If You Have to De-Stress, Go Outside

Posted: July 17, 2012 by jerkmag in CRISP -- health, VAULT -- archives
Tags: , , ,

If you’re feeling overwhelmed with a summer job, are stressed about school, or feel like your thumbs might fall off from texting, read this article, step away from the computer, and go outside.

As a kid, I lived to be outdoors in the summer. Exploring creaks, climbing water falls, diving off docks, and sailing just made every summer complete. Unfortunately, as I’ve grown older and gone to college, I’ve lost my enchantment with summer as I’ve gained weight, stress, and concentration issues.

These days, instead of enjoying the simplicity of the outdoors, I catch myself on Facebook looking through pictures and stalking high school friends. I have a feeling this is pretty common for most college students. We often turn to technology because it is at our fingertips and it seems more relaxing than anything outdoors.

However, don’t call the myth busters on this one. A lot of research suggests that technology does the opposite. It affects people’s attention spans and makes them more anxious by creating a fake sense of urgency, according psychology professor David Strayer from the University of Utah in a New York Times article.

We are programmed to respond almost immediately in face-to-face conversations. Even when I try to forget a text from my boyfriend while I am running, I often end up stopping to respond and going from the bliss of running through the peaceful woods, to worrying about how the hell we are going to coordinate our crazy work schedules to make our long distance relationship work. It’s no wonder Strayer believes that technology can lead to attention deficit disorder, schizophrenia, stress, and depression!

Luckily, it’s never too late to unplug and restore your mental health with nature. Scott Catucci, the head of Outdoor Recreation activities at Syracuse, organizes and leads adventure and teamwork geared trips throughout the semester such as dogsledding, backpacking, and white-water rafting. He said the adrenaline boost from these activities can help relieve more complicated and draining everyday stress. Plus overcoming fears or challenges leaves you feeling more confident and accomplished.

Need more motivation to “misplace” your phone or unglue your face from tumbler on a beautiful afternoon? A Harvard study found that not only does getting outside improve your concentration and decrease anxiety, but natural sunlight also elevates your mood, can fight cancer (don’t forget sunscreen) and make you more physically fit. You can even recover from injuries (like that unexplained twisted ankle from last weekend). The study showed that a view of a tree out of a hospital window helped patients recover faster than staring at a wall.

So stop gawking at this computer screen and answer the call of the wild and your inner-child. Go for a hike, throw a frisbee at the park, walk your dog – just get outdoors. It can be tough with a busy schedule, but make the time and your body and mind will thank you.

-Shannon Hazlitt

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