By Louise Chawla
As an environmental psychologist who works to improve young people's access to nature, I recently completed a review that brings two bodies of research together: one on connecting children and adolescents with nature, and the second on supporting healthy coping when they realize they are part of a planet in peril.
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From broken buildings to uprooted trees, extreme weather can leave behind a lot of visible damage. But there is invisible damage, too. Many survivors face mental health struggles after a storm.
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If you're like many busy Americans, you may feel the need for an extra boost of energy to stay focused and perform at your best throughout the day. Whether you experience the age-old 3 p.m. slump at your desk, or you need an extra jolt to power through a morning workout, you may be looking for a natural way to increase your energy levels.
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By Gero Rueter
The science is clear. If we continue to emit greenhouse gases at the same rate we have been doing for the past decades, 80 years from now, our planet will be at least four degrees warmer than pre-industrial levels.
Figures Remain Incomprehensible<p>Although the findings of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports are unambiguous, many laypeople, as well as politicians, find their details hard to understand. This can impact the implementation of recommendations. Such, at least, is the conclusion reached by an international team of researchers who analyzed the IPCC reports.</p><p>Many struggle to picture a ton of the greenhouse gas CO2. Such figures "don't really reach the human psyche," Ernst said.</p><p>Yet dealing with CO2 is essential in the climate crisis, because the more <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/climatechange-emissions-fossilfuels-gdp-economy-renewables/a-55089013" target="_blank">greenhouse gases</a> there are in the air, the faster the earth warms up. CO2 is mainly produced by the burning of oil, coal and natural gas. In order to limit global warming to a maximum of two degrees, CO2 emissions need to be reduced as quickly as possible, and neutralized <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/european-parliament-confirms-2030-climate-target-to-cut-emissions/a-55197301" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">no later than 2050.</a> In order to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees, however, the world would have to become climate-neutral even sooner.</p><p>Christoph Nikendei, psychotraumatology expert at University Hospital in the southern German city of Heidelberg says it's important to use easy-to-understand figures, and to address the emotional brain so that climate change can become a real and tangible part of life.</p>
How Many Trees Need to Grow to Compensate for My Flight?<p>To stay with that example: One ton of CO2 is produced, for example, by burning 422 liters (111 gallons) of gasoline, which would allow a car to travel an average of 5,400 kilometers (3,355 miles).</p>
Collective Behavior: Silence and Repression<p>Another obstacle to tackling the climate crisis is repression, which is a very common psychological protection mechanism.</p><p>"People don't want to hear how bad things are, so they push it away. Smokers also do this when confronted with the consequences of their behavior," Ernst said, adding that many who don't want to deal with the climate issue, look away and leave it for others to solve.</p><p>Nikendei sees this behavior as a collective pattern of action: a <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/coronavirus-and-climate-change-collective-action-is-the-only-way-forward/a-53595386" target="_blank">collective social norm of silence</a>, and likens the reluctance to acknowledge the climate crisis to the social taboos of aging, illness and death.</p>
Rejection and Paralysis Can Be Overcome<p>Nikendei regards it as the role of psychologists to acknowledge this collective rejection and the emotions associated with it while simultaneously assisting the necessary change in values. This includes mourning the end of the fossil fuel era, recognizing one's own involvement in climate change and a shift in values towards cooperation over competition.</p><p>Excessive behavior in society needs to be replaced by more sharing, repairing and preserving, the psychotrauma expert says. Reconnecting with nature is also important. In pursuing this approach, he believes <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/psychology-behind-climate-inaction-how-to-beat-the-doom-barrier/a-48730230" target="_blank">psychologists can help</a> people to cope with the climate crisis and overcome feelings of fear, paralysis and helplessness.<br><br>More than a thousand psychologists and psychotherapists in Europe are trying to do just that with the Psychologists for Future network, says co-initiator Lea Dohm. "Our campaign has struck a nerve. Lots of people from all walks of life want our help in tackling the climate crisis."</p>
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By Pamela Davis-Kean
With in-person instruction becoming the exception rather than the norm, 54% of parents with school-age children expressed concern that their children could fall behind academically, according to a poll conducted over the summer of 2020. Initial projections from the Northwest Evaluation Association, which conducts research and creates commonly used standardized tests, suggest that these fears are well-grounded, especially for children from low-income families.
