At this time of year, it’s easy to cancel all your plans and stay wrapped up inside. I know I’m guilty of doing it – when the wind is whistling and your skin is turning an alarming shade of grey in the chilly climes, the temptation to draw the curtains and huddle under a blanket can be overwhelming. But as we’re fast approaching Vitamin D Awareness Week, which starts on 23rd October 2017, it’s good to think about ways we can get outside and enjoy the autumnal sunlight – especially those of us living in places where we don’t get a whole lot of sunshine at this time of year.
Did you know that 10 million people in the UK have low levels of vitamin D? Did you know that I’m one of them? I didn’t until BetterYou invited me to take a blood spot test to measure my vitamin D levels. I discovered that mine are currently 34.8nmol/L, which puts me in the vitamin D insufficiency category (eek!). We should all be aiming for levels greater than 50nmol/L – but in autumn and winter especially, the fact that UVB rays often aren’t strong enough to produce as much vitamin D as we need and spending more time indoors means that more of us are more susceptible to slipping into vitamin D deficiency.
But does it really matter? Actually, yes. Low vitamin D levels are linked to Seasonal Affective Disorder, low mood, tiredness and fatigue, poor bone and teeth health and an increase in coughs and colds – the Vitamin D-mons! If you’re someone who tends to feel more sluggish and under the weather in the colder, darker months, it could well be linked to a vitamin D deficiency. Fortunately, there are several ways we can go about boosting our levels. Increasing the oily fish, cheese and eggs in our diets can help, as can taking supplements (UK government guidelines recommend that every single person in the UK takes vitamin D supplements between October and April – based on my test results I’ll be using the BetterYou DLux 3000 Daily Vitamin D oral spray), or simply by getting outside and spending more time with the sunlight on our skin. There’s loads of advice on the Vitamin D Awareness Week website if you want more information.
With this in mind, I’ve come up with seven ways to enjoy your hygge outside in autumn to boost your vitamin D levels and help improve your health – one for each day of Vitamin D Awareness Week!
1. Take an autumnal walk
There are some BEAUTIFUL trees around Brighton at the moment – giant and ochre and burgundy – and the fluttering leaves are revealing more and more of the evergreens hiding behind them every day. Take a flask of something warm and delicious (I’ve just discovered Whittard’s Peanut Butter Hot Chocolate and it is OUTRAGEOUSLY GOOD), pull on your old trusty boots and head out to your nearest park for a stroll. It doesn’t have to be long – everyone can manage half an hour over their lunchbreak, and it’ll lift your mood and give you a chance to clear your head and get some fresh air before returning to your desk for the afternoon.
2. Explore a maize maze
Maize mazes only tend to be around for a few weeks, so make the most of the prime season now! It’s a fantastic family day out, where the little ones can help out with navigating and the grown-ups can resist the temptation to peek over the top. There are maize mazes all over the UK – I found this handy website to help you find your nearest maze, and most locations offer other family-friendly activities too, such as hayrides and apple bobbing, to keep everyone entertained. Or of course, if you’re feeling especially naughty, you could just go running through the wheat fields…
3. Pack an autumnal picnic
As nice as summer picnic is, there’s something equally lovely about its autumnal equivalent in the golden light. I probably won’t be sitting on the damp leaves at this time of year, but it’s totally not cheating to unpack your basket on the picnic table in the park! For extra points, rustle up some snacks rich in vitamin D – how about a mackerel salad, or smoked salmon slices (very Scandi!), or cheese cubes, or some tortilla slices? With a flask of soup and a gorgeous view, the hygge is real.
4. Go on a nature hunt
This is one for kids and big kids alike – set aside a sunny morning to go out spotting some of your favourite autumnal animals and treasures. Look out for squirrels, hedgehogs, dormice, conkers, acorns, mushrooms, blackberries… this page reveals some of the things you might spot on your wander. You could even create little bingo cards to cross off everything you see to turn it into a fun game. Maybe the first person to get a full house gets extra marshmallows on their hot chocolate?
5. Prepare the garden for winter
There is a lot of work to be done to get the garden ready for winter. Whether it’s raking leaves, planting bulbs for spring, pruning the hedges or digging over the soil, it’s good to make the most of the last few properly sunny days of the year to get your garden in order for next year. If you’re building a bonfire for Bonfire Night, don’t forget to check it for critters before you start the fire (hedgehogs and mice particularly love hiding under piles of wood), and think about leaving some snacks out for the birds, who may struggle to find food in the wild in winter.
6. Fika al fresco
As soon as we hit the -ber months, it’s easy to assume we’re done with eating outside for the year. But very often, it’s perfectly warm enough for outdoor fika, or to bask in the sunshine in a country pub garden, or to share a cheeseboard and some olives with a friend. As a bonus, there is often plenty of outdoor seating left in autumn as everyone else heads indoors, giving you the pick of the best spots – and if it gets chilly, you’ll soon warm up with your hands wrapped around a chai latte before you dig into your rich, buttery Danish pastry.
7. Pick a pumpkin
Halloween is almost here, and if you don’t already have a pumpkin ready to carve, why not head to a pumpkin patch to pick your own? Whether you want the picture-perfect pumpkin or something a little bit kookier and spookier, this is a great way to get the whole family involved in something more fun than freaky, and even better, it helps us support our local farms. I found this handy website to help you locate your nearest pumpkin patch in the UK, but if there isn’t one near you, you could always head to your nearest farm shop to take the pick of the squashes.
So I want to hear from you! What are YOU going to do to make sure you’re getting enough vitamin D this autumn? I want to hear all about your favourite outdoor activities at this time of year! And don’t forget, if you want to boost your vitamin D levels, check out BetterYou’s range of vitamin D oral sprays.