Portrait of a Lady – but there are dozens of contemporary titles too. Good when cooking. Currently on Wuthering Heights.

New kit:

I’ve just invested in some new stuff from BAM – soft, comfy and super-sustainable (let’s hear it for carbon-positive business):

You can skip on the spot with a basic rope (or no rope at all!) – or if you love your stats, for around a tenner you can notch it up with something like this that counts your time and jumps. Attention! There’s a reason why boxers skip - it’s not as easy as you remember from when you were 7 years old!

More on the link between physical movement and mental health: