Spring is undoubtedly one of the busiest, yet exciting times of the year. From the promise of warmer weather and beautiful blooms to graduation and a soon-approaching (and much-needed) summer break, the highs of this time of year fluctuate all over the place almost as drastically as Georgia weather does.
Until this year, I used to hate springtime. For individuals like myself, spring can be hard on both the body and the mind. Seasonal allergies and illnesses, paired with more school and social obligations, easily make me feel bogged down and helpless. Not to mention, Daylight Savings Time forces everyone to lose an hour of much-needed sleep during an already stressful time of year. The impacts of spring months go beyond just the body though; studies have shown that mental health issues tend to worsen during these blossoming months. Seasonal depression, anxiety, and suicide rates are all shown to worsen during the spring and summer months with no identifiable cause. On top of all these stressors, work, school, family, and personal problems seem to put significant pressure on people during this time of year as well.
One possible solution to this "Spring Epidemic" is not so obvious at first. It's a free, easily accessible service that is beautiful, relaxing, and shown to improve both the physical and mental health for struggling individuals. Richard Louv, American author and journalist, has written and identified this aide and researchers in the field of psychology are now recommending this mysterious "Vitamin N" for individuals with even the most severe mental health problems.
This recent discovery is that prescribing "Vitamin Nature" has had a positive impact on human well-being during hard times. Spending time outside has been shown to reduce stress in ways like lowering blood pressure and to improve mental health by, say, limiting the negative effects of stressors and ruminating thoughts. Children and adolescents especially need to have lots of time to play outside, as a lack of this has been linked to potential health issues such as ADHD and depression.
There are many ways that college students can find time to spend in nature, even for those with the busiest schedules. Making small changes like walking outside to class, studying outside, assembling a pickup game of your favorite sport, or choosing to eat outside rather than inside of your favorite restaurant are all small changes that could make a big difference in stress levels and mood. For those who can't live a day without spending copious amounts of time outside, The University of Georgia has countless spots to unwind and enjoy the weather. A few of my favorite places to unwind are the Myers Quad, Lake Herrick near the IM Fields, and North Campus Quad. Some days, I spend hours outside laying out on my blanket soaking up the sun and reading; on others, simply walking from my dorm to my first class in the morning is enough to help me put my worries into perspective with a positive attitude.
Looking ahead to this coming spring season, treat yourself to time outside for at least a few minutes a day. On campus, spots such as the Georgia State Botanical Garden and Lake Herrick offer beautiful scenery and wildlife for you and your loved ones to enjoy. Even sitting at a Quad to study or outside a cafe Downtown can help as well.
This spring season, stop and smell the roses; even better, stop and get your share of Vitamin "N."