As college students, we need not look far to connect with the environment around us. NC State’s creatively landscaped campus is alive with lush trails, diverse species of trees and flowers, colorful plants and bushes carefully arranged and cared for. Whether it be spreading a picnic blanket in the vast Court of North Carolina, jogging the Rocky Branch Creek trail or playing tennis at the neighboring Pullen Park, the green nature (pun intended) of our campus invites students to unwind and find peace and serenity.
However, many of us on campus may never take a moment to really appreciate and make the connection between our expansive green space and our mental state, especially under the growing pressure of our looming finals and end-of-year stress. But, the symbiotic relationship between nature and our well-being has been explored and extensively documented in recent years.
One of the main blessings of living on such an environmentally oriented campus is the mental clarity provided to students under the pressure of a demanding daily schedule. According to results from a study by the American Psychological Association (APA), “Contact with nature is associated with increases in happiness, subjective well-being, positive affect, positive social interactions and a sense of meaning and purpose in life, and decreases in mental distress.”
Recent data supports that nature heightens our physical and psychological well-being, supplying healing powers that offset our long days indoors at work or school. According to recent polls, Americans spend about 17 hours a day on electronics (with 4.5 hours devoted to cell phones), equivalent to 44 years of their lives staring at screens. These dire figures accentuate the urgent need to take frequent breaks from online activities and the importance of soothing immersion in nature, especially when green spaces are so readily available on campus.
Moreover, further experiments conducted by the APA highlight the link between time spent outdoors and increased kindness towards others due to the awe we experience towards nature. Findings indicate that “one of the things that may come from awe is the feeling that the individual is part of a much bigger whole.” Researchers point to the cognitive benefits of being surrounded by a green environment, including the sounds of nature such as crickets or birds chirping, which reduces stress and promotes recuperation.
On top of the psychological assets nature provides, NC State proudly brandishes an award-winning landscaping department that incorporates a sustainable approach to horticulture on the modern green campus. For example, the Design + Build Program is an interactive landscape architecture design studio that has been offered to the College of Design students for almost a decade. The program involves conducting research, completing a site analysis and creating innovative solutions for various landscaping projects for official clients. One such project was the Syme Hall Landscape Design, which redeveloped 0.2 acres outside of Syme Hall, placing a focus on implementing green infrastructure.
Projects such as the Syme Hall development serve as dynamic and educational locations on campus, generating an impact on both users and the environment, encouraging sustainable practices for the entire student population.
Strolling down the lush pathways among our campus buildings in full spring blossom, one might recall the words of famed author and naturalist John Muir who once said, “In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.”
Ultimately, the plethora of green spaces on our campus should not be taken for granted, as they might just be the key to our peace of mind and the necessary balance to guide us to the finishing line. As we delve into the tumultuous storm of finals week, you may want to consider exchanging your screen for a stroll among the pines, taking in a much needed dose of fresh air as you jog by the colorful Azaleas and spray roses all around. Remember, the Wolfpack thrives outdoors, so why not start today?