Why College Students Should be Spending More Time Outdoors
Updated: Jun 29, 2022
What happens in college? 18-year-olds travel away from home and live in a close-bedroom with one to two other people, either strangers or chosen friends. From my personal experience I shared a small room with a girl I’d known for nine years, and a random selection the school made whom I’d never met before. Unfortunately, my friend and I did not connect with the third roommate and never hung out with her outside our dorm’s four walls. What was complicated about this was the sensation that I was never alone, I could be alone comfortably with my friend but there was always a third presence in the room. I found myself getting antsy and anxious sitting doing my schoolwork in the dorm, I would try going to a study lounge but I could not spend too much time in there either. Then I discovered the outside tables, even though it seems counterproductive to put yourself outside where there are infinite amounts of distractions, something about the fresh air and sun on my back made it so much easier for me to complete my work. I was also less inclined to open up Netflix and watch an episode or two because I knew I had to conserve battery and get back to my dorm to charge it. This small example goes to show how being outside is beneficial for college students.
There are other ways to achieve this, especially for those of you who are going to college in a cold state where it snows doing schoolwork outside is not a plausible situation. It does not have to be doing schoolwork you can also explore:
Going on hikes
Find an area near your college that you can uber to or bike to and hike, even if you do the same hike every weekend, you are still getting outside in the fresh air.
Go on a run or a walk every day, it doesn’t have to be long just a short break from staring at a computer in a cramped room.
If your college has takeout meal options, call up some friends and eat a meal outside together. My friends and I have a favorite outdoor table where we meet up with the entire group whenever we can to chat and eat and it is a great escape from work and an excuse to hang out with friends for an hour or two.
As humans, we need Vitamin D, just the other day I was talking to a close friend who had been telling me she’d been getting sick over and over again for three months and couldn’t get over it. She found out recently it’s because she is deficient in Vitamin D. She came over to swim and she was feeling slightly under the weather but when we were laying out in the sun chatting she mentioned that she felt less stuffed up and that she felt better. Being out in the sun getting vitamin D is only one of many benefits of being outdoors, here are some more that focus on mental health:
Helps sleep cycle
The body’s circadian rhythm depends on the sun, we wake up when our eyes sense the sun is up, and we get tired when the sun goes down. Spending time outside can stabilize our sleeping patterns and therefore help us function better throughout the day.
Helps with Anxiety and Depression
It may be hard to get out of bed and put on shoes to get outside, but once you do it and even just go for a short walk, being outdoors can help with your anxious feelings and depression.
There is a therapy being used increasingly called ecotherapy, to help treat depression through connection with nature.
Helps calm the mind
Being outdoors is a kind of mindfulness and meditation for the full body, whether you are sitting on a park bench watching squirrels or going on a rigorous hike, you are mindful of the feeling you have while you walk, or the way the squirrels’ tails flick around. This practice of meditation can calm the mind and get rid of stressed thoughts and put things into perspective.
Increases dopamine production
Higher dopamine levels promote happiness. Therefore being outside can adjust your mood to be a little more positive than it was before.
Overall being outside is a great mechanism for the mind and body, especially for college students who may feel trapped in their dorms, anxious and moody. Being around nature has benefits that ensure a better mood and a healthier body. So what are you waiting for, get outside!