Young Eyes Among Nature

Have you ever been too stressed from school? Ever wanted to get some fresh air before exams? If you answered yes to any of these questions, getting outside may be the perfect thing for you!

Most of us tend to rely on television or other forms of social media to relieve stress because not only is it familiar to us but it is also easy to access for us to access them from the comfort of our dorm rooms. When we want to take a study break, our first instinct these days is to listen to music or watch Netflix. But just think about how refreshed your mind could become if you simply sat outside instead, listening to the birds chirping and breathing in the fresh air!

Being in nature is beneficial for everyone, but it is especially good for college students. We might not appreciate the effects of nature at first, but after being outdoors for just a little bit, we can begin to experience that it is very therapeutic. An overwhelming amount of research has shown that nature plays a big role in destressing college students. According to psychologists, a few of the benefits of spending time in nature include stress relief, reduced mental fatigue, and better mood overall.

The thing to note is that enjoying nature does not mean you have to go out and engage in strenuous activities. You do not need to be in the mountains or a fancy lakeside resort to be able to enjoy nature. Simply doing yoga or sitting in an outdoor environment can help clear your mind. Many experiments with college students have shown that time in nature enhances students’ mood. A recent study examined what happens to young minds by comparing a group of college students who took a walk through an arboretum with another group which walked through a downtown area. The researchers found that students who walked through the arboretum had a significantly more positive mood than those who walked downtown (Euegen 2018).

 

Having green spaces on college campuses can hence, make a huge difference for the well-being of students. A study of 280 Japanese male college students found that students showed fewer depressive symptoms when they were in a forest environment rather than in the city (Seitz et al. 2014). Another study showed that when students had a view of nature, either directly or through a window, they were less likely to feel tired. Even looking at pictures of nature were shown to make students feel more energetic (Felsten 2009).

For college students, taking a study break is very important, and scientists recommend that it is done by spending time in nature instead of sitting at a laptop. Because of this, the locations of students’ dorms greatly affect their health. For instance, one study found that students who lived in dorms surrounded by streets and buildings showed more of a negative mood than those who could see greenery from their dorm room windows (Tennessen 2004). Researchers who conducted a separate study on 72 undergraduate students also found that those who could see views of nature from where they lived performed much better on attention tasks than those who did not have window views of nature.

When I was younger, I was one of those kids who did not like to go outside for fun. I would always want to play games on the computer or watch my favorite TV shows. But when I was in high school, my parents took me on my first ever adventurous family trip to The Great Smoky Mountains. Ever since that trip, my view on nature has completely changed. While we were in Tennessee, we did a lot of hiking, rock climbing, and river rafting. We took an amazing guided tour and the guide gave us a lot of information about insects, and nature in general. After the hikes, I realized that nature has a lot to offer, it was just I who did not appreciate it. During the remainder of our stay at The Great Smoky Mountains, I continued to explore the outdoors and wildlife, and I felt extremely at peace. I also noticed a few things about my health after spending more time in nature: being in the calm, serene environment made me feel relaxed and my overall mood was better than usual as well.

Waterfall at The Great Smokey Mountains in Gatlinburg, TN
Waterfall at The Great Smokey Mountains in Gatlinburg, TN © Kajal Patel 2018

Now that I am in college, I think back to the times when I used to go on walks with my mom. Those evening time walks on school nights were the best because I got to relieve all my stress in the best way possible. We don’t really think about the importance of nature when we’re younger, but it all makes a lot more sense now. Nothing is better than smelling the flowers and fresh air in your own neighborhood. So, don’t be like young me; turn off your TV, just #GetOutside!


For further reading:

  • Felsten, Gary. “Where to Take a Study Break on the College Campus: An Attention Restoration Theory Perspective.” Journal of Environmental Psychology, vol. 29, no. 1, 2009, pp. 160–167., doi:10.1016/j.jenvp.2008.11.006.
  • Fuegen, Kathleen, and Kimberly H. Breitenbecher. “Walking and Being Outdoors in Nature Increase Positive Affect and Energy.” Ecopsychology, vol. 10, no. 1, 2018, pp. 14–25., doi:10.1089/eco.2017.0036.
  • Seitz, Christopher M., et al. “Identifying and Improving Green Spaces on a College Campus: A Photovoice Study.” Ecopsychology, vol. 6, no. 2, 2014, pp. 98–108., doi:10.1089/eco.2013.0103.
  • Tennessen, Carolyn M., and Bernadine Cimprich. “Views to Nature: Effects on Attention.” Journal of Environmental Psychology, vol. 15, no. 1, 1995, pp. 77–85., doi:10.1016/0272-4944(95)90016-0.