COVID-19 Update: The Arboretum is temporarily closed–even to walkers–until further notice. Find updates and information here.
By Jean Larson, manager of Nature-Based Therapeutic Services Program at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum
The coronavirus pandemic has changed our understanding of daily life. Instead of the usual busy pace we have become accustomed, we now have the opportunity to slow down and spend time in nature. Where nature was once peripheral, it now can be an integral part of each day and a redeeming quality in this time of crisis.
As we adjust to the dissolution of routine and isolation from our family and friends, nature can play a healing role. One way to reconnect with nature and combat the disruption of COVID-19 is setting a regular cycle of day/night. Synchronizing with nature means reconnecting with our innate circadian rhythm. Circadian rhythms are the changes (physical, cognitive and psychological) that follow a daily light to dark cycle. Getting a good night’s sleep may require discipline to manage our minds from distractions on the screen. But I can assure you the long term gains from sleep far exceeds the short term loss of screen time.
Nature has been building our resilience over the millions of years we have coexisted together. It has only been in the last few centuries that we have separated ourselves. However, in times of urgency and crisis we are certain to reconnect to nature because we have a collective knowledge of nature being our place of safety, hope and optimism. Nature builds resilience even if we spend only 20-minutes outdoors. Evidence shows those 20 minutes each day in nature can lower our cortisol levels and improve a sense of well-being. Our reconnecting with nature can be an antidote to panic and anxiety.
To experience the healing benefits of nature you only need to set an intention. Even walking down an urban street, looking up at the clouds, watching a bee on a flower can offer the same mental and physical benefits as a 20-minute walk. Setting up a daily ritual to intentionally spend time in nature can be as simple as opening the window to let in fresh air, or finding a location where you can sit each day to still a rushing mind and observe the nature that is all around you. When mindful in nature we can be reassured that nature remains constant winter, spring, summer and fall.