Wat als de natuur gesloten is?mei 2, 2020
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Week three of social isolation over here. I hope you are well. I got positive COVID-19 test results back this week, but I am thankful that, after two weeks, I am better and that my kids have shown no symptoms. What a glorious blessing that has been that the majority of our young people have been spared in this pandemic.
I’m worried a lot, though. I am worried about the people who are sick, and I am worried about the people who are trying to help them, and I am worried about the people not getting help. It’s hard not to worry right now. My clients are worried too, so we are supporting each other through the worry with reassuring words, low expectations, and lots of things that bring relaxation and peace. Also, playing games with friends over Zoom is fun!
One way to let go of the worry is to get outside. Research has shown that being outside for as little as a few minutes improves a myriad of things. Actually, the amount of “things” is staggering. In their review of the literature, Frumkin et. al (2017) note 20 (!) things. They include:
1. Reduced stress
2. Better sleep
4. Greater happiness, well-being, life satisfaction
5. Reduced aggression
6. Reduced ADHD symptoms
7. Increased prosocial behavior and social connectedness (great, just not now…)
8. Lower blood pressure
9. Improved postoperative recovery
10. Improved birth outcomes
11. Improved congestive heart failure
12. Improved child development (cognitive and motor)
13. Improved pain control (acutely and chronically)
14. Reduced obesity
15. Reduced diabetes
16. Better eyesight
17. Improved immune function
18. Improved general health in adults, cancer survivors, and children
19. Reduced mortality
20. Asthma and/or allergies (studies show improvement and exacerbation)
Not bad for something that is (usually) free to us all.*
But recently I have both heard about on the news and have seen for myself that we are crowding natural places. I get it—we all are cooped up and cramped. We need the outdoors. In fact, in the last blog post, I suggested we all go outside for connection. But here’s my new fear: They are going to close the outside. And by “they” I mean local and federal officials.
Last week, Yellowstone, Grand Teton, and the Great Smoky Mountains closed because of social congestion, and soon that could be coming closer to home. Here in New Jersey, local beach communities have closed their beaches and boardwalks because folks from other towns were coming and using them. In NYC, the playgrounds were opened until people didn’t social distance properly. Now they are closed.
This is hard, and honestly, it stinks. But we have to do it—for the safety of ourselves, others, and especially our overtaxed, exhausted, and irreplaceable health care workers.
So now what?
My dog Bernie wants me to throw the ball. Endlessly.
For starters, don’t crowd open spaces. If you show up to a place that’s already crowded, move to the next one. I know that is a major bummer, but it’s worth it to keep it open.
Go to natural places on off-hours. How about a sunrise (an amazing way to start the day)? Try a remote place instead. Do you have a yard? Get to know it. Start weeding your garden. Or think about starting a garden.
Don’t have a yard? Can you grow some container pots? Google “how to turn your leftovers into gardens” and see what you can find. Is your local garden center open? Can you get some seeds or plants delivered so you can start planning when it’s time in your neck of the woods? Get your kids involved. Don’t worry if it’s not perfect; this is definitely not the time for perfect.
Try some outdoor art. My friend and her son made nature mandalas with things they collected in nature. Paint a nature picture (again, don’t worry about whether you’re any good). Sit outside with your family. Have an outdoor virtual barbecue with family via your favorite virtual platform. Roam your neighborhood and try new routes with your family and your dog. Throw the dog the ball (my dog can do this for hours and hours and hours).
Any or all of this too much? It’s OK—just put your face in the sun for a few minutes and soak up the warmth. We are going to get through this together, and nature will be there for us while we do.
*Not everyone has access to free, safe, open spaces. This is especially true for children of color who live in urban environments. Read about how the Children and Nature Network is combating this problem and how you might be able to help.
Frumkin, H., Bratman, G. N., Breslow, S. J., Cochran, B., Kahn Jr, P. H., Lawler, J. J., … & Wood, S. A. (2017). Nature contact and human health: A research agenda. Environmental health perspectives, 125(7), 075001. https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/doi/pdf/10.1289/EHP1663