Richard reflects on the last few months - where we were and where we are - and offers two simple resolutions that we can all stick to. 
2020. What a year. Life on hold? All of us have had constraints put on our normal lives that would have been unthinkable in February. Of course it has been an incredibly stressful time for many, but it wasn’t all bad – was it?  
In the early days of so-called lockdown, we were encouraged, whilst working from home, to take – or make - an hour to get out locally walking and cycling. For those of us lucky enough to have access to green spaces, it was a joy and a revelation. Blessed with good weather, nature flourished – along with families walking, cycling, and rediscovering the simple pleasures of spending and sharing time outdoors. It was in some ways a vibrant and uplifting time. We appreciated it. 
"Families were rediscovering the simple pleasures of spending and sharing time outdoors. In some ways it was a vibrant and uplifting time" 

Cycling near home with my daughter, Harriet 

Since then, though: is it me, or is there a general feeling that this has waned? Along with a return to schools and workplaces, the reliance on some home-working and continued, relentless IT, we seem to be “back to the grindstone” - but with ongoing restrictions on our ability to get out, explore, find space, and be spontaneous. And seemingly endless uncertainty. 
So, are we still getting out and about, making time and finding space to step aside, reflect, and unwind? It’s surely every bit as important now as it was in March and April, especially with the onset of cooler weather and dark evenings. But I’ve slipped back into old habits; driving to work instead of cycling or walking, not finding opportunities to get outside every day. Do I feel better for it? Do I heck – I actually feel guilty. 
So I need to be stricter with myself.  
Resolution number one: 
reset to healthy habits 
AND environmentally sound habits. Local walks and rides. Make time for gentle, reflective outdoor exercise; and something a bit more physically challenging if you want. Ideally with family, but sometimes a change of company is needed, and a bit of commitment, so arrange to meet with friends (up to the rule of six!). 


My garden in April - Dandelions and other flowers! 


Beautiful Berwyn Mountains, September 


Late sun on running water. Sensory magic, North Glen Sannox, Arran 
Second learning point.  
We can’t plan ahead with any certainty for holidays, visits, special events – so take advantage of opportunities when they arise, if you possibly can. Only when I revisited the beautiful Berwyn mountains in North Wales when rules relaxed did I realise how much I’d missed a vibrant change of scene. A day spent striding up and down unfamiliar hills left me physically aching – but buzzing with a feeling of accomplishment, with senses alive, and a calmer perspective of life and my place in it. 
"Being physically high lifts the mind and raises the spirits in a remarkable way. There is no "virtual" substitute" 

Lifing the spirits - Arran Mountains 

And then I took a quick decision 
Because circumstances allowed I visited Scotland to see my parents, who I’ve spent too little time with over the years. It was a trip that also allowed me a day to renew my love of the Arran hills that I once knew well. Being physically high lifts the mind and raises the sprits in a remarkable way, especially when shared with others. There is no “virtual” substitute. This was a special day which I’ll remember for a long time. 
Resolution number two:  
do special things 
Resolution two: especially now, take every opportunity, make every opportunity, to do special things when you can. Time and life are precious; and you will feel so much better. 
So now I’ve reminded myself, I’m going to enjoy the last of the sunshine today whilst I can. And I’ve arranged a bike on Sunday…. 
Please resolve to get outdoors. Good luck! 
Richard Oakes is Sandwell Residential Education Service's Manager, and school governor. 
We love this resource from The John Muir Trust: "Creativity, Nature & Mental Health: A collection of poems & reflections"  
You can read more about World Mental Health Day at the Mental Health Foundation HERE.  
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