Most people would acknowledge that being out in nature makes them feel good. But research now shows that this feeling is more than just anecdotal—it may be backed by science. In fact, studies show that being in nature decreases stress, relieves attention fatigue, increases creativity and makes us happier! Studies also show that nature makes us feel more alive and that it can help us to be kinder and more generous. But what is it about being out in nature that makes us feel so good?

Being in nature gives me time to gather my thoughts together before I get back into reality–it’s a real break from the level of noise in the rest of life. Savannah, age 16

When I’m out in nature, I feel more free. Leah, age 16

The quiet and the space make me feel peaceful. Diamond, age 17

Community of Unity programs have always included an outdoor education component. But with a global pandemic and the move to online learning for most NYC students, it has been particularly important for our program participants to get outside. Understanding the need, not only for in-person human interaction, but for access to the outdoors, we now take students on weekly nature hikes both in and outside of the city. As we move into winter, we are so thankful for our partnership with the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Youth Opportunities Project (YOP), which gives us access to all the gear we could possibly need—from jackets, to backpacks, and even hiking boots—so that we can hike in a range of weather conditions and temperatures.

Nature isn’t easily accessible for everyone, particularly in the youth populations we work with. The global pandemic has made certain discrepancies more glaring than ever before. As we have become more and more aware that our students’ needs cannot be met entirely through a screen, we’ve shifted our approach so that we can bring nature and (all of its scientifically proven benefits) to all of our students during these times—when connection and opportunities to de-stress are more important than ever.