A recent Ipsos poll conducted for Nature Conservancy Canada (NCC) confirms what many suspected: Canadians are indeed turning to nature in significant numbers to help them cope with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The poll found 94 per cent of Canadians acknowledge that nature is helping them relieve stress or anxiety.
It also indicates 86 per cent of Canadians agree spending time in nature is important to their mental health during the pandemic.
The trend is especially prevalent among women and young families.
According to Ipsos, Canadians are reporting a greater awareness of nature in their lives since the pandemic began.
The survey is also one of the first to try to measure the correlation between getting out in nature and the mental well-being of Canadians during the pandemic.
The NCC says the findings reinforce the inextricable connection between nature and health with an abundance of clean air, clean water and healthy foods the great outdoors has to offer.
“A lot of people are feeling stressed and anxious and we know the outdoors has the benefit of making people feel happier, healthier and more productive,” said Carys Richards, NCC communications manager.
The survey coincides with the conclusion of the NCC’s Landmark Campaign — which it says was “the boldest fundraising drive for nature ever in Canada.”
The campaign resulted in 115,000 square kilometres being protected, an area two-and-a-half times the size of Wood Buffalo National Park in Alberta, the largest national park in Canada.
“NCC’s Landmark Campaign has delivered conservation results just when Canadians need it the most,” said Tom Lynch-Staunton, Alberta regional vice president of the NCC.
“This amazing conservation achievement has inspired Albertans and Canadians to invest in nature and wouldn’t have been possible without the support out of our amazing donors, partners, landowners and volunteers,” he adds.
Professor John Zelenski from the University of Carleton studies the psychology of well-being and personality, in particular how nature promotes happiness.
He says spending more time outdoors has numerous short- and even long-term benefits for health.
“Over time, people who feel a sense of connection with nature, and who spend more of their moments in nature, also tend to report overall happiness.
“So a greater satisfaction with life, greater sense of meaning and purpose in life even and certainly many of those positive emotions,” Zelenski explained.
Curtis Goodman, a resource development coordinator with the Helen Schuler Nature Centre in Lethbridge says more people than ever before are enjoying the trails along the river valley.
“Currently the nature centre facility is closed to the public, but we have shifted most of our efforts outdoors onto the trails and are providing all types of trail-based activities to support the major increase in trail usage that we’re noticing throughout our river valley,” said Goodman.
He adds when staff are out on the trails, they’ve noticed people generally appear to be quite upbeat and happy.