Getting outdoors for fresh air and recreation is more important than ever.
Studies have shown the importance of nature for mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing. For instance, being outside can lower blood pressure and stress hormone levels, enhance immune system function, increase self-esteem, reduce anxiety, and improve our mood. Nature is a great outlet for stress during these uncertain times. However, you don’t have to travel anywhere to stay connected to nature. In fact, there is plenty to explore in your own backyard and online.
Outdoor exercise is still permissible under the state Safer at Home order and an excellent way to take care of our physical and mental health. Take a walk, jog, or bike ride around your neighborhood. If you choose to visit a park, always check for park closures and follow local, state, and federal Executive orders and CDC guidelines.
Take a virtual hike
Have you ever wanted to hike Yellowstone National Park or visit the rainforests in South America? Now you can from the safety of your home thanks to online virtual hikes and field trips. Explore a National Park via Google Earth. Take a field trip of a rainforest or coral reef via The Nature Conservancy’s Nature Lab. Fly through the Appalachian Mountains by watching a high-definition video on YouTube.
Tend to a garden
Gardening has been shown to have therapeutic effects on our mental and emotional health. Start small and care for a houseplant, or grow vegetables in a backyard garden. Caring for plants and watching them grow can boost your mood and reduce anxiety. In addition, you can minimize trips to the grocery store by growing your own produce.
Start a nature journal
Spend time in your backyard and record the wildlife and plants you find. Take pictures and use a phone app like iNaturalist to identify plants, or go old-school and keep a physical sketch book of your findings. You may be surprised by what you find in your own yard when you take a closer look.
Attend a nature webinar
University of Florida Extension offices across the state are working hard to create educational webinars and videos for adults and youth. Follow UF/IFAS Extension Osceola County on Facebook or visit http://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/osceola to see our calendar of events.
Krista Stump is a natural resources extension agent with UF/IFAS Extension Osceola County.