The WHO raised this as an early concern (WHO, 2020) and the UK government issued guidance to address mental health during lockdown (Gov.uk, 2020). More recently UK based research has shown that the mental health of the population declined during lockdown (Dawson and Golijani-Moghaddam, 2020; Groarkea et al., 2020; Smith et al., 2020), with a disproportionate number of women and young people being impacted (Etheridge and Spantig, 2020; Smith et al., 2020).
Therefore, it is imperative that activities, learning events and social experiences are able to continue for the sake of people’s mental wellbeing. Evidence based methods by which this can be achieved includes green wellbeing, described as an increase in physical or mental health through interaction with nature and the natural environment (Thompson et al., 2012; Bell et al., 2015). Green wellbeing has been shown repeatedly to have a significant positive impact on people’s physical and mental health and wellbeing. Lovell, Depledge and Maxwell (2018) in a review commissioned by DEFRA concluded that “There is strong and consistent evidence for mental health and wellbeing benefits arising from exposure to natural environments, including reductions in psychological stress, fatigue, anxiety and depression” (p8) They further listed benefits ranging from reduced mortality, increased immunity, increased pre and post-natal health and more favourable “heart rate; blood pressure; vitamin D levels; recuperation rates; and cortisol levels and… lower prevalence of diabetes type 2” (Lovell, Depledge and Maxwell, 2018 p8).
However there needs to be a balance between addressing mental wellbeing and the need to keep physically healthy. Fortunately, one way to decrease the likelihood of catching Covid 19 is to aim to be outdoors as much as possible. There is reduced likelihood of catching the virus outside because;
- Outside there is greater exposure to sun, which has been shown to decrease the half-life of the virus outside of the body (Eslami and Jalili, 2020; Guasp, Laredo and Urra, 2020; Ratnesar-Shumate et al., 2020),
- An increase of vitamin D (from sun exposure, which can be achieved even on dull days) has been correlated with a shorter illness from coronavirus (Lanham-New et al., 2020).
- The virus survives less time on natural material such as wood than it does on plastics and metals (Eslami and Jalili, 2020; Fiorillo et al., 2020);
- Social distancing is more possible in the outdoor environment;
- The relatively wide space allows for rapid dispersal of the virus.
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