Coronavirus: 8 ways to connect with nature during lockdown
Spending time in nature is crucial for mental and physical health, but efforts to contain COVID-19 mean millions of people are now confined to their homes. Here's how to cope when the great outdoors is off limits.
Go for a walk — if you're allowed to
Spending time in green spaces can reduce stress and help us feel happier and healthier. If exercising outdoors is still an option where you live, as it is in Germany, make the most of it by going for a daily walk in a nearby park or nature reserve. Just avoid busy areas, keep a safe distance from others and wash your hands as soon as you get home.
If walking in the woods isn't possible, there are still ways to enjoy nature at home. Research suggests that looking at greenery out a window, or even listening to sounds from nature, can boost our well-being. Scientists from Brighton and Sussex Medical School in the UK found birdsong, wind in the trees, or a burbling brook — sounds readily available to stream online — help us relax as well.
Many national parks are closed to the public, and travel is off the cards, but thanks to technology it's possible to observe wildlife without leaving the house. Many nature reserves and animal sanctuaries have webcams you can livestream online, making it possible to "visit" a range of spots, from a gorilla corridor in the DRC, to an elephant park in South Africa and a bald eagle nest in the US.
Under the sea
Zoos and aquariums are also offering livestreams of their enclosures, like this Jellyfish Cam at the Monterey Bay Aquarium on the US west coast. Studies show that watching fish tanks, even for a short period, can have a soothing effect, helping to reduce stress and anxiety.
Birdwatching at home
Start paying attention to the wildlife around you. Perhaps there's a bumble bee buzzing among the flowers on your balcony, or a robin that frequents the fence outside. An initiative in the UK is encouraging people to start their day by sharing bird photos snapped from their homes under the hashtag #BreakfastBirdwatch on social media. A similar campaign, #BirdingatHome, has taken off in Australia.
Make a bird feeder
Apart from a DIY project that will keep housebound kids busy for a while, a bird feeder might also attract feathered friends to your property. All you need are some bird seeds, cooking fat and a pine cone or coconut shell. And don't stress if you don't have a garden — you can also hang the feeder up with a piece of string outside a window or from a balcony.
A home for insects
Another way you can support local biodiversity is by providing shelter for insects. Again, you don't necessarily need a garden. You can make the structure as big or small as you like, depending on whether it's for a yard, patio or tiny balcony. Old wooden pallets, bricks, dry leaves, straw and other natural materials will help you get started.
Gardening can ward off anxiety and boost our mood, so why not use your time in lockdown to plant some veggies or bright flowers? Lavender, thyme, sage and other insect-friendly plants could also attract pollinators like butterflies and bees. Even if you don't have a backyard, you can still grow plants indoors. Check out options for home delivery from garden centers.