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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Self-care: the importance of nature

“Self-care” is a term that’s been coming up with higher frequency in recent years. It’s important to take care of our minds and bodies, so that we’re able to tackle each day and live our lives to the fullest. A form of self-care that’s talked about less, especially for us city-dwellers, is the importance of spending time in nature.

Studies have found that spending more time in nature correlates to lower blood pressure, heart rate, chances of diabetes, and chances of death from heart complications. Just a small amount of time spent outdoors can have positive impacts on the body. “A 30-minute visit to a park can improve heart health, circulation and lower cholesterol, blood glucose, and blood pressure.” Even less time spent outside has been shown to benefit symptoms in children with ADD and ADHD. 

Nature is healing for the mind too. Studies using an fMRI found that our brains naturally connect nature to empathy and affection, while the sections of the brain connected to stress and fear were activated when viewing city landscapes. Being outdoors can help alleviate those feelings, with outdoor physical activities lowering your levels of cortisol (your “fight or flight” hormones) by 15 percent. 

So, what can you do with this information? Well, there are many options for time outdoors. If you have a free day, you could travel to The Fells or one of the other gorgeous nature paths in Massachusetts. There’s also many beaches near Boston. Perhaps going to a farm would be a fun fall activity for you? Depending on the weather, there’s also options for renting kayaks or bicycles. Find something that fits your interests. 

If you only have a short amount of time, you could sit outside in front of campus. Our front lawn has multiple seats—and can you really beat an ocean view? It’s a great place for having a picnic lunch or reading some of that book for your literature class. We also have paths by the water near our school, along with a small beach and dog park, if you continue past the JFK Museum. 

Not everyone likes being outdoors as the weather gets colder. Though sunlight is still important (as it helps our bodies to create vitamin D), you could solve this issue by bringing some nature inside with you! “Research done in hospitals, offices, and schools has found that even a simple plant in a room can have a significant impact on stress and anxiety.” Grabbing a succulent or other house plant could be perfect decor for your dorm room, while also benefiting your health.

Regardless of what fits you best—nature walks, outdoor sports, meditation, or just studying in the sunlight—nature is vital to our well-being. If you want to feel more awake, energized, healthy, and happy, then going outside may be one great way for you to work towards that goal.
Note: this is just one way to practice self-care. It does not work as a cure for clinical depression, panic disorders, anxiety disorders, ADD, ADHD, or any other conditions. If you would like to meet with a mental health professional, you can contact UMass Boston’s Counseling Center at 617-287-5690.
  
1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0013935118303323
2. https://www.nps.gov/articles/naturesbenefits.htm
3. https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/how-does-nature-impact-our-wellbeing