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By Gudrun Heise
"Although I hadn't used the stove at all, I touched every ring to check that it was off. Finally I had to keep telling myself: 'Off! Off! Off!'" Michaela says (her name has been changed by the editor).
Even when Michaela was a child, there were rituals that she always had to observe and from which her mind would not permit her to deviate. There were things that were simply not "allowed."
OCD Is a Common Illness<p>Checking compulsions often begin at a young age, but can also develop in adulthood. "It is a common mental illness, but it is usually not obvious because it is often made a taboo and concealed," says Wahl-Kordon.</p><p>Sometimes sufferers and the people around them do not really take the somewhat strange behavior seriously. People with this form of <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/are-obsessive-compulsive-disorders-amid-coronavirus-pandemic-on-the-rise/a-54567173" target="_blank">obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)</a> must first become aware that their behavior is not normal and be prepared to start treatment.</p>
One Step Forward, Two Steps Back<p>To find out whether someone has OCD, therapists usually work with various screening questions, such as: "Do you clean or wash extremely often? Are you often concerned with symmetries? Are there thoughts that do not let go of you?"</p><p>Wahl-Kordon says that "what is most significant is the intensity at which such actions are carried out and the time the sufferer actually spends on them or thinks about them," he says.</p><p>"With many sufferers, we can achieve very good results through behavioral therapy. Exposure and confrontation exercises are core elements here," Wahl-Kordon says.</p><p>Michaela has also been taking part in these kinds of therapies, which force her to permit situations that she fears and would otherwise try to avoid. They are meant to help her deal with her compulsions and fears, which often have their roots in the past.</p>
'I Thought It Was My Fault'<p>When Michaela was 16, her sister-in-law died at the age of just 28. For Michaela, this was a traumatic experience and one that triggered severe feelings of self-blame.</p><p>"About a week before my sister-in-law died, I told a friend of mine that there was nothing to look forward to and that I dreamed that my sister-in-law was in the cemetery behind the cemetery wall and could not get out. When my sister-in-law died, I blamed myself a lot. I thought it was because of me, because I had moaned so much for no reason," she says.</p><p>She still has these feelings of self-blame and fears some kind of punishment if she complains about something without there being an obvious reason. And it is just one of many fears that she has developed.</p>
Trouble Leaving the Apartment<p>Michaela studied law; during her time at university, her checking compulsion continued to accompany her and became a never-ending ordeal.</p><p>"My apartment had a kitchenette within sight of the bed. In the evening I always had to start checking from left to right to make sure that all appliances were turned off: stove, coffee maker and kettle. Had I pulled out all the plugs? Then check the fridge door again to see that it was really closed. Then I'd start all over again," she says.</p><p>Sometimes the whole procedure lasted several hours, she says, and on occasion she would go and sit outside the front door at 4 o'clock in the morning in desperation because she had not managed to go to bed.</p>
Checking the Checks<p>During her studies, Michaela met her husband. She immediately got him involved, asking him to help her with her checking. "My husband was my salvation back then. I asked him to do a very last follow-up check after my check-ups. This gave me the feeling that he had taken the responsibility from me in case something started to burn because I had forgotten to check everything thoroughly," she says.</p><p>For about 20 years, Michaela checked every evening whether her husband had checked everything properly — checking the checker, so to speak. Thanks to the therapy, this, too, has now improved.</p>
'I Was Afraid of Doing Everything Wrong'<p>Michaela was a specialist lawyer for criminal law and social law. She was on committees, gave lectures and received requests from various associations to join their boards of directors. She was a successful lawyer, at least on the outside. But her constant self-doubt and her checking compulsion made her life so difficult that she finally had to give up her profession.</p><p>"I was always just afraid of not doing anything right, of not being able to do anything, of being too stupid for everything, and thought that it was just a matter of chance that I had a particular position. In my work, I never felt as though I had done enough preparation," she says. "If, for example, I had an appointment at 2 p.m. on one day, it was not possible for me to do anything else that day. I always thought I had to prepare myself more and more and more for this one thing."</p><p> At some point, her fears increased so dramatically that she was no longer able to go in to work at the law firm at all.</p><p>"At some point, compulsions determine their entire lives," Wahl-Kordon says. "Some sufferers withdraw completely, no longer eat properly and lose weight. Those are the most serious cases — when everything revolves around the compulsions."</p>
