Staying Safely Connected To Nature During the Coronavirus Pandemic

By Zoey Shipley and Monica Medina

Most of Florida is (finally) closing its beaches — the state of Georgia has not. The National Park Service has waived all park entrance fees but closed some parks and most of the facilities in the parks that remain open (check each park’s web site for more details) — they are taking “extraordinary steps to implement the latest guidance from the White House, Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), and local and state authorities to promote social distancing.”  As spring arrives and more people who are working from home, a connection to the outdoor world can help fight feelings of depression or stress caused by isolation or self-quarantine, but it is important to do so safely.  See how you can get outside and still practice self-care during the coronavirus pandemic below.

Why This Matters:  It is spring break for many people across the country and the warming weather may make outdoor activities tempting, but unless we maintain our distances we won’t flatten the curve of exposure.  The pictures of people flocking to beaches and bars are as heartbreaking as the images of the Broadway Shows and Las Vegas Strip shut down.  But social distancing can be practiced in a way that allows for needed outdoor time that will keep us all sane even in areas with shelter in place orders.

Nature Can Help

There is growing strain being put on individuals’ mental health due to coronavirus fears. “Right now, people are feeling grief over the loss of routines, certainty, and a perception of themselves as being generally healthy and protected,” psychiatrist Joshua Morganstein, chair of the American Psychiatric Association’s Committee on Psychiatric Dimensions of Disasters told the Washington Post. There is a lot of evidence to support the idea that just taking a short walk during the day (if possible while maintaining social distancing) can have major health benefits. But with “more than half the world’s population liv[ing] in urban settings… city dwellers have a 20% higher risk of anxiety disorders and a 40% higher risk of mood disorders…” (according to Stanford) this can create a loss of connection to nature.  Medical professionals recommend caution — only do outdoor activities with the people in your household and stay six feet away from neighbors or others in public areas. For example, New York City Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver is encouraging residents to utilize the city’s nearly 2,000 parks, which are free.

For those that don’t want to risk exposure or risk exposing others, there is a way to bring nature into your home. Harvard reported that listening to nature sounds can help have a similar positive effect as going outside. Recordings of water sounds, bird songs, and more can be found on most streaming services and on YouTube. Another great way to bring the outdoors inside is to watch nature videos or documentaries. Like BBC Earth’s YouTube channel or Rancher Farmer Fisherman documentary. One hidden gem is also livestreams from parks and nature reserves! Places like Audubon’s Rowe Sanctuary’s Crane Camera in Gibbon, Nebraska or the Katmai National Park & Preserve in Alaska are great ways to observe nature without ever having to leave your couch (Check out this Forbes article for more links to livestreams).

What You Can Do:  Use any free time to make sure you are registered to vote and help others that you know to register, some great sites are org or the Environmental Defense Fund’s TurboVote page.

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