We are living in unusual and uncertain times. With the spread of coronavirus, our society has responded with shelter-in-place. People are staying at home, working from home unless their job is considered essential, and a record number of people are dealing with unemployment. During this time, being confined in our homes might bring a greater awareness of the importance of both wellbeing and our connection with nature.
I can tell you for sure that right now I crave to be free, outdoors, among friends, and in our local parks. Living in Santa Cruz, we certainly were happy to be able to walk to the beach and go for a swim today since the beaches were opened again. And boy, was that extremely refreshing.
Nature is full of benefits and can provide peace-of-mind and lower stress. Whenever we can take a moment to get lost in nature, it’s important to do it. Whether that means going for a walk around the block, relaxing in a backyard, or staring at the leaf on a houseplant.
True story: I was on a work trip that involved an early wake-up, lot of meetings, lots of filming and lots of being “on it” and at the end of the day I was spent. I was exhausted, had a headache, and needed to miraculously recharge for the big 4 hour drive we had to the next film site. I took a trip to a park and I sat on a bench and stared at a leaf. I swear that at the end of about 5 minutes my brain had cleared up and I was ready to go. Moral of story: Try it out. It might work for you.
Back to the main discussion: Maintaining our wellbeing during a time of confinement is challenging but finding nature can help provide solace. A study done in the UK examined the impact of nature for people regularly in confinement: inmates. The study discovered that nature may contribute similar benefits to people in jails as it does to people in hospitals(which truly can be another type of confinement when you think about it). They also suggest further research would be beneficial to get more comprehensive information around this topic, as this study was smaller than would be ideal.
Anyway, it’s an interesting article that touches on biophilia, Environmental Restoration Theory, and explores confinement with and without nature access. It’s worth the deep-dive or at least a skim through.
“Nature contact is often identified as a health-enabling feature, found to produce calming effects, to reduce levels of stress and tension, and to improve health outcomes.” The study also mentions this in the introduction and these ideas also supports the reason why we are seeing a rise in Shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing.
While some have access to beaches, parks, and backyards, others are in apartments and nature consists of what’s outside the window or the houseplants. If you can’t get outside to de-stress, relax, or escape, go bond with your houseplant. (Don’t have one? Pick one up next time you grocer shop.) Or, you can try and enjoy the wonderful organizations who are working to bring the outside to you.
- Cornell Lab of Ornithology: How to Make These Few Weeks a Little Easier
- National Park System: Take a Virtual Visit to a National Park
Hint: Play the Cornell Live Cams feeder cam in the background and turn up the volume for some nature sounds!
Hang in there, take it easy on yourself, and let nature be your escape.