When it comes to going outside in college, most students fail to see the importance of it. They would rather sit inside, eat Top Ramen, play Fortnight, or work on their assignments. It is like they are afraid to go outside because there is a chance they may stay out there for a long period, instead of being inside and getting stuff done. I get it. No college students want to add any more stress onto their plates. The thing is, in college stress is no stranger. You have the reading lists, essays, assignments, CLC projects, PowerPoint presentations, speeches, even those random hand-out worksheets to complete. Not to mention balancing some form of social life. The stress can become overwhelming, drown you even. That’s why it is essential to take breaks. Taking breaks is not going to set you back or cause you to fall more behind if you already are. Instead, they improve your mentality, giving you a better chance of completing the constant flow of assignments with little worry. During my college career, I found that the best way to take a break is to go out, whether it’s outside for a walk, a hike, or out with friends. To help you get a clearer picture, here are five reasons why going out is the best way to take a break in college.
1. Stress Relief
One thing that has been under-utilized or underestimated in college is the significant impact of walking and how it benefits our mental health. Walking itself has proven to reduce levels of stress and anxiety, but when you do it in nature, there is evidence that further shows those levels reduce even more. According to Nate Sowa, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the UNC School at Medicine, being in a natural setting can benefit our mental health. Whether you’re taking a hike or camping, being surrounded by nature freely calms the areas of your brain that are directly related to stress. Now, you don’t have to hike a mountain or camp in the forest to gain these benefits. You can take a simple stroll in the park, go for a run, or walk around, outside, on-campus and get these same benefits. It doesn’t necessarily have to be for a long time either. It could be while you’re on your lunch, after class, in-between study sessions. As long as you take some time out of your day to surround yourself in nature, be outside in the sun, your stress levels will diminish. What college student doesn’t want less stress?
2. Restored Mental Energy
In college, sometimes we forget the simple answers to the hardest questions. For instance, say you are writing an essay, and it is not just any essay. It is a long, twenty-five-page, formal essay, and it is due tomorrow. Now, you have been working on this essay for five days. You are about fifteen pages in and are having a hard time coming up with the last ten. You are stressed out. Wondering why your brain won’t work and compose the last few pages. This is commonly called mental exhaustion or, as researchers call it, mental fatigue. Mental fatigue is exactly what it sounds like, overworking your brain to the point of it shutting down. Now you have to find a way to start it up again. A simple way to restore your brain is to expose it to nature. You can go outside and walk around the greenery and bathe yourself in sunlight. That is good. However, you do not necessarily have to. Studies have shown that people’s mental energy boosts back up and into gear just by looking at pictures of nature. So, the next time you find yourself unable to work on the given task that you are trying to complete, go for a walk. if you do not want to leave the comfort of your room, then look for a picture online. It could be of a flower, a tall redwood tree, or a perfect sunset over the ocean.
3. Improved Concentration
Now, we know nature is naturally restorative to the human brain. Meaning it helps boosts the brain to get back into shape. Another mental health benefit about going outside is that it helps to improve your concentration. Now, when you are mentally fatigued, your focus generally drifts away from the task at hand that you are trying to complete. A simple way to restore your mental concentration is to seek nature. University of Michigan researchers, John Jonides, Marc Berman, and Stephen Kaplan conducted a study and found the participants’ ability to concentrate improved by 20%, after interacting with nature for an hour. So, my advice is the next you find yourself losing focus, go outside. Whether it’s doing some laps in the school’s pool or sitting on the green grass and enjoying nature’s work. You’d be surprised how attentive your mind becomes.
4.) Sharper Thinking
When we take a minute to explore the outdoors, we forget how easy it is to think about something. To engage our thought process, focus on something, explore it, and find the reasoning in it. Generally, this is discovered after we explored the outdoors. In 2012 a study was conducted. The prime focus of it was to better understand the influence nature has on the human mind. The participants were asked to immerse themselves in nature for four days. Disconnected from technology, the participants had no choice but to interact with their surrounding environment. After four days of being absorbed, the participants were asked to complete a problem-solving test. The score of the participants’ test proved that spending some time in nature boosts a persons’ problem-solving skills by 50%. Honing their sharp thinking. Isn’t that something you could use when trying to complete your assignments? I know that is something I need, even after graduating from college.
5.) Improved Mental Health
Now, I mentioned a side of mental health, as in the stress that comes from being a student and how it drains you and leaves you unable to focus or be attentive to your work. What I wanted to dive into, now, was the other side of mental health. The depression and anxiety that stress can also bring upon a college student. According to Ontario Parks, a simple stay outdoors does wonders for alleviating anxiety and depression. Infinite studies have all concluded that nature and being surrounded by the natural calming environment has a positive impact on mental health. For example, a study conducted at the University of Colorado discovered that a harmless bacteria that is found in the soil, Mycobacterium vaccae, acts as a natural antidepressant. Releasing serotonin and metabolism into certain parts of the brain that govern our emotions.
There are innumerable reasons why being outside and interacting with nature can improve and benefit your mental health. It is just a matter of you making time for it, and taking the necessary breaks.