How spending time outdoors can reduce uni stress

Breathing in fresh autumn air, looking out on a vast, open space and exchanging a colour palette of urban greys to natural greens, oranges and yellows, are all fantastic reasons to spend more time outside.

As mid-term deadlines approach, it’s more important than ever to escape the city grind and get yourself outdoors. Not only does outdoor activity, be it walking, cycling or running, have obvious benefits to your physical health, it can also decrease your stress levels beyond belief, transforming you into an all-round more positive person. Here are some reasons why you should be regularly embracing the outdoor environment.

Enjoying the outdoors doesn’t necessarily mean taking a whole day out of your already busy week. By all means, if you’re feeling adventurous and wanting to explore further afield, then hop on a bus and head over to Coldingham and its stunning Berwickshire coastal path, or scale a mountain in the Pentlands. However, in Edinburgh we are  fortunate enough to have Holyrood Park and Arthur’s Seat close by, but if you’d rather avoid the tourists then head up Blackford Hill, or meander through its surrounding enchanting forests where you will stumble across the hidden Hermitage of Braid House.

If you would prefer to get away to the waters then hire a canoe and paddle along Edinburgh’s canal – you won’t believe you’re in the middle of a capital city! Alternatively, explore new parks with friends, hire a bike, or go for a wander on Portobello beach, finishing it off with a dip in the Turkish baths. The options for outdoor activities in Edinburgh are endless, and once they become part of your routine you will not be able to imagine your life without them.

When you’re exploring, university stress about coursework deadlines and exam timetables will surely float away.

Many studies in environmental health and biomedical sciences conclusively show that outdoor activity significantly reduces feelings of stress. Simply being in a natural environment has been proven to reduce heart rates and cortisol levels (the stress hormone).

Jack and Amelia Steele from the British outdoor apparel company Rise Outdoors, are siblings who have experienced these benefits first-hand. They have focused their lifestyles in the UK and Canada around this positivity-tonic and believe that, “it’s about time us lot in the UK established our outdoor scene in its own right.”

A fourth year Edinburgh student agrees, “My weekly runs in Edinburgh’s green spaces get me through the busy week. They break up the studying, clear my head, give me perspective on things I’m worrying about and generally make me feel more positive.”

The best form of relaxation is an escape in nature, it blows away the cobwebs. Do you find yourself making excuses along the lines of ‘I’m too tired’ or ‘I’m too hungover’? Well, outdoor activity has actually been shown to restore and revitalise your mental energy. The higher levels of oxygen in fresh air outside, improve our circulatory and respiratory systems, and therefore give more energy. The natural environment will help to heal that sore head, leaving you feeling notably more awake than when you left your fester-zone!

You will feel all warm and fuzzy inside, and natural environments boost general happiness. By returning to our pre-Industrial Revolution roots, we reconnect with a setting that inspires a feeling akin to a sense of homecoming.

By escaping the concrete and tarmac, we rediscover our agricultural origins. John Muir, the famous naturalist born close to Edinburgh, poetically described this feeling, ‘I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in’.

In addition, a mindfulness study found that participants felt more “present” after having been exposed to nature and its humbling expanses. People spend hours attempting to achieve this Yoda-like zen through meditation and reading self-help books, yet you could obtain it on a Wednesday afternoon jog!

Exposure to Vitamin D, improved vision away from that laptop screen, higher levels of creativity and concentration, increased longevity, enhanced memory… the list goes on.

Professor Roger Ulrich, currently a Professor at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, when studying the architecture of hospitals, found that patients whose beds were placed near a window, recovered much faster than those facing a wall.

So that settles it, if you do anything this week, give yourself a boost by getting out and about in the beautiful natural landscapes of Edinburgh!

The Student would like to emphasise that although spending more time outside can decrease stress levels, it is not a substitute for professional mental health treatment. If you’re experiencing symptoms of mental ill health then we encourage you to see your GP.

 

image: Pixel2013 via Pixabay

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