Embrace green spaces, shut screens to keep lockdown blues at bay

London, Jan 10 (IANS) If you want to beat lockdown and social distancing blues, head to green spaces and switch off TV, computer and smartphone as this will dramatically improve your mental health, say researchers, including one of Indian-origin, as several countries including the UK impose fresh restrictions amid surge in Covid numbers.

Being outdoors, particularly in green spaces, can improve mental health by promoting more positive body image, and lowering levels of depression and anxiety.

A new study, published in the Journal of Happiness Studies, said that spending time outdoors and switching off our devices is associated with higher levels of happiness during a period of Covid-19 restrictions.

“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,” said co-lead author Viren Swami, Professor of Social Psychology at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU).

“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”.

Jointly led by academics from Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) in the UK, the Karl Landsteiner University of Health Sciences in Austria, and Perdana University in Malaysia, new research examined how levels of happiness during a national lockdown were affected by being outdoors, the amount of daily screen time and feelings of loneliness.

Using an experience sampling method (ESM), the researchers measured levels of happiness amongst a group of 286 adults three times a day, at random intervals, over a 21-day period.

This allowed the participants to provide data in real-time rather than retrospectively, helping to avoid recall biases.

The team found that levels of happiness were higher when participants were outdoors rather than indoors.

In addition, more daily screen time and higher levels of loneliness were both associated with lower levels of happiness.

The impact of loneliness on happiness was also weaker when participants were outdoors.

“While lockdowns can help slow down the transmission of Covid-19, research has also shown that prolonged periods of lockdown take their toll on mental health,” Swami said.

“Our findings have practical health policy implications. Given that further lockdown restrictions have now become necessary in the UK, public health messages that promote getting some fresh air instead of staying indoors and staring at our screens could really help to lift people’s mood this winter,” Swami elaborated.

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