Find an Escape in Nature

It’s no secret that many of us are feeling confined right now. Between anxiety-inducing headlines and canceled social gatherings, our mental health is taking a hard hit. Aside from listening to podcasts, reading new books, and learning recipes, you might be wondering if there are other remedies to greatly reduce the cabin fever you are experiencing. The simple answer? Nature.

Getting outdoors allows us to reconnect with ourselves and mentally heal, especially during challenging times. While maintaining social distancing practices of course, going outside for some fresh air can greatly improve our mood and overall health. Just a few minutes a day has been proven to reduce stress and increase self-esteem. 

Health Benefits

Many of you may be working from home, lacking motivation and feeling creatively stunted. According to a study performed by the National Institute of Health (NIH), the simple act of walking led to increased creativity in 81% of participants, with the best results coming from walking outdoors. It is not hard to see why: combining the endorphin-releasing effect of physical exertion with the stimulation of a physical landscape – a snow-capped forest, an ice-covered river or lake, even the familiar features of your neighborhood in an early-morning or late-afternoon light – makes for a potent cocktail, indeed.

And what about catching those rays? Let’s start with some hard science: exposing your skin to the sun’s UVB rays is vital for your body to get the Vitamin D it needs. Unlike other nutrients, Vitamin D is not present in large doses in foods, and studies have shown that insufficiency of what is known as the “sunshine” vitamin affects nearly one in two people worldwide.

Activities

Get your muscles moving and take a walk on a nearby path or around the neighborhood. There are many public trails where you can keep a safe distance from other travelers and still enjoy a stroll with your kids, the dog, or have some solitary time away from a packed household. Nature provides some incredible visuals and sounds ranging from peaceful sunsets to birds chirping. 

Another way to be around nature without leaving home is right in your own backyard. We have a few different tips on creating the perfect oasis for butterflies and bees like grouping flowers by color and where to position them outside. Tending to plants and learning about the native species in your area can be a great hobby that benefits both you and the environment.

Not able to go outside and still want to connect with nature? Google Arts & Culture has paired up with five U.S. national parks for virtual tours! You can view glaciers and icy terrain at Kenai Fjords National Park in Alaska or explore the colorful coral reefs at Dry Tortugas National Park in Florida all from the comfort of your own home. Seeing these majestic outdoor spaces, even through a digital lens, can help put your mind at ease and are the perfect break from any distressing news. 

You can also tune into the tranquil sounds of nature by listening to PARKTRACKS – an innovative experience created by the National Park Foundation and the National Park Service – that brings you the relaxing audio of nature without physically being in a park.

Whether going for a hike in the woods or opening your window to let some natural light in, nature can make a huge difference and provide a sense of calm during chaotic times. To quote American Naturalist and Nature Essayist John Burroughs - “I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.”