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The Great (Neighborhood) Outdoors: staying connected with nature during Coronavirus

This article was written by The College of the Environment 

Bratman and the authors stress that the current circumstances due to Coronavirus demand that we follow social distancing and other critical precautionary instructions from public health officials – including when spending time outdoors.

Ah, the great outdoors. That intoxicating piney scent of an evergreen forest, the salty seawater glow on your skin after a swim, the parade of puffy clouds marching overhead while stretched out in a flowery meadow—being outside makes us happy and puts us at ease. In fact, an emerging body of research says just that, confirming what many of us already knew in our hearts.

But what if we need a dose of nature’s calming effect and we can’t get to that old-growth forest or Puget Sound shoreline? Amidst the Coronavirus pandemic where all of us are pent-up inside, are there other ways to reap the benefits of Mother Nature’s soothing ways?

Even small doses of the outdoors, like being in our backyard or a neighborhood park, can help. Scientists like UW School of Environmental and Forest Sciences’ Greg Bratman are finding evidence that access to greenspaces even in our urban environments can have a tremendous impact on mental wellbeing.

“Experimental evidence has revealed that there are often psychological benefits from even short amounts of nature contact,” says Bratman, an expert on the human health benefits associated with spending time in nature. “50-minute walks have been shown to be associated with significant impacts on psychological well-being and cognitive function for some people, and other studies indicate that even shorter amounts of time may provide benefits as well. Other recent work has found that 120 minutes of nature contact a week is associated with improved self-reported good health and well-being.”

Read more here.