How To Connect To Your Local Nature, This Winter & Beyond

Despite travel restrictions, research from around the world is finding that people are now spending more time outdoors than ever—and it’s paying dividends for mental health.

A recent study out of Austria found that locals reported feeling happier and less alone when spending time outdoors in 2020. In Tokyo, getting outside in green space (or simply looking at it through the window) was shown to increase self-esteem, life satisfaction, and subjective happiness during the quarantine. And two research teams out of the University of Vermont have found that COVID has made more people in the state seek out nature experiences and enjoy their corresponding benefits on mental health and well-being.

“My hope is that these are the kind of gateway experiences that get people more engaged with their local nature,” Brendan Fisher, Ph.D., a UVM researcher, previously told mbg of these findings.

Therein lies one bright silver linings of the pandemic: We realized that we don’t have to fly across the world to have restorative experiences in nature, the types that boost our mood and leave us feeling relaxed. We can have them in our own backyards for much less money (and fewer carbon emissions, at that).

A growing body of research supports the importance of everyday nature exposure on mental health: We now know that taking a walk through any natural green space can decrease rumination, a contributor to depression and anxiety disorder, compared to one through an urban environment. And as little as two hours of nature time a week is enough to promote a more positive outlook.

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