Mar 25th, 2020

Get Outdoors for Health and Wellness

COVID-19 is affecting everyone’s daily life while putting a lot of stress on the well-being of humans. The Garden is temporarily closed but humans need nature, now more than ever, and going outside to enjoy the greenery could be key to maintaining your balance in these difficult times. If you are worried about keeping social distancing going on a solo walk or hike due to busy trails, even just stepping outside to your backyard or to a balcony with potted with plants can make a big difference. Any kind of outdoor recreation is key to reducing stress and increasing your mental well-being. Here are our top three ways to get outdoors while social distancing. 

Outdoor recreation could just be sitting and enjoying nature

Surrounding yourself in a natural environment is an instant mood booster. Studies show those who spend at least 120 minutes a week outdoors get the most health benefits.

Get Outdoors in Your Backyard

If you feel like you are stuck inside, the tension of being enclosed can become pretty draining. But going outdoors switches on the calming part of the nervous system and lessens the fight-flight-or-freeze stress response, according to WebMD. This is a rapid response to our bodies whenever people feel they are in danger. Stepping outdoors is a reminder that there is a whole beautiful and natural world and helps you be in the present moment using senses to explore. Feel the wind on your face. Enjoy the heat of the sunshine on your skin. Smell the flowers. Listen to the songbirds, woodpeckers or even a falcon screeching through the sky. Don’t have a backyard or porch? Open up a window and let the fresh air sweep in. Take a break from the screens, phones and TVs and escape the chaotic tension of the news. If you live near trees take in their beauty. The more nature you can take in the better. Walking is great because it has the added value of exercise, but even just getting outside to read a book is a worthwhile endeavor.

Not at risk? Go for a Solo Run or Walk Outside 

Just 30 to 60 minutes of moderate exercise can help your immune system, according to RunnersWorld. A great option to maintain your health is to go outside for a solo run or walk. It improves well-being and increases positive engagement. Changing up the scenery by being outdoors will also elevate your mood while increasing concentration. Natural sunlight improves vitamin D levels. Outdoor recreation will help improve your sleep at night and the better sleep you get, the better state your mood and mental health will be in. As long as you remain six feet apart from other people, physical outdoor activity is allowed.  Consider going for your walk or run early or later to avoid peak hours at local parks and trails. Stay mindful of things that you may come in contact with while being outside including railings, benches, and other outdoor surfaces. It’s a good idea to bring hand sanitizer too, just in case. 

Garden in Your Own Yard 

Gardening is a perfect distraction while social distancing, especially if you have been collecting seeds, traded them at our recent Seed Swap or have seeds leftover from last year.  Not only can you work toward growing your own fresh fruits and veggies (which means fewer trips to the grocery store), but you can care for another living thing and watch it grow into something beautiful. Time and time again, research shows that people become more relaxed and happier in natural environments.

Garden in your own yard

Gardening in your backyard can help your well-being during stressful times.

Even if you don’t have seeds to plant, just digging in the dirt can help.

Getting your hands dirty in the garden can increase your serotonin levels – contact with soil and a specific soil bacteria, Mycobacterium vaccae, triggers the release of serotonin in our brain according to research. Serotonin is a happy chemical, a natural anti-depressant and strengthens the immune system.

If you are just starting your garden you’ll have to wait a bit, but as soon as your fruit or flowers are ready, harvesting has its own benefits too producing the feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine.

The Garden may be closed temporarily, but don’t let that stop you from getting outside. We don’t know how long the Covid-19 pandemic will last but we owe it to ourselves and our families to take the best care of ourselves that we can. Together we will get through this.  And when we do we can’t wait to welcome you back to the Garden with open arms. Just step outside your door and start soaking in the benefits of nature.

About Hannah Lee

Hannah Lee is a senior at Virginia Commonwealth University studying Mass Communications with a focus in Public Relations. She is the Public Relations and Marketing intern at Lewis Ginter and has been a visitor of the garden ever since she was little.

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