As soon as it was announced on Saturday that the UK will be entering another national lockdown on 5 November, all I could think about was beaches, woodland, rolling hills and a strong breeze. I imagined waves lapping at pebbled shores as I greedily gulped sea air; a hundred shades of green enveloping me as I walked lazily through a dense forest.
During the first lockdown I spent hours looking at holiday villas on European shorelines, with turquoise oceans matched by inviting private pools. We couldn’t afford a holiday, and wouldn’t have gone on one even if we could have given the current uncertainty, but for some reason looking at these glorious vistas gave me comfort.
With the news that we’re facing another stringent lockdown, I’m once again feeling that I just want to be in nature somehow, all the time. I want to be cocooned by it, almost crushed by it.
Why do we crave nature so much right now?
Evidently as humans we are hardwired to crave nature and this is at odds with our mostly indoor lifestyles, and that’s under normal circumstances. During the first lockdown, we experienced a severe disconnection from it, a nature-deficit, due to not being able to freely enjoy outdoor environments. This was especially poignant for those living in urban and built-up areas where green space is hard to come by.
As soon as we were allowed to, we packed out beaches and country parks, filling up our tanks and restoring ourselves mentally in a way which only nature can provide. The links between frequent exposure to nature and good mental health are well documented, and it makes sense that we returned to nature as soon as we were able to.
As we face another lockdown, and being told that we must only leave our homes for essentials and exercise, that connection with nature is at risk of slipping away again. We might feel that we cannot linger in nature, thus relegating it once again to a mere backdrop to exercise.
I think that lingering in nature is where the real restoration takes place though; that’s when we drink it in like a magical elixir, unhurried and, more importantly, unharried.
Personally, I think my craving for nature is a lot to do with how small my world has become this year. Nature in its vastness is a perfect antidote to this, and it also projects a state of complete nonchalance which I’d imagine a lot of us would envy right now.
Curiously though, I haven’t made as much effort to get out in nature over the last few months as I could have done. I live only a 15 minute drive from the sea, and it’s my favourite place. Whether it’s sunny, dull or blowing a gail I love to be by the sea and feel the breeze on my face; I enjoy it even more when there’s a storm raging and the waves lash furiously at the shore.
But I’ve realised that I’ve felt quite defeated over the last few months, even as we’ve enjoyed more freedoms than during Spring. It’s been almost like a delayed hangover where I’ve just done the bare minimum in terms of getting out and about, mostly just taking the kids to the park for an hour or so. Half term was spent mostly indoors; for some reason none of us could muster the energy to do much at all.
Making the most of nature during the second lockdown
I appreciate not everyone has easy access to a restorative amount of nature; I am lucky to live on the Essex coast so I can enjoy the sea, and there are plenty of beautiful green spaces nearby. I’m not taking advantage of it as best as I could right now though and perhaps I should apologise for that to those who can’t access such environments. The truth is I just feel depleted.
It’s ironic though – the very thing that I think would restore me the most is the one I can’t seem to gather the energy for. But now that we are going into another national lockdown I’m determined things will be different.
Since March life has consisted of mostly the same four walls and the same park we feel comfortable going to as a family, punctuated by hours of scrolling through news updates and social media posts on my bloody phone. Mine and my family’s mental health will suffer if this continues, so it’s got to change.
As far as I’m aware we’ll be able to drive to beauty spots and outdoor spaces a bit further from home. We can take a picnic and be out for some time.
Half the challenge is hoping the kids will enjoy being out and then inevitably feeling frustrated when they don’t. They would obviously rather be on their screens, which right now is their form of cocoon I think.
I do think though that, even if you don’t enjoy walking or just sitting outside doing nothing, the therapeutic power of nature still seeps in. The kids might moan and wail the whole time we’re out but when we get home I know we’ll all feel a little fresher, slightly lighter.
While there’s no limit on how much time you can spend outdoors I’m going to make sure we make the most of it. And if the kids or my hubby don’t want to come I’ll go on my own.
I’d love to hear how you’re going to make the most of nature during this second lockdown, particularly if you live in an urban area without much green space. Is there a way around this? Can you travel further afield to get your nature fix or is that unrealistic?