During this new normal of Covid-19 “social distancing” and self-quarantines our collective mental health is critical, too. Ecoanxiety is a growing concern for people around the world during these turbulent and scary times. From climate change to confronting a global pandemic and systemic racism, we have so much on our minds and so much we need to work to change together.
The peer-reviewed science shows that connecting to nature makes us healthier, happier, and less stressed out.
In the book The Nature Fix , author Florence Williams explains that we are all hard-wired to connect with nature. Even five minutes outside can lower blood pressure and increase a sense of well-being. Watching coronavirus and world news 24–7 and being stuck inside also poses a challenge to our mental, physical, and spiritual health.
Living in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem in sparsely-populated Montana means it's easy for me to go on and on about spending time in nature. No matter where you live or the social distancing protocol you must follow, however, there are some simple ways to help you get your nature fix.
Here are five easy ways to connect to nature no matter where you live and how you can fight that stir-crazy feeling of the quarantine:
Big Sky of Montana. Photo Credit: Heather White
Depending on the public health guidance in your community, consider visiting your local park. Botanical gardens, local parks, and waterfronts — there are so many ways to experience the outdoors. Check out the National Park Foundation‘s #findyourpark tool. Nature is closer than you think.
Again, be sure to refer to the health guidelines in your area, but if you can, take a walk around the block. Thoreau says “an early morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.” You can likely practice appropriate social distancing as you enjoy some downtime outside. You might be surprised what unexpected joys of nature you find. Experiment with being mindful and see if you can see any signs of spring or the changing seasons. Walking has been called a “superpower” by neuroscience researchers who have shown it reduces stress, increases fitness, and lifts our spirits.
Step away for the computer, open the front door or a window, and just look up. Anne LaMott gives this fantastic advice: “Go Outside. Look Up. Secret of Life.” Take notice of the clouds or weather. That subtle perspective shift can help reduce stress and anxiety.
Put some indoor plants on your grocery list. Toilet paper and disinfectant wipes have understandably been a huge topic of discussion lately. If you’re at the store consider bringing home a plant, not just soap. House plants can improve air quality, which is especially important if you’ll spend significant time indoors. A little bit of green can also help create a sense of calm.
Quarantined at home? Check out photos of your favorite natural setting for five minutes. Take a deep breath and look at photos of that special place. Research shows that viewing photos of nature can help still the mind and help us relax. This spectacular slide show of the national parks from National Geographic can help lift your mood. These digital national park tours can also provide you a much needed break.
These five simple tips might give you a break from the news and provide some necessary self-care. This pandemic and the measures to contain it are necessary and overwhelming. We need to care for each other, ourselves, and this beautiful planet during this crisis. Each day remember to look up.
Heather White is a nationally-recognized sustainability leader and nonprofit executive, and expert on conservation law and policy. She is the President & CEO of Heather White Strategies, LLC and former President and CEO of Yellowstone Forever, past Executive Director of EWG and Senate staffer. She’s a frequent spokesperson in national media and has significant experience serving on national nonprofit boards. She lives and writes in Bozeman, Montana.