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Restore yourself by savoring nature

The mid-semester slump is real. It’s a time when going out for drinks sounds more appealing than studying for that Colloquium exam and self-care may have fallen off dramatically. But I am here to tell you there’s a way to combat this negativity, and the best part is it’s right outside your door.

1. Getting outdoors lowers stress hormones and improves blood pressure.

Stress causes overproduction of cortisol, a naturally occurring hormone but one that can cause depression in increased levels. A study conducted in China involved two groups of male students. One group took long walks in a natural setting, while the other took long walks in a city setting. The nature group showed significantly lower levels of cortisol in their bloodstream and that decrease persisted for days after their walks. So spending time outdoors, surrounded by trees and nature, quite literally, helps regulate our biological system and improve our overall wellbeing.

2. Normalize sleep schedule

Sleep deprivation is associated with numerous health problems. But spending time outdoors in direct sunlight (slathered in sunscreen, of course), causes our bodies to produce melatonin, a hormone that is released at night, allowing us to fall asleep with ease. A regular sleep cycle will improve your overall mood, and aid cognitive function, allowing you to ace that midterm or final exam.

3. Allow for time to “unplug” and center oneself

A University of California, Irvine study found that people who regularly checked their email throughout the day had higher hearts rates than those who didn’t access their email as frequently. Taking a long walk around nearby estuaries and nature preserves, or the woodlands surrounding campus, and leaving your smart device at home, can give you time to process your thoughts. Often our daily lives are so fast paced we don’t have much time to let our minds be at ease and wander. Hiking in a natural setting can allow our brains the peace and quiet necessary to slow mind and breath, allowing you to not only feel what is going on around you, but also inside you.

4. Time in nature aids short-term memory and allows for more productive studying.

There is evidence that time spent in nature can help improve both short-term and working memory. A study conducted at the University of Michigan supports this theory. In this study two groups of students were given a memory test, then each group was assigned to take a walk, one through a garden and the other down a city street. Those who walked through the garden improved their scores by 20 percent. Those who walked through the city saw no improvement. Natural settings can help us calm our mind and sharpen our focus.

5. Nurture an appreciation for the outdoors

With the increase in Florida’s population and suburban sprawl, more public land is becoming privatized. Privatization of public land prevents animals from accessing migration routes and breeding grounds, critical to their longevity. If we don’t take action, the beautiful nature preserves that surround our university such as Estero Bay, Matanzas, and Six Mile Cypress may not be available to future generations. Taking time to visit these places, and immersing yourself in the tranquility offered by nature, will prove to you how important access to public lands is.

So take time this week to venture outside. Visit nearby public lands, volunteer at the Food Forest, or simply take a walk around FGCU’s 400 acres of preserved land. Savor nature – and beat the mid-semester slump.