Lifestyle | September 9th, 2020

Parks & Rec: Staying in is Drawing us Outdoors

By: Noella Williams
Parks & Rec: Staying in is Drawing us Outdoors

Quarantine has prevented us from enjoying indoor activities due to limited hours, closed facilities and close contact with others. However, a world remains ready to explore via hiking, walking, climbing and everything outdoors. 

Whether you are an introvert or extrovert, social interaction is a major developmental factor as a human being. With the closure of restaurants, schools, churches, bars — anywhere with a shared contact point — where exactly can you practice a safe way to spend time with yourself and maintain your mental health? 

According to an article by The Philadelphia Inquirer, “Perhaps the greatest benefit of being outside is contact with nature. Trees, parks, greened vacant lots, trails, and woods are associated with definitive mental health benefits such as reduced feelings of depression and anxiety, improved mood and increased general well-being. These links are thought to be due, in part, to lower stress, attention restoration and physical activity. Even seeing other people outside — at a distance — may help foster a needed sense of social connection.”

Florida State University student Keyana Mahallati recently traveled to Denver, Colo., to enjoy the Rocky Mountains to celebrate her birthday. 

The Rocky Mountains in Denver, ColoradoThe Rocky Mountains in Denver, Colo. Photo courtesy Noella Williams

“By staying active outside or just enjoying nature, I am benefitting myself physically and mentally, which has led me to a better and more stable emotional state, compared to the beginning of the pandemic,” Mahallati said.

Growing up in Pensacola, Fla., Mahallati usually begins her morning by going for a walk, exercising outside, or just taking in the beauty of the nature around her.

“I used to take my home for granted, but I now realize how lucky I am to live minutes from the water,” Mahallati said. “I usually turn my headphones off when I get to the water, so I can actually indulge in the sounds of the waves splashing, or the birds chirping around me. It makes my experience more memorable.”

Florida has an abundance of nature trails and hidden beaches throughout the state available for locals to visit. In Tallahassee, the Lafayette Heritage Trail Park is located adjacent to Tom Brown Park, another local hotspot in town. Accompanied by the Piney Z Lake, the Lafayette Heritage Trail Park offers its visitors a place to exercise, fish, bike, host a picnic, or simply enjoy the scenery. 

Map trail of Lafayette Park

Map of Lafayette Heritage Trail Park. Photo courtesy 

Most of America’s national parks and forests have reopened, although, how ethical and morally responsible is it to travel at a time like this?

Going on a hike while minimizing exposure to COVID-19 includes avoiding crowds, wearing a mask while encountering others at a crossing point, not taking unnecessary risks, respecting park closures, picking up your trash and overall being kind. If you have been exposed to COVID-19 or are showing any symptoms, you are expected to self-quarantine and follow CDC guidelines to not expose others to illness.

While venturing out — whether it is into the wilderness or to your local park — bring a mask just to be safe and practice social distancing. Use your best judgment while traveling, for instance, to a popular park. With visitors overcrowding an area, it is important to keep yourself and others safe. 

According to TIME, spending time as small as twenty minutes outdoors can impact your mental health and wellbeing. The article states, “Spending time outdoors, especially in green spaces, is one of the fastest ways to improve your health and happiness. It’s been shown to lower stress, blood pressure and heart rate while encouraging physical activity and buoying mood and mental health.”

Florida A&M University student Stephan Symonette took advantage of his extra time to explore the local parks and trails.

“I spent a lot of time going out to different parks in Tallahassee,” Symonette said. “I like Lake Jackson. I don’t think a lot of people know about it. Another park in Tallahassee is Lake Henrietta, it’s where I go to work out and run around. Whenever the gyms were closed, that was my go-to park to exercise and clear my head.” 

While visiting a new park, Symonette begins his exploration by stretching and admiring the surrounding beauty. He enjoys having lunch at the park, instead of eating at restaurants at the moment.

“I have had a newfound appreciation for going outside,” Symonette said. “For example, during Juneteenth, everyone was outside. It’s good to see everybody doing something we can be a part of rather than an event that charges everyone to be inside.”

Besides the aforementioned parks and greenways, you can find information here for locations to explore Tallahassee to the fullest extent. Pack a picnic, wear your comfiest walking shoes, stay hydrated and enjoy the nature hiding behind this college town.