Staying at home and keeping away from crowds is important for protecting people from COVID-19. However, such practices also upset daily routines, push people into isolation and add to their stress.
The good news is that people can — and should — find refuge in something that is all around them: nature.
Our natural spaces are sacred spaces. Getting outside to breathe fresh air, see the sun rise, feel the breeze — these can be centering experiences that are vital to our mental wellness. It is good medicine, and time with nature doesn’t require a prescription.
A recent study found people are significantly more likely to report good health and well-being if they spend 120 minutes a week in nature. However, people spend more than 90% of their time indoors — and that was before the widespread isolation caused by COVID-19.
People need to stay connected to each other and to nature. These troubled times in particular are key times to embrace nature — while practicing physical distancing
Calls to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services’ crisis hotline increased 891% in March, according to media reports. And recent Gallup polls found that 3 out of 4 Americans are worried about COVID-19 exposure. Yet experiencing the natural world can provide relief from the stress and anxiety of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Getting out into nature does not mean having to go far. People can take refuge in walking in their neighborhoods while practicing safe distancing from their neighbors. Noticing flowers, plants and trees is a terrific balm for anxieties.
Tips for getting most out of nature during COVID-19:
- Moving throughout the day is an important part of taking care of yourself, and that could include a walk, hike or run in a neighborhood, or a park or trail.
- Enjoying nature can be achieved as simply as going out in a backyard and talking to neighbors from a distance. Or you can do a bit more by planting a tree or flowers.
- You can create structure for your day by engaging in nature as part of a morning or evening ritual — or both.
- Nature can help you disconnect, wind down and take a break from the news.
- If you’re sheltering in place in an urban area and cannot easily access natural spaces, seek out nature videos and recordings of natural sounds.
- Take a virtual tour of a National Park.