We’ve been swimming in bad news since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Just as one wave of infections subsides, a new variant is right around the corner ready to cause havoc. Stress levels are up from one end of the planet to the other.
One antidote for the troubling vibes might be just a short stroll from your home — green spaces.
Researchers at the University of Colorado surveyed 1,200 Denver-area residents about how interacting with the green spaces of nature affected their mental health. The study began shortly before the pandemic but was adapted to measure whether a dose of flora improved participants’ mood during the age of the coronavirus.
Scientists say that people who were exposed to more green space, whether viewing a batch of trees outside a window or taking a long hike in the great outdoors, reported significantly less depression and anxiety.
The closer the interaction with nature, researchers say, the greater the benefit. Getting out and using green spaces salves the nerves like little else.
We’ve certainly had plenty to worry about during the COVID-19 pandemic. Illness. Jobs. Supply shortages. Even finding toilet paper proved challenging early on. Indeed, study participants who spent the most time doom-scrolling suffered the most in their mental health. We all need an occasional break.
This isn’t the first time the outdoors has been shown to improve health. A 1984 study demonstrated that hospital rooms with a view of green helped patients heal faster, with less pain medication, than those looking out at a brick wall.
So, if your doctor tells you to take a hike, don’t get offended. It’s actually pretty good advice.