Nature positively affects mental health

Spending just ten - twenty minutes sitting or walking in nature positively impacts key psychological and physiological markers. Photo by Kate Hickman.

With another semester coming to a close, stressors are quickly piling onto many students’ already-hectic schedules and they’re looking for a source of relief. For those of us in Utah Valley, that relief may be an escape into nature. 

According to a summary of 14 studies conducted in the United States, Sweden, and Japan, spending just ten – twenty minutes sitting or walking in nature positively impacts key “psychological and physiological markers.” The study claims it can “have a meaningful impact in reducing stress, anger, anxiety, and in increasing vigor, comfort, positive affect, and a sense of feeling refreshed.”

“Nature allows me to refresh and reset my mind and go back into life renewed,” says Dylan Christensen, a student majoring in exercise science. Christensen enjoys playing soccer in a park, surrounded by trees, or finding a nice spot in the mountains to hang a hammock and sit with his thoughts.

In a study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research last year observing the impact of COVID-19 on the anxiety and depression of college students, they found that “less than half indicated they were able to cope adequately with the stress related to the current situation.”

Utah Valley University is proud to provide help and resources to any of its students who may be feeling overwhelmed or who are struggling with their mental health. UVU offers affordable counseling services for individuals, groups, and couples, depending on their needs.

Luckily, not only are there great resources across campus designed to assist with mental health needs, but there are ways for students to get outside themselves and experience the benefits that the natural world has to offer. The Outdoor Adventure Center rents out equipment for a variety of activities, from kayaking to mountain biking, and rock climbing to winter sports. Students can visit the OAC out on the second floor of the Student Life and Wellness Center.

Life can be difficult, especially when trying to balance work, school, and a personal life. As the winter break approaches, students should be sure to address their individual needs. When feeling overwhelmed, try hiking up a trail, hammocking among the trees, or simply find a quiet place to sit and enjoy the beauty of the valley. It only takes ten to twenty minutes before it has a measurable, positive impact on your mental health.

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