Getting outside

            After spending 14-days in quarantine, I stepped outside and immediately felt the sun shining on my face. I inhaled a deep breath of fresh air as I once again discovered the smell of familiar trees. I instantly felt the breeze of the beautiful day brushing against my skin. I smiled as I heard the birds chirping in their nest. That moment was filled with numerous mixed emotions including joy, frustration, sadness, and enlightenment. Initially, I expected to be ecstatic through my personal experience of self-quarantine due to my naturally introverted personality; however, I quickly concluded the importance of various forms of sensory stimulation executed in nature as well as the restorative impact nature produces with decreasing stress and anxiety.  Getting outside and becoming more involved in nature can improve physical health, wellness and overall mental health (Bickmore, Hunt, & Viti, 2019). 

 

            My personal experience with self-quarantine enhanced my gratitude for nature. Now, I schedule time to go outside at least once each day to decrease stress, focus on personal goals, and expand natural sources of sensory stimulation. Through this experience, I have also found myself getting outside more with my daughter and engaging in a variety of outdoor activities. We have visited several hiking trails and local parks. Some of the outdoor activities include walking outside and singing songs about the weather, naming animals, and playing hide-n-seek. Another fun game we engage in is an outdoor scavenger hunt locating various natural elements such as leaves, grass, flowers, etc. My daughter loves animals, especially butterflies and birds, so I gathered all her animal figurines and hid them outside for our scavenger hunt. She was so excited and repeatedly asked to do the scavenger hunt over and over again. Since she enjoyed it so much, we fabricated the game around specific themes such as hiding animals related to current weather conditions, only hiding animals that could fly, etc. Increasing her outside time had a simultaneous benefit of improving her gross motor skills during play and social participation. Prior to quarantine, my daughter exhibited significant difficulties with gross motor play which inhibited her level of participation; however, with increasing her outdoor activities, she can now climb up and down playground equipment, go down the slide, and swing with minimal assistance from me. 

  

            My daughter and I have also thoroughly enjoyed various water activities including the swimming pool, slip-n-slide in the yard, and running through the sprinklers. Engaging in water activities has also been extremely beneficial during this gradual increase of warmer temperatures. Water play is an excellent sensory activity and it is definitely one of my daughter’s favorite outdoor play interests. Participating in outdoor water activities is also relaxing for me because it reminds me of carefree pastimes during my childhood. Being able to actively engage in water play with my daughter was a great bonding experience as well as an excellent sensory-based stress reliever. Visiting different parks and hiking trails was another fun experience for us as well as expanding my comfort zone of going to different locations apart from my typical pattern. Going on hikes with my daughter was a great way to spend time together and increase our physical exercise. One huge benefit for me during these unprecedented circumstances is that I have lost weight. I account most of my weight-loss success to increasing my time I spend outside. I have also noticed my stress and anxiety levels decrease and improved mental clarity. Although Covid-19 has halted numerous events, that does not mean you have to put your life on hold. You can still participate in activities of your choice, just with a few extra precautions. Remember, increasing time with nature provides soothing and relaxing methodologies…in other words, go outside! 

 

References

Bickmore, T., Hunt, A., & Viti, N. (2019). Therapeutic biking and the effects on depression in 

long-term care residents: a pilot study. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, vol. 73. doi: 10.5014/ajot.2019.73S1-PO4032

Author: Deanna Scapperotti

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