Go outdoors to help beat lockdown blues, says study

Go outdoors to help beat lockdown blues, says study

While lockdowns and stay-at-home mandates have helped slow the spread of COVID-19 in most countries, such measures may also have impacted the mental health of many people around the world. A study carried out by researchers in several countries suggests that spending time outdoors could be important for our happiness during periods of COVID-19 restrictions, and could improve mental health.

Previous research has shown the benefits of nature and green spaces on people’s mental health during periods of lockdown. Now, researchers from Anglia Ruskin University in the United Kingdom, Karl Landsteiner University of Health Sciences in Austria, and Perdana University in Malaysia, have studied how happiness and mental health were affected by three factors — being outdoors, the amount of daily screen time, and feelings of loneliness — during a national lockdown.

The universities used an experience sampling method to measure levels of happiness among a group of 286 adults, three times a day, at random intervals, over three weeks. This method allowed them to get real-time data. The research was carried out in April 2020 when Austrian participants were only allowed out of their homes for certain specific activities, including exercise.

Published in the Journal of Happiness Studies, the research reveals that levels of happiness were higher when participants were outdoors rather than indoors. Additionally, more daily screen time and higher levels of loneliness were both associated with lower levels of happiness. The findings also showed that the impact of loneliness on happiness was weaker when participants were outdoors.

“Our results are important in this context because they show that being able to spend time outdoors under conditions of lockdown has a beneficial impact on psychological well-being. Being outdoors provides opportunities to escape from the stresses of being confined at home, maintain social relationships with others, and engage in physical activity — all of which can improve mental health,” the study authors conclude.

Their observations are particularly pertinent at a time when many countries are tightening COVID-19 restrictions or considering reintroducing lockdowns to try to limit the spread of the virus once more. JB

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