Hannah Schaepsmeyer in the field (Photo by Brent Calver)

Hannah Schaepsmeyer in the field (Photo by Brent Calver)

Why we need nature now more than ever

Hiker on Nodwell property (Photo by Robert Berdan)

Hiker on Nodwell property (Photo by Robert Berdan)

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, people are being urged to self-isolate and to practice physical distancing. This is a great opportunity to binge-watch Netflix, read a book or play video games. It’s also the right time to go for a walk and take in some nature.

Being outdoors makes people happier, healthier and more productive, which are things we all need right now. But remember to respect physical distancing while outdoors.

Happier

News outlets are reporting stories about what feels like the end of the world, and we are all concerned about our friends, family members and coworkers. Fear and apprehension are everywhere around us, but cooler heads always prevail.

If you’re stressed and anxious, going outdoors can help.

Sit on your deck, go for a walk in your community park or head out of the city and take a hike. First, unplugging from the news will help you relax, and second, hearing birds singing and feeling the heat of the sun on your face will cheer you up.

Healthier

Being exposed to nature will not only make you feel better emotionally, it will also make you feel better physically. Studies show that time in nature lowers your blood pressure, heart rate and muscle tension.

A high-stress environment causes your body to create the hormone cortisol, and elevated cortisol levels can lead to a lowered immune system. By getting out into nature, you are actually boosting your immune system, and you will be less likely to get sick.

More productive

In order to physically distance ourselves, many people are being told to work from home. This sounds like fun (who wouldn’t want to just roll out of bed and begin work in their pyjamas?) but there’s no indication how long this physical distancing will continue, and over time it may become more difficult to stay motivated in your own home. After all, house chores still need to get done, and perhaps you also have children or a partner who are also in the house and require your attention.

Big Lake at Lois Hole Centennial Provincial Park, AB (Photo by Saoster, CC BY-SA 4.0)

Big Lake at Lois Hole Centennial Provincial Park, AB (Photo by Saoster, CC BY-SA 4.0)

If you’re having a hard time staying focused, take a brain break and go for a walk around the block. Getting some fresh air can make it easier to focus, which will make it easier to get work done when you’re back in front of that computer.

Bonuses

While not a direct physical or mental impact, here are a couple of points that deserve honourable mention:

Less screen time. If you’re spending more time outdoors, you’re spending less time in front of a screen. Our lives are often consumed by television, video games and our phones, and in the time of physical distancing, we need to find ways to unplug.

An activity that won’t get cancelled. For the time being, gyms and public rec centres are closed to limit the spread of COVID-19. But going for a walk is one activity you can still safely do!

Whatever your situation, please take the necessary precautions to keep yourself and other healthy.

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