More Than One Compulsion<p>In addition to her constant drive to check things, Michaela developed other compulsions. Compulsive hoarding is a particular problem for her. People with this form of OCD collect all sorts of things without any necessity or good reason: small notes, old receipts, papers that are no longer valid. Michaela even finds it difficult to part with daily newspapers.</p><p>After one three-week vacation, the newspapers piled up in the apartment, but throwing them away was impossible for her. After all, something important could be hidden somewhere among the countless pages, and then she wouldn't be able to find it again.</p><p>"It is incredibly difficult for me to throw something away. It takes me a very long time to put things in order. I never finish. There is simply no end. I always think that maybe I could use the things again sometime," Michaela says.</p><p>Your partner doing the cleaning and throwing things away does not work either, says Wahl-Kordon. "That can mean that the world collapses for the sufferer, so it doesn't work at all. Hoarding often has to do with objects that I associate with certain events or experiences and which I simply can't get rid of for that reason alone."</p><p>Disposing of those objects thus becomes a difficult and confronting task that the patient must tackle with the support of a psychotherapist. Often the compulsive need to hoard affects older people in particular. In severe cases, they literally become buried in clutter because they simply cannot bring themselves to throw things away.</p>
'But First I Have to Clean Up'<p>Michaela always tries to organize and prepare everything as perfectly as possible and have control over as many things as she can — even when she had suicidal thoughts because her condition was becoming too much for her.</p><p>"It was on a Sunday, and I had actually managed to organize replacements for my appointments for the entire coming week," she relates. After all, she was planning to not be alive the following week. But then, she says, her husband came home unexpectedly and thwarted her plans.</p><p>"Later, I always thought that I couldn't ever kill myself because I would have to clean up first. The thought of someone tampering with my things is simply unbearable for me!" she says.</p>
New Perspectives<p>Michaela has now taken up other forms of employment, including teaching social law to special education teachers. This is easier for her than her work as a lawyer. She can engage with it in a completely different way and sometimes even uses herself as an example.</p><p>After all, aspiring teachers must learn to deal with disabled people like her, she says. She says everyone in her environment knows about her obsessive-compulsive disorder — with the exception of her family.</p><p>In recent years, she has undergone trauma therapy, depression therapy and exposure therapy, which have helped. "I still check the stove and the refrigerator. I still have to do everything right. I'm still afraid that I am doing everything wrong. But compared to the way it used to be, everything is much, much better now."</p>
By Jamie Smith Hopkins
Disasters are stressful. Our warming world keeps adding fuel to the fires — and floods and hurricanes, among other calamities. What can be done about the trauma that follows?
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The psychological toll of climate change-fueled disasters, now compounded by the coronavirus pandemic, is mounting and the U.S. is unprepared. These are the findings of a project by the Center for Public Integrity and Columbia Journalism Investigations, in collaboration with 10 local and regional outlets.
One of the best things you can do for your child's well-being may be to raise them somewhere green.
<div id="c0d26" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="03960567cbd8baf0b578ce25926363b1"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1296116607794794496" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">In their latest publication, Esmée M Bijnens and colleagues reveal beneficial effects of a green environment on a c… https://t.co/vk8uzysUyh</div> — PLOS Medicine (@PLOS Medicine)<a href="https://twitter.com/PLOSMedicine/statuses/1296116607794794496">1597853254.0</a></blockquote></div>
By Farah Aqel
Overthinkers are people who are buried in their own obsessive thoughts. Imagine being in a large maze where each turn leads into an even deeper and knottier tangle of catastrophic, distressing events — that is what it feels like to them when they think about the issues that confront them.
