November 5, 2022

Connecting with the natural, wild and open spaces in Southern California can improve your well-being.

New studies on the advantages of interacting with nature are published every year, increasing the empirical evidence that nature provides measurable benefits to people. Recent scientific studies have focused on the positive effects on mental processes, cognitive ability, physical health and social interaction. There are published papers contending that increased time in green spaces reduce crime rates, violence and increase social cohesion. Recently, much has been written on how direct connections with nature can reduce anxiety and improve our mood.

Perhaps you experienced this for yourself during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic when our communities were locked down and it was impossible to have dinner in a restaurant, go to the movie theater or even visit a friend. Many people went for long walks in their neighborhoods or in nearby green spaces, making it possible to wave to neighbors from a distance and spend more time viewing wildlife and the habitats they make their home. As the possible negative impacts on public mental health caused by the pandemic continue, perhaps we need nature now more than ever.

At Rivers & Lands Conservancy we hope you will look to this space monthly to discover ways you can connect with nature and reap those benefits. The California Floristic Province, a biodiversity hotspot that covers most of the state is one of only 33 other hotspots in the world. Within this diversity of plants and wildlife, there are numerous species and habitats that can be found nowhere else. This is true even within the region of Inland Southern California. There is much to experience and explore.

In this column, you will find ways to create wild spaces around your home, attracting native birds, butterflies and pollinators. You do not have to travel to experience the physical and mental benefits of creating your own native garden. There are also some excellent examples of native gardens in the region to gather ideas, volunteer to enhance and then bring your experiences into your own garden.

There are many opportunities to create wild spaces in our communities and we’ll be sharing the ways you can get involved and discover landscapes you might not have known existed. It is important to value the open spaces available in our region. Yet, helping to restore a coast live oak woodland, beautifying a stretch of wetlands or participating in the development of a community garden increases that value. When we physically interact with open spaces, we feel ownership, pride and our spirits lift. We could all use more uplifting moments.

There are also possibilities for youth to get involved and discover their own connections to nature. Everyone associated with Rivers & Lands Conservancy and our partner environmental organizations have an origin story for their passion for wild places. Most of us can point to a single experience in nature.

Open space matters and matters especially to our youth, because the best lessons are solo adventures and those only happen in exploration. Places to explore are invaluable. Developing a connection with nature in our youth can give us a place to reset and manage our stressful lives as adults. It may even present career possibilities children have not yet considered. Our experiences with open space contribute to our well-being and leading youth onto it contributes to our future.

I hope you will look to this column to find possibilities for your own adventures and for the children in your life. Nature needs us to help restore it and we need nature to restore ourselves. So, let’s get outside.


Rivers & Lands Conservancy connects our community to natural, wild, and open spaces of Southern California through land conservation, stewardship, and education.