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In Times of Crisis, Look to Nature

A Letter from the Regional Executive Director on COVID-19

Brian Kurzel | April 3, 2020

First and foremost, we at the National Wildlife Federation Rocky Mountain Regional Center are wishing you the best during this stressful and uncertain time. We understand that people’s lives and livelihoods are being threatened and want to offer support in any way we can. We are all struggling to adjust to this new normal, facing daunting questions about how to stay healthy, pay rent, buy food and necessities, educate our kids, and help local businesses survive. Not to mention the challenges of managing emotional stress and wondering what the future holds as our normal lives have been cancelled.

When I feel the weight of this crisis, I find hope in a simple and sometimes overlooked source: nature. While schools, offices, and public spaces are closed, spring hasn’t been cancelled and it’s evident in the budding trees, plants emerging from the ground, and sounds of urban wildlife outside my door.

During this difficult time, the signs of life right outside our windows may provide much-needed relief for some of the challenges we face. The benefits of spending time outside, or even viewing greenery from a window, are well known. Regular time interacting with nature and spending time outside is known to reduce mental and emotional stress, increase physical activity, and improve your mood overall. In fact, some researchers have gone so far as to describe interactions with nature as "free therapy" … two words that we need now more than ever.

To receive the benefits of nature, you don’t have to have access to a park or backyard. In fact, our nation’s population is over 80% urban with densely populated cities. Although parks, trails, and open spaces may be nearby for some, visiting these places is now discouraged or banned, and they can be difficult to access for many, even without a pandemic. Luckily, nature can be accessed by simply stepping into your own yard, balcony, or patio, taking a walk around the block, or even looking outside your window.

Here are just a few ideas that might help you and your family enrich your lives just a little bit more during this difficult time:

  • Engage your kids in "nature play" right outside your door using the Nature Play at Home guide with ideas and DIYs for balconies and yards of all sizes. From fairy gardens, adventure pathways, water play, and more, you’ll have enough activities for weeks ahead.
  • Check out these 9 tips for gardening with kids. And find seeds online at Botanical Interests.
  • Create a nature notebook for you or your family to make observations of weather, birds, or blooming plants. You can even identify unknown plants and insects with apps such as iNaturalist or National Wildlife Federation Nature Guides.

Be sure to also take advantage of these FREE resources from the National Wildlife Federation:

It is important to highlight that there are many inequities that take place in our society, leaving some without access to clean air, green space, or safe places to go outside, let alone a place to plant a garden; and the ideas above may not be available to some. That is why National Wildlife Federation Vice President Dr. Mustafa Santiago Ali is leading the charge to address inequities during this crisis and the National Wildlife Federation is working to ensure that federal stimulus investments and COVID-19 policies protect the most vulnerable among us.

Along with policy advocacy, we also hope that everyone can find some fundamental coping mechanisms in nature that they can use now and for whatever lies ahead. No matter how you choose to enjoy nature, I ask that you make a commitment to go for a walk, open the window, or take a moment to look at the natural world around you. Maybe we can ALL improve our daily lives over the next few months and get some "free therapy" from nature that we’ll carry with us past this pandemic.

We encourage you to share the ways you are connecting with nature during the crisis. Send us an email, photos, and your story and we’ll feature you on the Rocky Mountain Regional Center Facebook and Twitter pages.

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