Ruminating<p>According to the late Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, a professor of psychology at Yale University, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5796420/" target="_blank">ruminating</a> involves replaying a problem over and over in your mind. We ruminate by obsessing over our thoughts and thinking repetitively about various aspects of a past situation.</p><p>It usually involves regret, self-loathing and self-blaming. Rumination is associated with the development of depression, anxiety and eating disorders. </p><p>People prone to such patterns of thought may, for example, overanalyze every single detail of a relationship that breaks up. They often blame themselves for what has happened and are overcome with regret, with typical thoughts being: </p><p>- I should have been more patient and more supportive. </p><p>- I have lost the most perfect partner ever. </p><p>- No one will love me again.</p>
Worrying<p>Worrying is wanting to predict the future. It involves negative thoughts about things that might and might not happen.</p><p>- They'll not like me in the interview; they'll not give me the job. </p><p>- I haven't heard back from other employers. How long will I be unemployed?</p><p>These thoughts are energy-draining and distressing. They could happen to anyone under stress. But when you reach the point where your thoughts and worrying are preventing you from doing what you want to do — from living your life to the fullest — then you should take action.</p>
Catch Yourself Overthinking<p>Reuben Berger, a psychotherapist at the university hospital in the western German city of Bonn, recommends several practical steps that you could employ in your daily routine when you catch yourself worrying or ruminating.</p><p>One effective remedy, says Berger, is the <a href="https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/uf9938" target="_blank">thought-stopping technique.</a></p><p>"When the negative thoughts come or ruminations start, you say to yourself: 'Stop!,'" he says, adding that it is more effective when you actually say the word out loud.</p><p>He even recommends having a rubber band around your wrist to ping against yourself while saying the word. Adding a visual component by imagining a stop sign also makes the technique more powerful, he says.</p><p>The main idea here is conditioning yourself to stop the loop of worrying (making future predictions) or rumination (obsessing over past events).</p><p>Berger says the technique could take up to two weeks to take effect and that it needs to be practiced every day. "Consistency is very important," he says. </p>
Thoughts Are Just Thoughts<p>Another way of dealing with negative thoughts often used in modern therapy is realizing that thoughts aren't facts, says Berger.</p><p>He says it is important when we think something to ask: Is that real? Did that really happen? What is the worst thing that could happen?</p><p>Flight anxiety is one example where untrue thoughts are accepted as facts. Although air travel is the safest way to get around, people suffering from fear of flying accept their thoughts and fears as reality, then act upon them by refusing to fly.</p>
Mindfulness<p>Berger also recommends the use of mindfulness techniques, in which attention is paid to experiences in the moment without judging them, as a way of reducing worrying.</p><p>"Mindfulness helps you to distance yourself from your thoughts and to be more present in the moment," he says.</p><p><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3432145/#R2" target="_blank">Several studies</a> have shown that mindfulness has a positive impact on reducing stress-related behaviors such as rumination and worrying, as focusing on the moment makes anxiety about other problems impossible.</p><p>Mindfulness can be practiced during routine activities by paying attention to your body and your surroundings. For instance, when you leave for work in the morning, you can focus on sensing the breeze, listen attentively to birds, feel the gravel under your feet and monitor your breath. </p>
Trick Your Brain Into Happiness<p>People plagued by obsessive thoughts do not always choose healthy ways like mindfulness to distract from them, however.</p><p> Dr. Edward Selby, a psychologist at Florida state university, has shown in a study that people try to avoid rumination by engaging in a range of uncontrolled behaviors, such as binge eating and substance abuse.</p><p>But he says that a much better way to overcome such distress is by distraction and shifting attention away from problems that are obsessing us.</p><p>There are many activities that can be used to distract from rumination, he says, and people should choose the one that works best for them. Here are some examples:</p><p>- Listen to music</p><p>- Read a book</p><p>- Take a hot shower</p><p>- Dance or exercise </p><p>- Talk to a friend (not about the problem)</p><p>- Watch a movie</p><p>- Mindfulness meditation</p>
Changing the Perception of Events<p>The way people perceive a situation largely influences their emotions and behavior. It is not the situation itself that determines how they feel, but rather the way they interpret it.</p><p>Reframing negative thoughts can lead to positive emotions and, subsequently, healthier behaviors — including a reduction in damaging overthinking and worrying.</p><p>Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is currently a gold standard in psychotherapy. CBT aims to change the way people think and act. It largely involves challenging unhelpful beliefs or attitudes such as overgeneralization — thinking "I always fail at public speaking" when you have had one bad experience in front of an audience, for example — or "catastrophization," i.e., imagining the worst possible outcome to a situation. </p><p>A psychotherapist can teach people how to implement such thought-changing techniques into their lives. Techniques vary depending on their issues and goals.</p>
Solutions Are at Hand<p>Try to find ways of avoiding worrying, rumination and overthinking that make you feel most comfortable.</p><p>Incorporating any routine in your life when you're stressed isn't an easy task, but you can do it! If you feel overwhelmed, you can always seek professional help. </p><p><em>If you are suffering from serious emotional strain or suicidal thoughts, do not hesitate to seek professional help. You can find information on where to find such help, no matter where you live in the world, <a href="https://www.befrienders.org/" target="_blank">at this website.</a></em></p>
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By Joe Roman and Taylor Ricketts
The COVID-19 pandemic in the United States is the deepest and longest period of malaise in a dozen years. Our colleagues at the University of Vermont have concluded this by analyzing posts on Twitter. The Vermont Complex Systems Center studies 50 million tweets a day, scoring the "happiness" of people's words to monitor the national mood. That mood today is at its lowest point since 2008 when they started this project.
