One Disney Imagineer's Secret for Thriving at Home

April 22, 2020, 2:04 PM · It's Earth Day — more than that, it's the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, which started when a US Senator from Wisconsin encouraged "teach-ins" on college campuses nationwide to raise awareness for the need to protect the planet's environment.

Earth Day is also the anniversary of Disney's Animal Kingdom, which opened on April 22, 1998. The park's creative director, Disney Imagineer Joe Rohde, shared an Earth Day message today — one focused on the sense of isolation from our environment that many of us might be feeling as we remain sheltered in our homes.

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I love Joe's message, because it unlocks a secret to cultivating our own mental health, as well as the health of our planet. We might be compelled to stay at home in order to slow the spread of a global virus, but social distancing does not require social isolation. Indeed, being kept from our old routines gives us an opportunity to establish fresh connections to the world around us.

Think about how isolated we might have been in our old routines. Driving alone in a car to a job, where we sit in front of screen or with the same group of people all day. Lunch in a break room or at your desk. Back in the car for another solo drive home.

This is why so many of us cherish our vacations and theme park trips. Those provide us the chance to connect — with people, with an onslaught of physical stimuli, even with the thrill of plunging down a 300-foot roller coaster drop. We love getting out because it's those connections that help us to feel alive.

Joe's message, ultimately, is to look for a fresh opportunities to connect with the world around us, wherever you are. Yes, start with nature and with life on this Earth Day. But my message is to not stop there. Connect with people, here on the Internet or with friends and family you've not had the time to connect with before. Connect with entertainment — not just whatever's on Netflix or Disney+, but with books, games, and music. Ask those friends you're reconnecting with what they are enjoying and try that.

Our lives thrive upon the connections we make with the world around us. But physical distancing should not, and must not, limit our ability to weave those connections. Watch and wonder, wherever you are.

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