Turning to nature - Kas' story
Kas, 23, is a student in London. Here she shares her experience of connecting with nature during the pandemic:
The pandemic has been challenging and relentless. The hits seem to keep on coming and the light at the end of the tunnel has become blurred and faint. It can make it hard to be optimistic about the future. One aspect of pre-quarantine life I certainly don’t miss is the constant Brexit talk, everywhere you went. Although that’s not to say COVID-19 is unrelenting. Others may say they enjoy the break from Northern line’s rush hour, while some introverts secretly rejoice at the end to all parties and large crowds.
For me, I’ve found turning to nature has made it easier to stay positive whilst being away from friends and family and having absolutely nothing to do. Being confined to four walls and staring at screens for hours on end, it’s become an escape and comfort, a lifeline even, to take a walk outside. I’ve found myself looking forward to simply walking through the park, lying down on the grass and enjoying the view. There’s so much colour and beauty to be found in the sky, trees and flowers. Being present with the ground beneath me, with the grass between my fingers and the cloudless blue sky above, helps me to recharge after being in bleak, artificial environments for extended periods of time.
As a Londoner, a lot of my daily life involves commuting past grey buildings, on a grey road, under grey clouds. It’s all very static and mundane to look at. Over the pandemic, nature has opened my eyes to how beautiful naturally occurring phenomena can be. Red and pink sunsets illuminating the sky whilst I walk back home, is something I will never get tired of. No two sunsets are ever the same, and I find it almost offensive to walk past a sunset and not appreciate it. Yet, I know however much I try to capture its magnificence on camera, a photograph will never do it justice. The spectrum of colour nature brings to our lives is a blessing that I don’t take for granted. And the best part of it all? It doesn’t cost a thing.
Having made great medical advances to be able to produce artificial substitutes of almost anything now, it can be easy to opt for such alternatives to suit our busy lifestyles. For example, getting your much needed Vitamin D from a pill does the job, but the benefits of actually feeling the warmth of the sun on your skin far outweigh doing so. Technology has kept us in contact with our loved ones and has given us access to endless entertainment to maintain our sanity. But the irony of being connected to the rest of the world online means we're disconnected more than ever from our environment. To be able to see, touch or smell real creatures and plants is an incomparable experience that a video or picture on a screen will never replace, no matter how high definition it becomes.
The pandemic has shone a light on the resilience of nature, with plant life flourishing again and animals reclaiming city spaces while we were in lockdown. It was refreshing to read about mountain goats roaming around the streets of Wales whilst the news constantly reported the rise in cases and deaths. Just as the earth has adapted, we too have shown great perseverance in the face of COVID-19, highlighting our connection to this earth. There is so much to learn from nature and over quarantine, I have gained a deep respect for the natural world. It serves as a reminder that despite the devastation, life will persist.
Breathing in clean, fresh air is becoming harder to do as air pollution becomes a serious problem in our cities. This makes protecting and appreciating green spaces among our urban jungles all the more important. My new found appreciation for nature will continue long after the pandemic has ended and will shape how I navigate the world now. One way I aim to do this is by recycling more and including plant-based alternatives in my diet. As a 20-something, my inability to drive used to be embarrassing but now I embrace the decision to not own a car as playing my part to reduce global warming. I love to cycle instead as I much prefer the rush of feeling the wind in my face than sitting in traffic.
Nature has given us so much in abundance. It's been here before we were and will be here long after we've gone. This does not mean we should take it for granted or take sole ownership of what we have access to - this planet doesn't only belong to us, we share it alongside other incredible species of plants and creatures. So it’s on our generation to take responsibility for our actions and those before us to leave this planet a better place than we found it.
Hear about other people's experiences of connecting with nature to benefit their mental health.