Imagine the sunshine on your skin, the cool breeze on your face, and the sound of the birds sing.
For me, this describes my favourite place to be, which is outside. Unfortunately, due to a busy schedule of being a full-time Occupational Therapy student and full-time employee as an Occupational Therapy Assistant, it does not leave me much time to be outdoors. The most sunshine I typically achieve is taking the dog on a brief walk or the occasional run down my street, which is very disappointing, especially since being outside has so many benefits.
Much research discusses the positive benefits of being outdoors including improving cognition, altering mood, and lowering anxiety (Gilbert, 2020). I believe many people from around the world would benefit from engaging in stress relieving activities especially since so many are experiencing fear, panic, and isolation from COVID-19. I have personally experienced a wave of fluctuating and negative emotions over the last five months, but I have learned to manage those emotions for the most part thanks to being outdoors.
When cases of COVID-19 steadily rose at the end of March and with the world shutting down, I found myself in a position I never thought I would be in, staying at home for a month with no work. You see, I am a very busy person, who is always engaged in many things at once that it’s hard to remember a time I have not had at least one job since I began working at age fifteen.
Like many businesses my employer decided to close our doors for the month of April in order to do our part to “flatten the curve”. I will be honest, I was a little worried about finances, but most importantly, I was upset and worried about my patients that I know I needed to care for. It took a few days of praying, deep breathing, and venting to my husband before I changed my attitude and outlook on the situation. I decided to look at this as a blessing instead of an inconvenience and I realised that I could use this time as respite from work and re-ground myself so that when I returned to work I could be a better employee, a better co-worker, and most importantly, a better therapy practitioner. During my month off from work, I spent as much time as possible outdoors and let me tell you April was the perfect month for that. My husband and I actually bought our first home in 2019 and like most new homeowners we had a list of things we planned to do “one day”. I decided I was going to make the most of my time and so I used that month off from work to start on our to-do list, beginning with clearing out some brush on the property and weeding flower beds. It felt wonderful to be outside and I was able to see the difference it had on my mental health. I was able to focus better on my schoolwork, I felt productive, I saw an increase in energy, there was a decrease in my stress, and overall I just felt happy. Now obviously other factors played into effect such as I was getting more sleep and having more time in the day. Despite getting more sleep and having more time, I truly feel that being outside for hours at a time and multiple days a week had a positive effect on my mental health. I can tell you that I did return to work more focused, eager to work, and with a beautiful tan. I say all of this to encourage you to get outside when possible, even if it is just for a few minutes, because I think you could also see the positive benefits of the sunshine and fresh air. It has been said “being outside helps us tune back in to ourselves” and I feel this is true because I know that after my time spent outside in April 2020 amongst the COVID-19 pandemic I was more grounded and at peace with myself (Gilbert, 2020). My hope is that you can find peace and happiness in your life, whether that be spending time outdoors or finding your own way to relieve stress.
Gilbert, E. (2020). Why Being Outside is Good For Your Mental Health. [online] Lumino Health. Available at: https://luminohealth.sunlife.ca/s/article/Why-being-outside-is-good-for- your- mentalhealth?language=en_US#:~:text=Lifting%20your%20mood%20and%20lowering,experie nce%20a%20boost%20in%20creativity. [Accessed 11 Jul. 2020].
Author: Jessica Davis
Bio: Jessica Davis is a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant and is currently working on her Masters of Occupational Therapy to pursue her dream of becoming a Registered Occupational Therapist. @Jessica20139149