The Hedonometer measures happiness through analysis of key words on Twitter, which is now used by one in five Americans. This chart covers 18 months from early 2019 to July 2020, showing major dips in 2020. hedonometer.org<p>These same tweets also indicate a potential salve. Before pandemic lockdowns began, doctoral student <a href="https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=0P0ZYbIAAAAJ&hl=en" target="_blank">Aaron Schwartz</a> <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/pan3.10045" target="_blank">compared tweets before, during, and after visits to 150 parks, playgrounds and plazas</a> in San Francisco. He found that park visits corresponded with a spike in happiness, followed by an afterglow lasting up to four hours.</p><p>Tweets from parks contained fewer negative words such as "no," "not" and "can't," and fewer first-person pronouns like "I" and "me." It seems that nature makes people more positive and less self-obsessed.</p><p>Parks keep people happy in times of global crisis, economic shutdown and public anger. Research has also shown that transmission rates for COVID-19 are <a href="https://www.sfchronicle.com/news/article/Is-risk-of-coronavirus-transmission-lower-15287602.php" target="_blank">much lower outdoors than inside</a>. As scholars who study <a href="https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=yFzb2EUAAAAJ&hl=en" target="_blank">conservation</a> and how nature <a href="https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=CCnUeN8AAAAJ&hl=en" target="_blank">contributes to human well-being</a>, we see opening up parks and creating new ones as a straightforward remedy for Americans' current blues.</p>
Park Visits Are Up During the Pandemic<p>According to the Hedonometer, sentiments expressed online started trending lower in mid-March as the impacts of the pandemic became clear. As lockdowns continued, they registered the lowest sentiment scores on record. Then in late May, effects from George Floyd's death in police custody and the following protests and police response once again could be seen on Twitter. May 31, 2020 was the saddest day of the project.</p><p>Recent surveys of park visitors around the University of Vermont have shown people <a href="https://osf.io/preprints/socarxiv/sd3h6" target="_blank">using green spaces more</a> since COVID-19 lockdowns began. Many people reported that parks were highly important to their well-being during the pandemic.</p>
<div id="4c7e4" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="bc0ac146ab2a94228f32d973fc2ab272"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1289428912879964160" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">#Goldengatepark #sf #quarantinemood https://t.co/9l3ufnbkt6</div> — Suvd (@Suvd)<a href="https://twitter.com/Suvd19486406/statuses/1289428912879964160">1596258783.0</a></blockquote></div><p>The powerful effects of nature are strongest in large parks with more trees, but smaller neighborhood parks also provide a significant boost. Their impact on happiness is real, measurable and lasting.</p><p>Twitter records show that parks increase happiness to a level similar to the bounce at Christmas, which typically is the happiest day of the year. Schwartz has since expanded his <a href="https://arxiv.org/pdf/2006.10658.pdf" target="_blank">Twitter study</a> to the 25 largest cities in the U.S. and found this bounce everywhere.</p><p>Parks and public spaces won't cure COVID-19 or stop police brutality, but they are far more than playgrounds. There is growing evidence that parks contribute to mental and physical health in a range of communities.</p><p>In a 2015 study, for example, Stanford researchers sent people out for one of two walks: through a local park or on a busy street. Those who walked in nature showed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.landurbplan.2015.02.005" target="_blank">improved moods and better memory performance</a> compared to the urban group. And a team led by <a href="https://penniur.upenn.edu/people/eugenia-gina-south" target="_blank">Gina South</a> of the University of Pennsylvania showed in a 2018 study that greening and cleaning up blighted vacant lots in Philadelphia <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2018.0298" target="_blank">reduced local residents' feelings of depression, worthlessness and poor mental health</a>.</p>
