Small acts of self-care can make all the difference as the nights draw in, says Hannah Stuart-Leach

Bringing darker evenings and colder weather, the change of season can leave many of us feeling a bit lacklustre. But there are lots of little things we can do to help bring a smile to our faces this autumn, whether that’s making time for a massage or having a good stomp in the woods.

As part of its mission to make wellbeing a priority, Bristol charity Happy City offers heaps of uplifting advice. In particular, they recommend: “Being active, even in small ways; trying new things and learning from others; learning to notice and be curious about the world around us, and spending time in nature; taking the chance to enjoy creative or fun experiences.”

Of course there’s no shortage of ways to move around, be more mindful and get creating in Bristol, from the totally free to the absolute blow-out. Here are a few suggestions to get you started…

Go foraging for mushrooms

Ever wished you could work out which fungi in the forest is actually okay to eat? Well, on one of forager Martin’s walks you’ll discover once and for all. Over three hours he’ll guide you through local hotspots, imparting his IDing know-how and offering recipe tips you can use to transform your seasonal bounty into delicious dishes when you get home. He also provides homemade snacks and drinks, like mushroom pâté and hot wild herbal infusions, to keep up stamina.

  • Various dates from Saturday 29 October. £35.

Go on a group run with GoodGym Bristol

We know, it’s extra hard to go for that evening run when it’s dark outside and a snug sitting room beckons. So join one of GoodGym Bristol’s weekly group runs for extra motivation. The free 90-minute jogs, many of which are suitable for beginners, involve helping out at a community project along the way. Tasks could include doing a spot of gardening or sorting cans for a food bank, leaving you with a sense of contribution that can only boost those feel-good endorphins. Check website for details of upcoming runs.

Treat yourself to a massage at Bristol HarSpa

This new subterranean spa, set in magnificent old bank vaults, is just the right retreat on a rainy day. Book yourself in for a nurturing full body massage, tailored to you. Be lulled into a dreamlike state with the soothing scent of an ESPA aromatherapy blend, or try Lomi Lomi, a blissful Hawaiian technique where your therapist’s sweeping motions mimic gentle waves. Or feel your muscles go all melty under the heat of volcanic hot stones. If you want to make a spa day of it, you can follow up by plunging into the warm hydrotherapy pool and sweating it out in the sauna and steam room. Depending on which package you pick, you can also combine with an indulgent afternoon tea in The Jetty restaurant.

Check out Grayson Perry’s new exhibition at Arnolfini

There’s surely no better place to get your cultural kicks this autumn than at The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever! Always accessible, this astute British artist never fails to strike a chord with thoughtful social commentary on everything from class to masculinity, often expressed in bright tapestries and bold vases.

  • Until 24 December. Free entry.

Try a new restaurant at Cargo

It’s difficult not be excited about by all the recent foodie openings at the Cargo container development on Wapping Wharf. From Salt & Malt’s beautifully crisp fish & chips to The Athenian’s plump, halloumi-packed wraps, it’s the ideal place to turn your tastebuds onto something new. Sholay Indian Kitchen is the latest to launch, firing through curry conventions with its pan-Indian sharing plates – veggie chaat studded with sweet pomegranate jewels, lovely light lamb rolls and super creamy malai kulfi (Indian ice cream). Posh street food perfected.

 Have a go at hula hooping at Pink Kitten Dance School

Want to try something totally different in a friendly and supportive environment? Take yourself back to the carefree days of your youth and pick up a hula hoop. Circus artist Elly can teach you lots of new tricks, like how to manipulate one with your hands or feet or even how to master multiple hoops. She also makes spangly custom hoops if you want to practise at home. A fabulous all-rounder: as a workout, confidence builder and stress reliever. Not that you’ll notice – you’ll be having way too much fun.

  • Wednesdays, 7.15pm (intermediate/advanced) and 8.30pm (beginners/improvers). £8 drop-in.


Try a Bristol City Yoga restorative workshop

Restorative yoga teacher Mel Skinner is passionate in her belief that ‘rest is radical’: but sometimes giving ourselves permission to unwind seems the hardest thing to do. As well as her regular classes at Bristol City Yoga, where students are guided into gentle poses using props to support the body in relaxation, she also runs three-hour restorative afternoons to allow for a deeper practise. The ‘Brave Heart’ themed workshop this month will explore ways of opening up to the present by finding strength in vulnerability.

  • Sunday 8 October, 2:15-5:15pm. £30 + VAT.

Sleep overnight at Camp Baboon

Fancy an adventure? Check into the comfy new cabins at Wild Place Project, right next to the gorgeous Gelada baboon enclosure. Spend the evening meeting some of the endangered animal residents on a Twilight Tour, followed by dinner, bushcraft activities and marshmallow-toasting around the campfire. In the morning you’ll enjoy a breakfast head and shoulders above the rest: in view of the giraffes. You’ll also have the opportunity to tour the grounds before they open to the public, and even feed some of the animals their morning meal.

  • Available one Thursday per month, plus every Friday and Saturday. From £87 per person per night.

Enjoy a big belly laugh at The Wardrobe Theatre

There’s nothing like comedy to come through with a quick and easy haha. The Wardrobe Theatre in Old Market is a sure bet for everything from fresh stand-up talent to alternative theatre. Check out Closer Each Day, their long-running (five years and counting) improv sitcom now back for a new season. You won’t believe how hilarious characters can be with plotlines and jokes spewing spontaneously from their lips.

  • Every other Monday until 11 December, 8pm. £7.

Sing your heart out with Bristol Folk House choir

Think you can’t sing? Never learnt to read music? No problem if you want to join this friendly community choir on Park Street. There’s no audition and all music is learnt by ear, under the encouraging tutelage of conductor Nonny Tabush. Just show up and have a good croon to folk songs, world music and contemporary classics. As Bristol Folk House says on its website, “Singing in a choir is one of the simplest ways to feel good.”

  • Tuesdays during term time, 7-9pm. £8 drop-in.