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How Nature Helped with My Mental Health

Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic in the United States back in March, levels of depression and anxiety have risen amongst all age groups. Younger people, aged 18-34, are experiencing higher levels of anxiety and depression than any other age group. As we all know, college students fall right into that category. Students were particularly impacted by the pandemic, having to move home, isolate and keep up with schoolwork while doing everything online. More than a third of college students report having mental health problems since the pandemic.  As someone who already suffered from issues with anxiety and depression, that pandemic really heightened those feelings for me. My issues with anxiety became even worse, which I personally did not think was possible, and it was hard to make it through the first few weeks of the pandemic when everything was so uncertain. 

The first few days of lockdown were awful for me, as it was for millions of others. There was a constant feeling of uncertainty about how the pandemic was going to unfold. After a good couple of days, I realized I couldn’t just sit at home all day, look at Twitter and wait for the next piece of bad news. I knew I had to do something to not only take my mind off of everything but also take up a chunk of all the free time I suddenly had. I decided to take my Goldendoodle, Belly, on long walks around my town and in the local woods. 

floral trees and nature Original photo by Grace Christopher

I have never been a lover of nature, I like to look at it from afar but never actually venture in. Nature means bug bites, weird animals and just being dirty. Not something that I would ever willingly partake in. I wouldn’t dream of going camping, and if I did it would be a nightmare. While I love being outside and enjoying nice weather, truly experiencing nature was never something I cared to do. 

When the pandemic first began and I started spending more and more time outside, I started to appreciate nature in a way I never did before. A major part of my newfound appreciation of nature came from the appreciation that I had for every day during the pandemic. One thing about anxiety and depression is it makes it hard to process everyday life, it often feels like you are just going through the motion of things. It’s easy to become unappreciative and apathetic about everyday life when dealing with mental illness. 

Flowers against bright blue sky Original photo by Grace Christopher As I started spending more and more time in nature, I could feel myself getting healthier. I’ve always known that people have turned to nature for healing aspects, I just never thought I would be that kind of person. Nature not only helps with mental health but physical health as well. Walking four miles made me feel physically healthier, which helped combat my anxiety about becoming sick during the pandemic. 

The peacefulness and comfort that nature offered was something that I desperately needed. Spending such a large amount of time outside during such a chaotic period helped me to relax and gain perspective. Every day I would take my dog down to the creek that runs through my hometown and let her sit in the water while I would sit on the grass. Doing this every day and taking in the peacefulness and beauty of where I was, impacted me in a really healthy and healing way. 

Ducks on a Lake Original photo by Grace Christopher

My walks also became a creative outlet as well. I began taking a lot of photos and got really into it. Taking photos also helped me to appreciate nature even more, and realize the beauty of all the things I was experiencing. Being in nature helps reduce feelings of stress, fear and anger, something that I was constantly feeling due to the pandemic. Being in nature also helps reduce blood pressure, muscle tension, heart rate and the production of stress hormones. While I had heard a lot of other people talk about how nature helped combat their anxiety, I never thought it would work for me. I’m really grateful that I gave it a chance and was able to experience it and heal from it. 

have a great day rock Original photo by Grace Christopher

This experience has been very positive, and I wish I would have tried it earlier. While I will always struggle with anxiety and depression, I have been able to find a really healthy outlet for these issues that helped me through an extremely stressful time and continue to help me now. I also now have another way to combat anxiety and depression. If I am feeling anxious or depressed, I will take Belly to the park or for a long walk and feel so much better after. Like a lot of things with mental illness, I sometimes have to force myself to go, but it is always beneficial in the end, and being in nature truly makes me feel healthier and stronger.