Last semester, I spent approximately four hours per day inside classrooms, another four hours studying in the library, an hour or two at the dining hall, and the rest of the day at work and in my dorm room. Some nights, I went to restaurants, concerts, and campus events -- all mainly indoors. And, although I exercised regularly at the gym, I rarely spent time outdoors for purposes beyond walking from building to building. Outdoor spaces acted merely as transitions rather than places of their own, and I gave them little time.
This lifestyle sharply contrasts my life when I was younger. Growing up in Minnesota, I explored the woods and countryside in the warm months and played in the snow in the winter. Life was simpler. I was happier. And, in recent years, returning to my roots, the more time I've spent outdoors, the better I have felt physically and mentally.
Still, in the chaos of last semester, I spent the majority of my time indoors. And, if you're a college student with a similar pattern of working and studying, maybe you did, too. Arguably, the majority of the "college experience" takes place indoors. Spending time outdoors, however, is crucial to health and well-being.
"Shelter is a basic human need," writes Markham Heid for TIME. "But staying indoors all day may fuel anxiety, insomnia, and that too-familiar sense that humans just aren't meant to spend the whole day inside."
If you are currently struggling to sleep, dealing with extra stress, or even feeling depressed, your body may lack essential exposure to the elements of the outdoors -- especially sunlight. "Exposure to sunlight is thought to increase the brain's release of a hormone called serotonin," according to Healthline. "Serotonin is associated with boosting mood and helping a person feel calm and focused." Essentially, your brain needs serotonin for you to feel happy and function at your best level.
This is what makes sunlight so valuable. And, no matter how hectic your school, work, or social life is, outside time is worth prioritizing. Try taking your study session outside; here at FSU, you can study in the relaxing environment of Landis Green, and there are multiple locations across campus to set up a hammock. You could even try studying at a table outside of your favorite coffeeshop instead of inside.
If you would rather keep your study time inside the library, try dedicating leisure time to outdoor adventures. FSU students can take advantage of free access to the Rez as well as free equipment rentals. Additionally, Outdoor Pursuits leads adventures like hiking, caving, and canoeing with affordable fees for FSU students. With all of these options, as well as numerous parks and beaches around Tallahassee, there is an outdoor adventure for every budget.
However, maybe your schedule simply doesn't allow time for any of these activities. The easiest solution has notable health benefits: go for a walk. "A 10-minute walk can enhance physical fitness, reduce the risk of chronic disease, and improve brain function, like learning and memory," according to Gretchen Reynolds for the New York Times. For college students, the mental benefits of walking are incredibly valuable. Learning and memory are crucial brain functions for college success, and walking for just ten minutes is a tiny price to pay.
Now is the perfect time to get a healthy start to your spring semester. Consider the ideas above to begin integrating outdoor time into your schedule, and reap the physical and mental benefits that you sow.