4 Ways to Practice Social Distancing in Nature
By Alexandra Sixt
Spending time in nature is known to have many benefits; most notably the incredibly positive effects it can have on mental wellbeing! In this time of social distancing, a walk outdoors may be even more beneficial as we find ourselves indoors more often than usual. There are many outdoor activities you can do within West Michigan’s natural spaces that can be enjoyed alone or with a partner from your household. Here are some ways you can get outside and enjoy the beauty of nature while practicing social distancing:
1. Go birding
As spring approaches, more birds are returning to Michigan which means there are plenty of species to observe. Some species have already begun to nest, so keep an eye out for their handiwork as you observe. For the best view, bring along good binoculars that will allow you to watch birds up-close, while maintaining a respectful distance. If you’re observing with people from home, have everyone keep a tally of the birds they view and see who can find the most!
2. Look for frogs and toads
Did you know that there are 13 species of frogs and toads found in Michigan? Each has a distinct sound and appearance, and Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources has a resource with all of the calls of frog and toad species to help you identify as you search. When searching for these animals, remember to give them space and observe from a safe distance. This is a fantastic way to reap the benefits of nature while also learning about the wildlife that calls West Michigan home!
3. Search for wildflowers
Spring has begun, and with it comes an abundance of beautiful wildflowers! These flowers, known as spring ephemerals, are plants that have a short life cycle during the spring season. Many ephemerals can be spotted simply by their beautiful color, making them easier to identify, as well! If you’d like to identify as you observe, you can download the Land Conservancy’s Wildflower Guide, which provides information on native wildflower species.
4. Take a mindfulness walk
Often times when we are outdoors, we’re distracted by many things: the people around us, scanning trail maps or our general every day worries. To truly reap the mental health benefits of nature, consider going on a mindfulness walk focused solely on enjoying the experience of the outdoors. If comfortable, go alone and leave electronic distractions behind at home, along with your other every day worries. Focus on the sounds, smells and views you observe along the way and note the beauty of your surroundings.
Alexandra Sixt is a Land Conservancy of West Michigan volunteer.