woman hiking in the mountains

If you’re like me, you have anxiety about leaving the house during a global pandemic. While this anxiety is completely justified, it is so important to spend time outside, exercise, and find ways to care for yourself during these trying times. While we don’t know everything about this virus, doctors have said outdoor activities pose a much lower risk than indoor activities do. Walking, running, or hiking are great activities you can explore while staying safe and healthy. Just remember to wash your hands often, practice social distancing, and wear a mask while enjoying the great outdoors.

Taking a Hike with Loved Ones

This weekend my brother and my cousins organized a family trip to Hollywood Reservoir. The hike was about 3 miles round trip on a flat, paved road. While we all expected my cousin Marcus to pick an intense hike route, this was actually quite a mild trail. (Thank you, Marcus!) This was a reminder that you don’t have to be particularly fit or athletic to enjoy a hike.

This was a great way to spend time with my family. We had the chance to bond as we walked, playing games, and catching up with each other. We also saw such amazing views of the Hollywood Sign. This hike was exactly the break I needed after spending the week preparing for midterms.

Despite living in California for almost four years now, I had never been on this trail. This was a reminder that there is so much more of the world to explore, even in our own backyard. I encourage you to research hiking trails near you. You may be surprised by how many opportunities there are to connect with nature.

A Much Needed Mental Break

As someone who suffers from anxiety, it is difficult for me to focus on the present moment, but this walk allowed me to unwind and get my mind off of school work. For a few hours, I was able to disconnect and clear my mind. I had no phone signal so beyond the occasional photo opt I was away from my phone for the majority of the adventure. It felt empowering not to be worried about notifications, emails, or calls that need answering.

All of my senses were engaged. I listened to the sound of the blue jays. I looked up and watched the tree branches sway in the wind, which made all of my everyday stressors seem so much smaller. I drank the cool water from my bottle that was all the more satisfying to sip after a hot sweaty day. I breathed in the air and reflected on the effects of the recent wildfires on the West Coast. Being in the great outdoors made me feel a personal investment in protecting and caring for this landscape.

At the end of the day, my mind was clear and I felt a sense of accomplishment.

Nature And Your Health

There is a growing body of research that supports the idea that spending time in nature has both psychological and psychological benefits. Being in nature has been proven to improve mood and mental health. Hiking increases endorphin levels, a hormone responsible for reducing pain and increasing feelings of pleasure. Hiking has a variety of physical benefits as well. Hiking helps build strong muscles and bones, improves your balance and heart health, and decreases the risk of respiratory problems.

Government officials also recognize the benefits of nature and are now proposing widespread changes to bring nature into people’s everyday lives. For example, policymakers now use the term “park deserts” to refer to neighborhoods lacking accessible outdoor parks. Cities are adding or enhancing parks. Schools are being designed with large windows and access to trees and green space.

The Great Outdoors and You

In the middle of an ongoing pandemic, we can take a pause to appreciate, and more importantly, protect the great outdoors. One thing we can easily do to protect our landscape is to make sure that we leave the smallest footprint possible. Whenever you explore the outdoors, you should leave it the way you found it, if not better. This means making sure you don’t leave any litter behind and making sure you don’t destroy any of the natural vegetation. When my family and I finished our hike, we made sure that we took all of our garbage with us. We also made sure that we didn’t accidentally discard anything that could inadvertently start a fire and destroy our surroundings.

By caring for the outdoors, we can ensure that it will be here for generations to come. Spending time in nature reminds us of the precious relationship we have with our planet. It gives us the opportunity to contemplate the impact we want to leave behind.

Whether it be hiking, picnicking, or dancing in the rain, I encourage you to find ways to spend more time in nature and to reflect on how you want to make a positive impact on the planet.