Creative Strategies<p>It isn't easy to create new parks on the scale of San Francisco's Golden Gate Park or the Washington Mall, but smaller projects can expand outdoor space. Options include greening vacant lots, closing streets and investing in existing parks to make them safer, greener and shadier and support wildlife.</p><p>These initiatives don't have to be capital-intensive. In the University of Pennsylvania study, for example, renovating a vacant lot by removing trash, planting grass and trees and installing a low fence cost only about US$1,600.</p><p>Urban green space is most needed in neighborhoods that have lacked funding for parks, especially given <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/08/nyregion/coronavirus-race-deaths.html" target="_blank">COVID-19's disproportionate impact on Black and Latinx people</a>.</p><p>Cities can also create parklike spaces by <a href="https://theconversation.com/with-fewer-cars-on-us-streets-now-is-the-time-to-reinvent-roadways-and-how-we-use-them-140408" target="_blank">closing streets to cars</a>. Many cities worldwide are currently retooling their transportation systems for the post-COVID-19 world in order to <a href="https://thecityfix.com/blog/bicycles-slower-speeds-livable-city-paris-mayor-anne-hidalgo-plans-ambitious-second-term-dario-hidalgo/" target="_blank">reallocate public space</a>, widen sidewalks and make more space for nature.</p><p>Urban designers, artists, ecologists and other citizens can play a direct role, too, creating pop-up parks and green spaces. Some advocates <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-09-15/a-brief-history-of-park-ing-day" target="_blank">transform parking spaces into mini-parks</a> with grass, potted trees and seating for just the time on the meter, to make a larger point about turning so much public space over to cars.</p><p>Or cities can invest a little more. Minneapolis, Cincinnati and Arlington, Virginia, have won <a href="https://www.tpl.org/parkscore" target="_blank">national recognition</a> for their ambitious investments in public park systems. These areas could serve as models for neighborhoods that lack access to parks.</p>
<div id="25fd0" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="383f0d2df0237e9359c30dcce6cd6c42"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1276558744835379201" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Looking to safely get outside? Check out the best parks for social distancing in this year's top ten ParkScore citi… https://t.co/HJjEtDsrTD</div> — The Trust for Public Land (@The Trust for Public Land)<a href="https://twitter.com/tpl_org/statuses/1276558744835379201">1593190296.0</a></blockquote></div>
A New Park Deal?<p>The United States has historically driven economic recovery with major infrastructure investments, like the New Deal in the 1930s and the 2009 <a href="https://www.investopedia.com/terms/a/american-recovery-and-reinvestment-act.asp" target="_blank">American Reinvestment and Recovery Act</a>. Such investments could easily include nature-positive spaces.</p><p>Parks are not panaceas, as evidenced by the widely publicized <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/06/nyregion/amy-cooper-false-report-charge.html" target="_blank">racist confrontation between a white woman and a Black birder</a> in New York's Central Park in early July. But Hedonometer data add to a <a href="https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/5/7/eaax0903?utm_source=miragenews&utm_medium=miragenews&utm_campaign=news" target="_blank">growing body of evidence</a> that they provide <a href="https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1807504116" target="_blank">clear mental health benefits</a>. Creating and expanding parks also <a href="https://www.nrpa.org/contentassets/f568e0ca499743a08148e3593c860fc5/economic-impact-study-summary.pdf" target="_blank">generates jobs and economic activity</a>, with much of the money spent locally.</p><p>We believe investments in nature are well worth it, offering both short-term solace in difficult times and long-term benefits to health, economies and communities.</p>
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A study from a hospital in Milan, Italy has uncovered another complication to the process of recovering from the new coronavirus. More than half of patients surveyed one month after their treatment had developed a psychiatric disorder.
