A saving grace in this year of solitude has been the sanctuary found right outside my front door. Saint Paul and Minneapolis ranked second and third respectively as the US cities with the most parks per capita (only Washington, D.C. kept them from occupying the top two spots). When the shutdowns came and social distancing became the new norm, most Minnesotans took the time to explore the greenspace available to them and took to the trails when the weather cooperated.
When strapped up to an EEG monitor, humans show less stress and frustration and higher feelings of meditation and peace when simply walking through green space instead of the concrete urban jungle (Aspinall et. al., 2015). With the holidays coming up (advertised as vacation but, for many, is one of the more stressful times of the year), taking a break outside may help balance ourselves.
Now that winter is upon us in full force (with Covid-19 restrictions remaining in place), I am like many others who are resisting hibernation and the embrace of loneliness mixed with seasonal affective depression that hits many of us when the sun starts to set early. People in the northern states are more likely to be affected by seasonal mood disorders and those predisposed to mood disorders have been shown to be more affected by Covid-19 related anxiety (Asmundson, 2020). In the southern part of our country, outdoor dining remains a viable option and trails remain uncovered by snow and ice. Sometimes it feels quite unfair!
True Minnesotans (and tough transplants like myself) aren’t afraid of a little cold! In recent years the demand for outdoor recreation along the Northern Shore has actually increased, despite making headlines almost every winter about how it is colder than Alaska (Smith et. al., 2016). Ice fishing, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and - of course - hockey, are Minnesotan staples and all require costly equipment and a bit of extended time (not to mention may not be allowed under the current Covid-19 mandates). Walking and hiking, however, remain as free as ever and right outside your door.
So layer your jackets, knit a fresh hat, pull on your gloves and get outside! Find a new trail through the cities here: https://www.alltrails.com/us/minnesota/minneapolis, or take your family to an old favorite like Hidden Falls or The Mississippi Headwaters. While the world may be dark and cold right now, both literally and figuratively, simply taking a walk through nature is one of the best ways to stay sane. See you outside!
(All sources found through Minitex’s ELM database)
Asmundson, G. J. G., Paluszek, M. M., Landry, C. A., Rachor, G. S., McKay, D., & Taylor, S. (2020). Do pre-existing anxiety-related and mood disorders differentially impact COVID-19 stress responses and coping? Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 74, N.PAG. https://doi-org.content.elibrarymn.org/10.1016/j.janxdis.2020.102271