Caitlyn Hundey

Young child in the middle of a nature trail

The mental health benefits of nature, during a pandemic

November 16, 2020

There might be another widespread crisis on the way, and if it comes, it won’t look like COVID-19. The 2020 coronavirus pandemic has become so widespread, amplifying the current youth mental health crisis exponentially, but can nature mitigate some of the effects?

The isolation and social-distancing measures were foreign; unpredictability and worry about personal safety crossed all borders into politics, news, and citizens’ lives. Youth aged 15 to 24, who are already the most likely cohort to experience mental health issues, are very susceptible to the long term consequences of the pandemic on their mental health. Although the attention is mostly focusing on the urgency of the COVID-19 spread, the outcome of the widespread pandemic on youths’ mental health will be imminent and long-lasting if immediate action is not taken soon.

There is no definitive direction to turn to in times such as this, but there could be an alternate option that may help to mitigate this path heading towards a massive mental health upsurge.

Nature reduces stress, depression, increases pleasant feelings, improves overall physical and mental health, and too many other benefits to count. After spending some time outside in natural surroundings, the change in mood is almost instant and often subtle. Especially during Autumn- where the colours are the most vivid and the weather is not too cold for a stroll to a nearby nature trail- nature walks can spark awe. 

There are stunning leisure green areas and nature trails in Scarborough that can be accessed by anyone. A well-known natural environment near R.H King Academy, called Bluffer’s Park Beach, is a great place to start. Charles Sauriol Conservation Area, a hotspot nature trail, connects Scarborough to downtown Toronto. There are also countless other places to explore.

… I feel a sense of calmness and oneness with[in] myself,

— Deborah Joseph

Deborah Joseph, a grade 11 student at R.H King, expresses how the atmosphere of nature affects her moods. She says, “… I feel a sense of calmness and oneness with[in] myself,” emphasizing how being in such an environment already induces a positive state-of-mind.

Humans are social animals, and restricting socialization is itself detrimental to personal well-being. One accessible option during this time may be to stop once in a while and be mindful of the surrounding nature that provides us with the oxygen to breathe and the comfort we need.

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