The Covid pandemic has engendered a new appreciation for time spent in nature, even for outdoorsy Vermonters. The attraction goes beyond it being a relatively Covid-safe space for social interaction, important as that is these days. There’s just something about being outside in nature that makes us feel better. And as any Vermonter will tell you, that’s especially true after a long cold winter.

Let’s Get Outside! Town Hall Tells Vermonters Where to Go in Mud Season

The next virtual Town Hall from COVID Support VT will explore the rich recreational opportunities the Green Mountain State offers – even in the depths of our infamous fifth season. Panelists from some of Vermont’s favorite outdoor organizations will be on hand to share insider tips and secrets. Their collective goal is to help families enjoy the best of Vermont safely and sustainably. 

“Let’s Get Outside: Recreational Opportunities in Vermont” airs live April 27 at 6:30 p.m. Partners include the Green Mountain Club, Kids VT, the Upper Valley Trails Alliance, the Center for Community GIS, the Stowe Land Trust, the Stowe Area Association, and the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation.

Evidence Grows for Mental Health Benefits of Getting Outside in Nature 

Most of humanity seems to recognize intuitively that getting out in nature is good for your mental health. It just feels good. Science has come a long way to understanding why that is. One theory is that we were wired that way by evolution. Homo sapiens, that thinking goes, evolved in the forests and savannas, not in cities. As a result, we’re genetically programmed to gravitate to nature. The disconnection from nature of today’s sprawling modern cities is increasingly seen as an important modifiable factor in promoting healthier urban environments and happier people.

Solid evidence links time spent in natural spaces with increased happiness and a range of other psychological and health benefits. These include reducing stress, improving sleep, and promoting positive social interaction. Many studies also show benefits for reducing depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders. Even our sense of purpose in life – a personality feature repeatedly linked to well-being and longevity – seems to gain a boost from time outside.

Is Getting Outside the Antidote to the Covid Blues?

A number of factors may explain these benefits. Getting outdoors usually involves some level of physical activity, one of the pillars of mental well-being. Another pillar is social interaction; being outside offers opportunities to do that safely. There’s also a restorative aspect to being immersed in a completely different sensory environment than we are used to in our indoor spaces. 

In a pandemic that has had many people isolated and anxious for more than a year, all that matters. Safely distanced outdoor activities can provide a critical outlet for self-care, exercise, social connectedness, and just plain fun. 

“People are just happy to be outside,” says Alicia DiCocco, Director of Development & Communications for the Green Mountain Club, recalling her own past hikes up Vermont’s peaks. “It really is a magical thing to be up on a mountain, to be that far removed from your Zoom meetings. It’s almost like you’re above the chaos.” 

Insider Tips for Getting Outside from Vermont’s Outdoor Enthusiasts

DiCocco says the Green Mountain Club has seen a 35 percent uptick in trail use across Vermont’s Long Trail system. Reservations for some popular spots, like the Camel’s Hump tent site, are up 100 percent and more. During the Town Hall, she will share recommendations for mud season hiking, when wet trails are prone to damage. That includes trails on Camel’s Hump, where hikers need to wait till after the mud dries. (Watch this space for an upcoming Guest Blog from DiCocco.)

Kids Vermont Managing Editor Alison Novak is also a Town Hall speaker. Her talk will focus on outdoor explorations that are engaging for kids and give some purpose to a family outing. She’ll describe destinations with built-in interactions that fit the bill as well as family-friendly adventures such as story walks or geocaching. (Watch this space for an upcoming Guest Blog from Novak.)

Town Hall Speakers Tell Us How, When and Where to Get Outside in Vermont

The full line-up of speakers for the Town Hall: 

“Let’s Get Outside: Recreational Opportunities in Vermont” is the third in COVID Support VT’s monthly Town Hall series. You can watch recordings of past Town Halls, on Chittenden County Housing Assistance and Food Access in the Northeast Kingdom, here.


Need to talk? 

Call 2-1-1 (option #2) or 866-652-4636 (option #2) for free, confidential, one-on-one counseling. Our Support Counselors are available Monday – Friday. 

In crisis? 

If you or someone you care for is experiencing thoughts of suicide or self-harm, you can: call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-825;  text VT to 741741 to connect with a Crisis Counselor 24/7; connect with your local community mental health agency for 24/7 support 

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Learn about upcoming Wellness Workshops from COVID Support VT, and Town Halls we’re hosting in partnership with community organizations.

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COVID Support VT is funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and Federal Emergency Management Agency, managed by Vermont’s Departments of Emergency Management and Mental Health, and administered by Vermont Care Partners, a statewide network of 16 non-profit community-based agencies providing mental health, substance use, and intellectual and developmental disability services and supports. 

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