COVID, Nature, and Mental Health: Let’s Stay Outside

It should be no surprise that getting outside and experiencing nature has been proven to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. The reduction of these symptoms can be attributed to increased vitamin D when exposed to the sun, your body producing endorphins from walking, and lowered cortisol levels. Exposure to nature improved mental health during COVID, and there’s no reason people should stop experiencing the great outdoors in a post-pandemic world.

How does nature improve mental health?

Made for nature

Urbanism is a relatively new concept in the timeline of human history. Although billions of people worldwide live in urban areas, it doesn’t mean being surrounded by miles of concrete and steel with little nature in sight is always a good thing. Our ancestors hunted and gathered outside every day, and even though we reap the benefits of convenience through urbanism, we are fighting our own DNA by not experiencing nature on a daily basis.

Because humans are meant to be outside instead of looking at screens all day, it’s no wonder diagnosed anxiety has increased 7% since 2008 among young adults. One potential solution to anxiety is getting out in nature.

Why is nature good for mental health?

  1. It reduces depression.
  2. It improves our mood and reduces anxiety.
  3. It can improve sleep and reduce stress.
  4. It can lead to increased happiness.

How did nature improve mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic?

A pandemic of mental health

As of February of 2023, almost 675 million people had COVID at some point since the start of the pandemic, but coughing and losing your taste weren’t the only symptoms people experienced.

According to the World Health Organization, the pandemic increased the prevalence of mental health disorders by 25%. Social isolation, increased stress, fear, and lack of access to proper medical care all contributed to increasing anxiety and depression.

With public areas closed during the pandemic, many people turned to the one place they could go: nature. The restrictions allowed people to connect with nature in ways they might not have before. Because getting dinner and seeing a movie wasn’t an option, people instead took up hiking, gardening, bird watching, and other outdoor activities.

People getting outside during the pandemic helped reduce levels of anxiety and depression. One survey reported 59% of respondents claimed nature improved mental health and well-being. Even before the pandemic, nature was helping mental health, but being forced to stay away from others allowed more people to reap the benefits of getting outside.

Why we need to continue experiencing nature

Although the COVID-19 crisis is officially ending later this year, nature can continue to improve mental health in a post-pandemic world. There are infinite ways to get outside: going on a nature walk, cycling, sitting in a park, or even booking a scenic jeep tour. However you decide to get outside is up to you, but experiencing nature will surely improve your mental health.