The COVID-19 pandemic has changed life as we know it in so many ways. Nowadays, we’re past toilet paper hoarding, most major hand sanitizers have returned to supermarket shelves around the country and we likely have a few face masks on hand. Many of us have also changed how we spend our free time, and one study has taken notice.
Scientists from the University of Vermont surveyed more than 3,000 people in May, when the state’s governor raced to slow the spread of the coronavirus by placing restrictions on businesses and gatherings. The results, published in PLOS One, all pointed to one thing: People were increasing the time they spent outside.
Specifically, respondents said they were participating in activities such as walking, wildlife watching, relaxing outside alone and taking photos of nature.
In contrast, people reported a decrease in participation in activities such as camping and relaxing outside with other people — possibly due to the inherent proximity associated with the pastimes.
The researchers also asked the study’s participants to consider how they thought this time spent outside benefited them. Almost 60% of the respondents said they experienced an improvement in their mental health and well-being after spending time outside. Others also cited exercise and a connection to what they described as something bigger than themselves as benefits.
The study has its limitations: After all, Vermont is just one state and can’t speak for the other 49. But if you find the time, take a leaf out of their book and spend some time outside. It might be one pandemic change you want to keep.