One thing keeping me going during this period of social distancing in light of the COVID-19 pandemic is the daffodils. I live next to a park, and I can see the blooms from my window—cheerful, bright, and lively, absolute rebels to the feeling of chaos that’s otherwise sweeping the world. I’m grateful for those daffodils and their promises of spring, but I also wish I knew how to bring nature indoors during this time so I could enjoy more than just a limited window view of said flowers.
As Carla Marie Manly, PhD, clinical psychologist and author of Joy From Fear, points out, being stuck inside can do a real number on mental health. “The sense of confinement and immobilization can be extremely difficult for people to bear. And for those who are accustomed to active lifestyles, being confined inside can be especially anxiety-inducing and depressing,” Dr. Manly says.
That’s why if you can’t go forest bathing over a long weekend or, hell, even get some sunshine right now, you may feel as though you’re losing a sense of control. Nature inherently provides us with a sense of stability, and relaxation, so it’s a detrimental part of living a well life.
“When we are confined indoors, it can be truly important to bring nature into our living spaces as much as possible.” —clinical psychologist Carla Marie Manly, PhD
“When we see ‘green,’ the brain immediately feels soothed and relaxed,” says Dr. Manly. “Hospitals and offices have long taken advantage of the powerfully soothing qualities of natural landscapes and images of nature and it’s creatures. Research has proven that exposure to natural environments is linked with positive mental health. As a result, when we are confined indoors, it can be truly important to bring nature into our living spaces as much as possible.”
If you’re wondering how to bring nature indoors, though, you’re in luck: Below find five simple ideas that double as visual ASMR that’ll hopefully boost your mood and mental health.
1. If possible, literally surround yourself with fauna
If you can safely going out and buy a lucky plant to make your own (or order one to show up at your door), consider it. The benefits of plants include improving concentration, mood, and overall compassion, to name a few.
“Pick up a bouquet of fresh flowers or a few small green plants when you visit the store—or place your next online order,” says Dr. Manly.
For more flora benefits, check out how one plant lady uses plants in her calming self-care routine in the video below.
2. Conjure a vision of being in nature via soundscapes
Some research supports that nature sounds are more pleasant and relaxing than listening to straight-up static white noise. Additionally, other research has found that even spending 60 seconds listening to woodland sounds can help you reach higher levels of relaxation than that of guided voice meditations. So, listen up and conjure a the blissful vision of nature while you do it.
“Listen to music that is nature-based, whether with sounds of the ocean, rivers, or forest winds,” says Dr. Manly. “Download apps that play soothing nature sounds as background white noise.”
3. Blast your SAD lamp
If you have a natural-light lamp, now’s not the time to retire it for the year because winter days are waning. When your body is screaming for serotonin because of the lack of sun, some light therapy can help boost your mood and remind you of the beach days to come…eventually.
4. Take yourself on virtual strolls through the natural wonders of the world
“Watch a YouTube video of nature, a documentary on hummingbirds, or go on a virtual safari,” says Dr. Manly.
Filmmaker Louie Schwartzberg actually centers his work around these kind of immersive video landscapes; his visual-healing programs have been shown to reduce heart and respiration rate and improve sleep in patients. To access a similar nature voyage, you can stream Moving Art on Netflix, and inundate yourself in ocean scenes, blossoms, and forests.
5. Use color therapy and other visual nature cues
If you don’t have time to stream the documentary National Parks Adventure on Netflix, or can’t Zen out to the sounds of the rainforest from your urban respite, no worries! You can still use visual cues to reap mental-health benefits of nature. In fact, one small study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health suggested that participants who looked at green imagery at work had notably lower stress levels than those who didn’t.
“Put a green background or nature background on your desktop,” says Dr. Manly. “Hang a nature-based poster in front of your desk at home or, if you can, paint a wall a soothing shade of green or even sunshine yellow.”
Maybe even daffodil yellow. Feel free to explore.
Keep calm, we’re here for you: Here are the best ways to self-soothe, according to your star sign. And if you miss your friends as much as the outside world, there are still plenty of ways to connect with them.