Are you feeling trapped by the pandemic? Are you limited in what you can do? Most of us are tired of staring at our laptops and cellphones.
We want a safe environment, especially since the delta variant of the coronavirus makes matters more complex. But we also need a change.
Getting outside for walks and viewing the scenery can boost your mental health. For example, make it a daily habit to walk around the block a couple of times. Or go for a 2-mile hike if you live near an outdoor trail.
"Sitting in an apartment or house too long will escalate anxiety," says an exercise coach we'll call John. "I have clients who are distraught and mentally exhausted. When I ask them to enjoy a little of the outdoors every day, they begin to change. I get depressed myself when the walls start closing in."
Most of us want to feel the open space of the outdoors on a regular basis. But we get busy and ignore the possibilities.
Here are some tips to get started in making changes:
Create some outdoor seating
Buy a couple of lightweight lawn chairs and a small table. Place them outside your back door or on a patio. Have a cup of coffee with your mate or neighbor every morning in this space.
Walk with someone before dinner
Even if you have to drive to meet a friend, make it a point to walk and talk in the open space you have available. Spend at least 30 minutes outdoors.
Buy takeout food and find a park
Try to eat one or two meals each week in a community park or outdoor recreation space. You can keep your social distance from others, but still enjoy the pleasant feeling of seeing sky and grass. No kind of indoor space can offer this feeling.
Take a local drive once each week
Invite a friend or relative. Don't discuss problems, unpaid bills or family clashes. Instead, turn on a little music and take in the view. Notice the beauty of homes, hillsides and people relaxing or walking. Park by a river or lake if you can.
"What's nice about getting outside is that it's inexpensive," says a mother of four we'll call Jeanna. "There's so much beauty and relaxation in Mother Nature. We shouldn't take that for granted."
The book I wrote, "Cooling Stress Tips," offers this advice: "Familiar planned routines and rituals give you a lot of balance in life."
We can make a huge difference in our mental well-being by changing just three small activities in our routines. We don't have to take a cruise or spend a lot of money. Small decisions to enjoy something different each week really add up.
"I've found a lot in common with my husband since the pandemic began," says a computer programmer we'll call Diana. "We've done a lot of gardening in the backyard. Mother Nature has provided us with lots of magic."
While a crowded beach is not a good idea if you're trying to stay socially distant, you can drive to a less busy beach for a relaxing time. Small campgrounds are available in many places near beaches, and many families are doing tent camping for inexpensive vacations.
"Our family got a new puppy in recent months," says an attorney we'll call Dave. "Watching him splash in a small plastic pool in our backyard has kept our family entertained. After dinner, we go outside to enjoy some open space and the sunset. A cute pet enjoying himself under the open sky is very relaxing to watch."
(Judi Light Hopson is author of the stress management book, “Cooling Stress Tips.” She is also executive director of USA Wellness Cafe at www.usawellnesscafe.org.)
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