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For some combat veterans, the Fourth of July is not a time to celebrate the independence of the country they love. Instead, the holiday is a terrifying ordeal. That's because the noise of fireworks – loud, sudden, and reminiscent of war – rocks their nervous system. Daily fireworks in many U.S. cities in recent weeks have no doubt been interfering with the sleep and peace of mind of thousands of veterans.
What Is PTSD?<p><a href="https://theconversation.com/veterans-refugees-and-victims-of-war-crimes-are-all-vulnerable-to-ptsd-130144" target="_blank">PTSD</a> can occur when someone is exposed to extreme exposure traumatic experience. Typically, the trauma involves a threat of death, serious injury, or sexual violence. Along with war veterans, it happens to refugees; to victims of gun violence, rape and other physical assaults; and to survivors of car accidents and natural disasters like earthquakes or tornadoes.</p><p>PTSD can also happen by witnessing trauma or its aftermath, often the case with <a href="https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/ptsd/what-is-ptsd" target="_blank">first responders</a> and <a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-many-faces-anxiety-and-trauma/202006/invisible-wounds-the-frontline-heroes" target="_blank">front-line workers</a>.</p><p>All this adds up to tens of millions of Americans. Up to 30% of combat veterans and first responders, and 8% of civilians, <a href="https://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/treat/essentials/epidemiology.asp" target="_blank">fulfill the diagnostic criteria for PTSD</a>. And that criteria is not easily met: symptoms of PTSD include nightmares, flashbacks, intrusive trauma memories, difficulty sleeping, avoidance of reminders of trauma, negative emotions, and what we call "hyperarousal symptoms."</p>
Fireworks Can Trigger Flashbacks<p>Hyperarousal, a core component of PTSD, occurs when a person is hyper-alert to any sign of threat – constantly on edge, easily startled and continuously screening the environment.</p><p>Imagine, for instance, stepping down the stairs in the dark after hearing a noise; you're worried an intruder might be downstairs. Then a totally unpredictable loud sound explodes right outside your window.</p><p>For people with PTSD, that sound – reminiscent of gunfire, a thunderstorm or a car crash – <a href="https://theconversation.com/veterans-refugees-and-victims-of-war-crimes-are-all-vulnerable-to-ptsd-130144" target="_blank">can cause</a> a panic attack or trigger flashbacks, a sensory experience that makes it seem as if the old trauma is happening here and now. Flashbacks can be so severe that combat veterans may suddenly drop to the ground, the same way they would when an explosion took place in combat. Later, the experience can trigger nightmares, insomnia or worsening of other PTSD symptoms.</p><p>Those of us who set off fireworks need to ask ourselves: Are those few minutes of fun worth the hours, days, or weeks of torment that will begin for some of our friends and neighbors – including many who put their lives on the line to protect us?</p>
Who Else Is Affected?<p>Millions of others, though not diagnosed with PTSD, may similarly be affected by fireworks. <a href="https://adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics" target="_blank">One in five Americans</a> have an anxiety disorder, many with symptoms of hyperarousal. Also impacted are those with autism or developmental disabilities; they find it difficult to cope with the noise, or just the drastic change from life routines. Then there are people who have to work, holiday or not: nurses, physicians and first responders, who have to be up at 4 a.m. for a 30-hour shift.</p><h3>How to Reduce the Negative Impact</h3><p>There are ways to reduce how fireworks affect others:</p><ul><li>For those with PTSD, the unexpected nature of fireworks is probably the worst part. So at least make it as predictable as possible. Do it in designated areas during designated times. Don't explode one, for instance, two hours after the designated time window. And avoid setting them off <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/jul/04/fireworks-ptsd-fourth-of-july-veterans-shooting-survivors" target="_blank">on the 3rd</a>. People are less prepared then.</li><li>If you're aware that a veteran or trauma survivor lives in the neighborhood, move the noise as far as possible from their home and give them prior warning. Consider putting a sign in your front yard noting the time you'll set the fireworks.</li><li>Remember, it doesn't have to be super loud to make it fun. Consider using <a href="https://thehill.com/opinion/energy-environment/504964-its-time-for-silent-fireworks" target="_blank">silent fireworks</a>. And you don't have to be the one who lights the fireworks. Simply enjoy watching while your city or township does it safely.</li></ul>
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