These People Spent 2 Years In Isolation For Science. Here Are Their Quarantine Tips

In 1991, four men and four women voluntarily sequestered themselves away from the world in the name of science. The group of scientists and adventurers were locked away in an enclosed glass structure known as Biosphere 2, a self-engineered replica of Earth that housed a rain forest, a desert, an ocean, and thousands of live animals, fish, and insects. The documentary Spaceship Earth, which is available to stream on Hulu now, documents their experience and all of the drama that unfolds when you keep eight people in extremely close quarters for two years.

Though the Bisosphere 2 experiment took place over 25 years ago, the documentary serendipitously touches on an issue highly relevant to our current day lives: what it’s like to be stuck inside. With the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the world, many of us are either quarantined or maintaining social distancing. So Bustle asked two of the Biosphere 2 participants, Mark Nelson and Linda Leigh, for their best strategies for surviving isolation.

Try a talking stick

Linda Leigh: We all got along well during the first few months, but then we started not getting along very well…

Mark Nelson: We knew it was going to be a challenge and we talked it through. It’s interesting, you can talk yourself blue and you don’t necessarily solve the problem. You [still need to] get the feelings out. Linda said one night, "Let’s have a talking stick." [Try] sitting in a circle, where you get to talk as long as you can, and no one can interrupt you while you have the stick.

Write your feelings down in a journal

Leigh: Often I would write. I would spend time writing to friends or writing in my journal. That was a really important part to me. I wish everybody would keep a journal during this time about what it’s like. I think that’s going to be really important information in the future.

Don’t be afraid to seek for professional help

Nelson: Some people felt depressed. A couple of people, and good on them, did phone therapy. They called in the head of the psychiatry department at the University of Arizona and he did interviews with everyone and psychological tests. [If] you feel depressed, if you feel like you’re going nuts, [remember] this is a pressure cooker.

Let yourself indulge

Nelson: Whatever you want in terms of delights of the stomach and alcohol and other other beverages, by all means go for it.

Leigh: Every month we would have a feast day. We didn’t have lots of extra food, so we’d have to save up every month so that we could have a big feast and play music together and enjoy the fact that we were eating well and having parties and reading poetry to each other. Those were really good times.

Nelson: We turned our rice into beer, our bananas into wine, our beets to the world’s worst whiskey. But we enjoyed it.

Stay connected to nature

Nelson: Even if you’re locked in an apartment on the Upper East Side or London or wherever you are, the environment is not [the same as] something outside. Get a house plant, get herbs, water them, groove with the trees outside. Fall in love with the view out your window. Wake up to the beautiful fact that we are part of the amazing Earth’s biosphere.

Leigh: I would love to have everybody plant a seed and just watch. Take notes on what happens every day with that plant. That might not be possible for a lot of people, but even just eating an avocado, you can take the pit and germinate it and have a plant grow. Or there’s a lot of different ways you can regrow from things you buy at the supermarket. Put it in water and have it grow back.

Don’t lose hope

Leigh: Think about what you’re hoping for. How are you going to get there? Take one step at a time. Take a step that centers around your life, like just planting that one little seed. Start with ourselves, expand outward.

If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support. You can find all Bustle’s coverage of coronavirus here.

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