“Nature connection is vital during this time of uncertainty. We can count on daily rhythms and cycles of the sun and moon, birds chirping at dawn, and flowers blooming in the spring, even when we can’t count on other parts of our life to be stable. Spending time outdoors improves immunity (make sure to soak in at least 30 minutes of sunshine a day to get Vitamin D), decreases anxiety symptoms, and increases sleep quality, just to name a few benefits. Also, many people will experience loneliness and isolation with the restrictions of limited social interaction. Connecting with natural elements, such as trees, plants, and animals can decrease loneliness, which is a huge factor in depression and poor health outcomes.” — Jennifer Owens, Bridge Counseling and Wellness Co-founder and Therapist.
We interviewed Zenebia Law in our November issue about staying happy. Her checklist still applies maybe even more during the pandemic.
Ways to enjoy the outdoors while social distancing
To find out how to get the best mental health benefits from your outside time, we talked with Jennifer Owens who is also an Ecotherapist and Certified Kentucky Master Naturalist and specializes in an outdoor-mindfulness-based approach to wellness.
- Practice mindful walking by focusing on your breathing or noticing your feet making contact with the earth.
- Take a sensory walk where you focus on one sense. For example: focus on your sense of hearing by noticing the patterns of sounds and communication around you. On your next walk, focus on touch and the textures of the natural world.
- Walk barefoot or sit/stand barefoot outdoors for at least 10 minutes as another way to maximize healing.
- Create nature scavenger hunts for fun with the kids.
- Connect with others by sending photographs of yourself in nature and sharing ideas. Use the hashtags #Kytogether #HealthyatHome to share inspiration.
- Visit local parks or areas near your home that have wide walking paths or spacious fields so you can keep your distance easily. Avoid crowded parking lots or areas where it is difficult to maintain a 6-foot distance.
Move. “I get out in the sun, take a walk around the building, or even just stretch in my office. I pay attention to where tension is in my body.” Get quiet. “It can help to shut down everything around me and check in with myself. Do I need to eat, drink water, talk to a trusted friend?”Give myself kindness. “My daily routine is a big deal to me, but sometimes it gets derailed. Instead of beating myself up, I aim for compassion and know that I can get back on track again.” — Zenebia Law, supervisor of the Southern Indiana programs at The Center for Women and Families.