by Lauren Abraham ECO-UNESCO YSD participant – Dublin.
Nature has improved my mental and physical
health for many years, but I have felt the benefits of nature a lot more since
the closure of schools and the beginning of self-isolation. We have all had
struggles since the beginning of this pandemic: remaining focused while working
from home, worrying about loved ones or our financial situation, and hearing
concerning news of national and global deaths daily. Of course, these things
have taken a toll on people’s well-being.
While abiding by government regulations, nature
is a wonderful way to get a break from the distressing reality of Covid-19.
Even in an urban setting, fresh air can really help your well-being. I have
spent a lot of my time in isolation out in nature, and am very lucky to live
beside the sea.
Having time off school has been a great
opportunity to spend more time in nature. It is very unfortunate that schools
and businesses had to close, but trying to find silver linings can help us to
feel more positive emotions. And the benefits of spending time in nature were
amplified by the restrictions put in place. Indeed, Covid-19 has made many
people re-evaluate their relationship with the natural world, especially in
their local area.
The thing that I love most about nature is that
it appeals to all of our senses. The sound of waves crashing, birds singing or
just complete silence. Taking in details of your surroundings as you walk — the
shape of the leaves, the flowers and the colour of the sky. Breathing in fresh
air or noticing the scent of the trees. Holding sand in your hands, touching
the bark of a tree or leaves. As you stop and notice, this calms your thoughts
and gives you a sense of reassurance. Sensory experiences can really deepen our
connection with the natural world.
A lovely activity involving nature is sea
swimming. It is so invigorating, and the cold water is very refreshing. The
water temperature is perfect at this time of year, not too cold. Going for
walks is also great. Whether it’s in a park, on the beach or just around your local
area, taking in your surroundings and breathing the fresh air.
Spending time in forests has helped my mental
health. Some days I bring a picnic and spend a few hours in my favourite
forest, I always feel better afterwards. There is something so peaceful and
unique about a forest. Walking among trees can reduce levels of cortisol, the
stress hormone. It also boosts our immune systems by breathing in phytoncides,
which trees emit to protect themselves from germs and insects.
I also really enjoy watching the sun rise. I
walk to the beach at about 5am and watch the sun come up. You can see the sun
moving, it is truly magnificent! The colours are so beautiful. The world is so
calm early in the morning. It also brings a sense of gratitude; you have lived
another day to see the sun come up again.
Gardening is also a great activity. Having the
task of watering plants daily and keeping them healthy is a lovely way to
connect with nature. Observing the progress of the plants is so rewarding and
it also benefits the environment. If the plants are in a garden, bees and
butterflies will be appreciative. If the plants are indoors, they can cleanse
the air and create a feeling of well-being.
As a young person living in an urban setting, I
understand it can be challenging to connect with nature. Taking the first steps
can help you to begin re-connecting with nature. You can watch the sky, notice
the weather and the clouds, appreciate the trees around you and, in the
evenings, observe the stars and moon. Keeping house plants is also a nice way
to connect with nature wherever you are,
urban or rural.
I love that nature is
consistently there for us. It is comforting to know that the trees and the sea
are always there. The beauty of living on this planet is our access to nature,
and to co-exist with it is one of the greatest privileges of life.