Has it only been a week since my last blog post? Since then, schools, stores, restaurants, bars, gyms, and many workplaces have closed down to try and stop the coronavirus pandemic from spreading.
California residents like me and many other Americans are being asked to shelter in place. We are asked to stay at home except to “provide or receive essential services or engage in certain essential activities and work for essential business or government services.” For those few clients that allow us, we consider their plants and asset worth protecting and we are watering them. You can pick up groceries and prescriptions, take your dog to the vet, or put your trash out for collection.
And – you can enjoy outdoor exercise, as long as you comply with social distancing. I see this as an absolute must.
Enjoying a little bit of nature could keep us physically and emotionally healthy enough to get through this current crisis. As we stay separated from our regular activities and each other, we need something to lower our anxieties. You can count on nature in these difficult days. Plus, there are studies that show sunlight and fresh air help us heal much faster.
We’ve been writing about this for many years, and it’s never been more important than today. Scientific research has proven over and over that being outside in nature, or even just having a view of nature, helps reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and improve our cardiovascular health. A 2019 study found spending just two hours in nature each week was significantly more likely to produce good overall health and high psychological wellbeing, and it held true no matter your gender, age, or income.
A National Academy of Sciences study showed people who walked for 90 minutes in nature (including parks) weekly have fewer negative thoughts and healthier brain activity than people who walked through urban environments. Wouldn’t you like to get rid of some negative thoughts right now?
Getting outside for a walk is one of the few things we can all do right now and still comply with social distancing. All we have to do is give each other a little more passing room on sidewalks, at parks, and on trails. Wave and keep moving, and you’ll feel a little more connected without risk.
Follow these few Dos and Don’ts to stay safe and keep others safe:
Get outside for sunshine and fresh air
Stay close to home
Find another place if your first choice is too crowded.
Maintain six feet of distance from other people
Pack any trash out with you
Check the CDC and your state or county health department for latest restrictions
Sit inside in front of a screen all day
Travel outside your immediate area
Meet in groups
Go to visitor centers or facilities
Use public restrooms
Assume what you heard yesterday is still true today
If you are home with your family, get out and get some fresh air. Most people live close enough to a little open space. It can be a simple neighborhood park, a nice landscaped street, trails around our lakes, or even your own backyard. Take time to look, listen, and observe. Spring is just around the corner. Plants are beginning to grow and bloom. Pollinators and birds are in the air. The buzzing and the birds singing will be the best music you will hear all day.
If you’re working at home, get outside for a lunch break. Even if it’s your porch or a chair in the backyard or a balcony or on the driveway. It will do you good, even if it’s not the Austrian Alps.
Need a walking partner? Find out if an older neighbor could use help walking their dogs. You’ll be doing something good for yourself and someone else.
You can help out nature by setting up a bird feeder. Nectar for hummingbirds and orioles, black oil sunflower seeds for songbirds, peanut butter cakes and suet for woodpeckers, jays, and others. They will provide many hours of entertainment. Many of San Diego’s local garden shops are open limited hours and you’ll be helping the local economy when it’s most needed.
And never underestimate the power of getting outside to pull some weeds. Get your kids to lend a hand. Make it a contest to see who can pull the most. You’ll never appreciate a good reason to be outside more than now.