Spending time outdoors helps maintain mental wellness during the stay-at-home order
by Carrie Steinweg
LANSING, Ill. (April 3, 2020) – We’ve all been spending a lot of time inside these days. Some of us are on our third week of social distancing, with several more weeks likely ahead. While staying far away from others is what’s good for physical health at the moment, not getting outdoors at all can negatively impact your mental health.
Jean Lubeckis, LMHC, LCPC FEAP Therapist with Franciscan Health is a big advocate of spending time outdoors to create a good sense of mental well-being. “Being outdoors improves mood and improves your focus,” said Lubeckis. “I often ride my bike to work in nice weather, and I can tell you for a fact that I am upbeat, energized, and think positively when I arrive. It is noticeably different than exercising at home or in the gym and then driving to work.”
If you’re feeling down during this quarantine, Lubeckis suggests taking a break from electronics and talking a walk. “Be more mindful of the beauty around us. I took a walk at lunch today and paid close attention to the beautiful blue sky, white clouds, and sun. I felt the breeze, and all that mattered was I was alone with myself in a safe and beautiful space. It is a great way to take a break from COVID-19.” Just remember to stay 6 feet apart even while you’re outside on the trails.
Lansing and neighboring towns offer plenty of places to get outdoors for some fresh air and a walk. Here are photos and descriptions of 9:
1. Lansing Woods (186th Street east of Torrence)
Part of the Forest Preserves of Cook County and the Thorn Creek Trail System, this paved path has a bridge that crosses the creek and some pretty wooded scenery.
2. Pennsy Greenway
The Pennsy Greenway is a rail trail that runs from Calumet City into Schererville, measuring over 9 miles. Use it for walking or bicycling—there are several access points within Lansing.
3. North Creek Meadow (Glenwood-Lansing Road west of Torrence)
Take a walk on this paved trail that is also part of the Thorn Creek Trail System and keep your eyes peeled for deer and other wildlife.
4. Wampum Lake (Thornton-Lansing Road, west of I-394)
While there’s no paved walking trail here, a lap around the large parking lot is 3/4 of a mile. Take your lunch there and eat at one of the picnic benches (bring disinfectant wipes and a tablecloth) while you watch the geese and ducks in the lake or do some fishing.
5. Sweet Woods (183rd Street and Cottage Grove Avenue, Glenwood)
Sweet Woods is part of the Thorn Creek Trail System, which runs through Calumet City, Chicago Heights, Glenwood, Lansing, Lynwood, Park Forest, and South Holland.
6. Lansing Veterans Memorial (Glenwood-Lansing Road and Burnham)
Take a little time to get outside and view the memorial at the Lansing Municipal Airport, dedicated to veterans with local ties who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. It’s not a long walk, but it’s meaningful.
7. Centennial Park (Centennial Drive and Calumet Avenue, Munster)
Take a scenic walk around Maynard Lake on a paved walking path.
8. Community Veterans Memorial (9710 Calumet Avenue, Munster)
This 6.5 acre park includes life-sized statues and monuments along a chronological path depicting scenes of the major conflicts of the 20th century. It is a somber yet inspiring place to walk and reflect.
9. Your own neighborhood
Don’t forget that walking around your own neighborhood can also be a healthy and fun option. As more and more people are working from home or self-quarantining, strolling around the block can be an opportunity to wave and smile at your neighbors or exchange sidewalk-to-porch greetings.
Walking or simply being outside is an activity that can benefit people of all ages. The more adventurous might choose a daily excursion no matter what type of weather is forecast—splashing in puddles, battling wind, and increasing the pace to stay warm when the temperature drops can all be part of a healthy workout. Others might choose only sunny-day outings. But any dose of the outdoors can offer mental health benefits that are important not only during quarantine, but also in any stressful situation.
For now, remember to maintain a safe social distance even while you’re enjoying a breath of fresh air.