Is there any antidote out there that has the ability to cure the plague of stress that affects us as college students? The answer is yes, and it can be found right outside your door — literally.
In a study of 20,000 individuals, a team led by Mathew White of the European Centre for Environment and Human Health found that people who spent at least two hours a week in green spaces were substantially more likely to report exceptional health and increased psychological well-being compared to those that did not. Spending time in natural environments has also been proven to result in other physical and neurological benefits, such as lowered blood pressure and stress hormone levels, reduced nervous system arousal, enhanced immune system function, increased self-esteem and improved mood.
The COVID-19 pandemic influenced people to interact with their surroundings in new ways, as backyards became classrooms and offices, outdoor walks became an escape from indoor lockdowns and neighborly gatherings were held on driveways instead of living rooms. While this pandemic has certainly heightened our appreciation for green spaces, it is significant to note the “nature nurtures” phenomenon isn’t a new one. It is even more essential to emphasize the time we spend outdoors should not end as the pandemic does.
In addition to living in the COVID-19 era, we are now existing in a world that is consumed by the use of technology instead of being in nature. The human brain is not supposed to endure the bombardment of information to the degree that we do today, as a result of easy accessibility to technological resources. The surplus of information that humans have been habituated to obtain on a daily basis has led to more mental fatigue, the feeling of being overwhelmed and burnout. These psychological effects are all the more reason to promote the simple act of going outside.
And you know what the best part about natural therapy is? It is a free resource! And it’s accessible! Even in an urban area like Raleigh, there are plenty of outdoor spaces for you to enjoy the fresh air, immerse yourself with wildlife and find peace among the trees. According to Raleighnc.gov, there are more than 200 parks in Raleigh — featuring classes, programs, art centers, athletic facilities, community centers, lakes, nature preserves, dog parks, swimming pools, greenway trails and more. With all of these outdoor spaces available at our fingertips, the recommended two hours of outdoor activity per week could be quite attainable!
At Wellness and Recreation, we have plenty of outdoor spaces to move your body, connect with others and enjoy the fresh air. There are greenways that run right through the heart of campus and connect to outdoor areas in close proximity including Pullen Park. Looking for something a bit more adventurous? Outdoor Adventures within WellRec hosts dozens of amazing hiking, biking, climbing and more types of trips to explore some of North Carolina’s outdoor spaces with a great group of people and resources at the ready.
Not only can nature help develop personal well-being, but it also can influence us to grow into better people for our family, friends and peers. It has the ability to promote upticks in empathy and cooperation, leading to increased positive social interactions. Maybe, just maybe, if everyone spent a little more time outside — we would get to live in a happier and more compassionate world.