With the spread of coronavirus around the world, many people are experiencing a new version of “stir-craziness” like never before. Kids are home and bored, the dog is whining for attention, and you’ve been sitting at your makeshift office (the kitchen table) in front of a computer screen all day. As we continue to build our new stay at home routines, it’s easy to feel a little overwhelmed by it all. More than ever, we are in a time where we need to build positive habits into our days. We deserve it. What a better habit to create than going to indulge in the healing power of nature.
What the Science Says about the Benefits of Nature
Whether you consider yourself an outdoorsy person or not, you’ve probably, at some point, felt the calming and centering effects that nature can provide. Research shows nature’s positive effects on mental health, sleep patterns, feelings of creativity, as well as better self reported overall health and feelings of well-being. One study suggests that the smell of trees alone can lower cortisol levels and reduce stress. That's a whole bunch of good stuff that the whole family can benefit from, especially in these unprecedented times. If anything, going for a walk in nature breaks up our new and home-bound routines that are emerging. At some point this week when you feel the stir-crazy set in, make a point to get up and go out for a 10 minute walk around any sort of green space. Notice the trees and the breeze. Smell the flowers blooming. Listen to the birds.
Navigating the Outdoors During a Pandemic
Take a deep breath of that crisp, fresh air. Find your inner tree-hugger, but also, continue to be thoughtful around social distancing and other coronavirus precautions. If you are feeling sick or at higher risk, please stay inside, but, instead try watching this live coverage of the Cherry Blossom festival in DC- we’re in peak bloom! Or this live camera of brown bears fishing in Alaska.
Signs that nature is strong and resilient and beautiful, and so are we. Otherwise, brush your teeth, get dressed, and go for a walk outside. Now more than ever. As many places are experiencing “shelter-in-place” mandates, experts are still encouraging people to get outside. The Maryland shelter-in-place mandate, as an example of this restriction, still includes going for a walk, run, or bike ride as “essential travel”. That said, continue to be diligent in social distancing. Don’t congregate in groups. Give at least a 6 foot distance to those around you. Have children avoid playgrounds or other high touch areas. Continue to follow all of the CDC guidelines in preventing the spread of coronavirus. Be smart about caring for yourself and others.
Where to Get Outside
You don’t need to travel far to find some natural spaces. In our current coronavirus climate, the closer the better. Stick to your local parks. If you don't know them, google them! You don’t need to seek out vast wilderness to “get outside”. Even if you live in a city, there is green space somewhere. Research suggests that the vast health and wellness effects of nature can be experienced anywhere from the deep wilderness to a city park down the street. Just a few trees lining a street can positively impact us. Many cities have websites showing all of the green spaces in the city. Baltimore, home of our Leakin Park campus, even has a map documenting every tree in the city.
Some of our Favorite Baltimore Green Spaces
- Leakin Park- Over 1000 acres of green space tucked into the western edge of Baltimore City. It's home to our Baltimore Campus! Many trails, a big open field, and all sorts of nature.
- Druid Hill- Third oldest established park in the country. Plenty of paved and unpaved trails. The park offers a good view of the city from the Druid Hill Moorish Tower.
- Clifton Park- A large city park on the east side of the city. The park is home to landscape gardens, a golf course, and a 6 acre working, educational farm.
- Patterson Park- A green space located in southeast Baltimore. The park offers walking trails, a lake, and a variety of blooming trees right now. It's also home to the pagoda, a Baltimore icon.
- Stony Run Trail- This wooded trail spans over 3 miles following the Stony Run. You can catch the south end of the trail in Remington by the edge of Druid Hill, and take it north past Cold Spring.
- Herring Run Park- 2.3 miles of nature following the Herring Run. Following this creek, you can forger you are in the middle of a city.
What to do on Your Nature Walk
So you've got a handle on some parks to go to, but what do you do once you're there? Go on a hunt with your family to find the rare trees around, like the English Elm in Baltimore thought to be planted by Fredrick Douglas as a child. What else can you do? Try some basic forest bathing techniques. This Japanese practice focuses on nature being a key factor in our health. It has been known to lower blood pressure, reduce stress, and stimulate the immune system. How might one forest bathe? Start by finding some nature and slowly, intentionally walking through it. Slow enough to really take it in. Breath deep. Notice the smells, sounds, and sights around you. Feel and harness the calmness that comes over you.
There are plenty of other ways to get outside and be active. Go for a jog and get your endorphins up. Bring a camera (or your cellphone) on a walk to try your hand at some nature photography. Try going an hour before sunset to capture those golden hour colors. You don’t want to go alone? Bring your kids, they need it too! Let them run and get dirty. Bring your friends too...via whatever video call app you have, of course. Nature is not one size fits all. There are so many ways to get outside and find the calming effects that nature can bring. Find what works best for you.
We are all navigating a new world that is isolating, stressful, and a bit confusing. It's asking us to slow down and be responsible to ourselves and others in a novel way. It may look like washing your hands, calling a loved one, practicing social distancing, but also getting outside to breathe in that sweet Mother Nature air. We hope to see you outside, from an appropriate distance. We’ll be waving.
Connect on Social
We want to hear from you. Inspire us. Share with us. What are you doing to get your nature fix? We'll be sharing on social how our CBOBS crew gets outside responsibly and with social distance. Tag us on social! Use the hashtag #GetOutward
We know that conditions surrounding coronavirus are continually evolving. Please be responsible and adhere to any updated restrictions or guidelines as given by your local government and the CDC.