Benefits of Nature on Student Mental Health
Mental Health Awareness Week
The theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is nature. It’s no surprise really, given that for many of us, nature has played a huge part in bettering our mental health over the past year of covid restrictions. With restaurants, shops and universities closed, getting outside for our daily dose of exercise is what’s kept us going.
Whilst it can be hard to tear yourself away from your cocoon of safety indoors, there are some real physical and mental benefits of getting outdoors in a natural environment. We’ve listed some of the reasons why you should set time aside each day to spend in nature as a way of improving your mental health.
Benefits of getting outdoors… even when you really don’t feel like it
Nature reduces stress and anxiety
There is something about the peaceful state of nature which transmits to the mind, helping your thoughts to feel lighter and you to feel less anxious. Getting outdoors is known to improve your mental wellbeing by decreasing your stress levels and bettering your mood. If you invite nature into your daily life, you’ll notice a real boost in your general wellbeing. Not only does the outdoors help to strengthen your immune function, but it’s been shown to also increase overall happiness and trigger positive emotional responses. The awakening sensory experience of being surrounded by the natural world can help you to feel less lonely, stressed or anxious, and bring you a sense of calm amid the chaos of your mind.
If you don’t quite feel up to going outside, try sitting with a cup of tea by the window, listening to ocean waves or bird song, or even nurturing your own plant at home. All of these are great methods of self-care which can be easily ignored when feeling low.
Exercising gets the body moving and releases endorphins
If you’ve sought to find ways to pick yourself up from a dark mental state, you’ve probably noticed one recurring suggestion… exercise. Whilst it can be difficult to motivate yourself to work out when you’re not feeling your best, getting your body moving in one way or another is an assured way of feeling better both in the short and long term. When we exercise, we release endorphins – natural body chemicals which instil positive and energising sensations. As a result, exercising in nature can reduce our feelings of depression, anger, anxiety and tension. You don’t have to do a vigorous workout, just get outside for a walk in the natural world and the impact it will have on clearing your head of negative thoughts will have you feeling a whole lot better for it.
Natural light exposure helps us feel and sleep better
Yes, we’re in the UK. Yes, that means we don’t get much warm weather. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t benefit from the saviour that is Vitamin D… even if it is camouflaged by the clouds! Vitamin D is a fundamental nutrient that prevents bone loss and reduces the risk of heart disease, various cancers and weight gain. Aside from this, sunlight exposure can reduce the effect of winter blues or even more severe cases of seasonal depression. With countless rules restricting daily excursions outside of our homes, the importance of getting outside in the fresh air has never been of so much value to our mental health than over recent times. What’s more, since mental health and sleep often interlink, it’s unsurprising that studies have found that the more we are exposed to natural light, the better we sleep.
Nature encourages us to take a break and re-focus
As a student, experiencing university-related stress and anxiety is commonplace. For many, this has been made worse by having to adapt to virtual learning and having limited social interactions with our classmates and friends. Working and studying from home blurs the distinction between study time and free time, which has resulted in many students being unable to switch off mentally from their studies. This is where nature comes in as a fundamental solution to the problem. Nature allows our brains to take a break from draining brain activity – whether that’s stress from studying or feeling anxious or depressed. If you’re worried that you just don’t have time to take a break, studies show that our concentration levels improve after being in nature – so it is worth getting outside and hitting the refresh button every now and then. As humans, we’re not built to retain information constantly. Nurture your mental wellbeing and not only will you feel better, but you’ll also perform better too.
This week is Mental Health Awareness Week but here at true, mental health is always of upmost importance to us. If you are feeling low, please talk to us and we will support you in any way we can.
Many of our trueLife events focus on our key brand pillar of Heath, so join us for a fitness class, mindfulness art or crafts workshop or even a movie night or cookalong with your fellow true residents.
We are always open to new event suggestions so if there’s anything you feel you could really benefit from, please let us know.