Restorative Nature on Campus

 

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Knox Students enjoying a sunny day in a tree. (Image courtesy of Knox College Flickr)

Flunk Day has passed, deadlines are getting closer, the lure of summer is deafening- getting through the last couple weeks of Spring term can be stressful. On top of that, most time is spent indoors studying and in class. On average, Americans spend 93% of their time either indoors or in an enclosed vehicle, no wonder we’re so stressed (Green, 2016). Fortunately, there are ways to help. You don’t need a day at the spa to restore you to a calm and healthy state of mind, you don’t even need an entire forest, all you need to do is to walk out your door! Psychologists agree that the restorative effects of nature are many including reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress causing hormones (Larson, 2016). Here are 5 ways to restore your mind and body with nature, without even leaving Knox!


1. Take a Barefoot Stroll

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(Image courtesy of Google Images)

It is near impossible make kids wear shoes, and it’s no surprise why. The rejuvenating and relaxing feeling of bare earth or grass between your toes just can’t be beat. Turns out that it might have more benefits than you thought. According to Psychology Today,  the benefits of “earthing” may be due to having direct contact with the Earth’s electrons, and has been found to promote things like improved sleep, reduced pain, decreased stress levels, and increased subjective well being (Green, 2016). Now this doesn’t mean you can just whip off your shoes while taking a stroll down the sidewalk, but if you walk barefoot in the sand, soil, or grass you can soak in the restorative benefits of “earthing” too. So take off your shoes next time you’re walking around Old Main lawn!

  1. Spend Time With Animals
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A Knox squirrel enjoying a snack. (Image courtesy of Google Images)

“Nature” doesn’t have to be limited to just the plants and trees, let’s not forget the wildlife! Often one of the sacrifices that goes with college is having to say goodbye to your pets. Animals can bring an unexplained joy that can immediately relieve stress, which is one reason why there are so many therapeutic pets at Knox. If you don’t have a pet with you don’t despair, there are plenty of ways to spend some time with your furry friends! One of the easiest ways to connect with nature on campus is through the squirrels. Watching the campus squirrels can be both a mood lifting and amusing experience and if you have some munchies for them, there’s no question they would love that too! Just make sure not to get too close, give them their space and throw the snacks near their tree instead. Also try to avoid feeding them junk food, fruits and nuts are perfect treats for these frisky critters. Or simply sitting still and noticing all the wildlife around you that you don’t normally pay much attention. Enjoy the birds, squirrels, and insects, and maybe you’ll spot the Knox fox!

  1. Do Outside Yoga and Meditation
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Breathe the fresh air and do your yoga outside! (Image courtesy of Google Images)

One of the simplest ways to clear your mind and rejuvenate your body is through yoga. One of the key focuses in this ancient practice is breathing, which though it may sound simple, can actually be a huge aid in a healthy lifestyle. This line of thinking is also true for meditation, devoting as little as five minutes of your day meditating or doing a few yoga poses can have big effects on your overall well being. To increase your stress relief potential – do both outside! Spread out a blanket in a sunny patch on campus and find your inner peace!

  1. Volunteer at the Farm
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Farm employee fixes drip tape while enjoying a beautiful day in the high tunnels. (Image courtesy of Knox Flickr)

Many might think that to enjoy nature you have to be in a forest, or away from the city, but that isn’t true at all! Nature is all around us, and what better way to embrace that idea than to visit our very own farm. The therapeutic benefits of gardening are many including, heart health, hand strength and dexterity, brain health, immune regulation, and relieving depression (Jacobs, 2014). In addition to these benefits, volunteering at the farm can be a great way to interact with other Knox community members and make some friends! Volunteer hours are Wednesdays and Fridays from 4-6pm.

  1. Utilize the Trees
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Knox students swinging from a hammock in the branches. (Image courtesy of Google Images)

One of the many benefits of belonging to such a beautiful campus is being able to admire the trees. Knox has been around for more than 175 years, and some of the trees on campus are even older than that! Not to mention that right across the street from Alumni Hall is an arboretum free and open to the public. Trees shouldn’t be something taken for granted, not only do they help us breathe clean air and provide us shade, but they are also great ways to appreciate nature on an urban scale. There are so many ways to relieve stress by utilizing the trees on campus. If you or your friend happens to own a hammock, there are plenty of places on campus where the trees grow close enough to hang it up! If you don’t have a hammock, there are quite a few Knox trees that have low hanging branches just begging to be climbed. If neither of these ideas sound appealing, simply laying out a blanket beneath a shady arbor can be extremely rewarding on its own. Looking up at the branches of a living organism that has seen so much over the years can really put everything in perspective and help to clear your mind!


Even if you don’t have a chance to necessarily go on a hike in the woods, or play in the waves on a beach doesn’t mean you can’t take in the restorative benefits of nature. Knox has plenty of opportunities to relieve stress through its environment, you simply have to get outside and look!

 

 

 

References

Green, A. (2016). “The Restorative Effect of Nature.” Psychology Today. Retrieved from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/psy-curious/201603/the-restorative-effect-nature on 5/10/17

Jacobs, R. (2014). “6 Unexpected Health Benefits of Gardening”. Retrieved from: http://learn.eartheasy.com/2014/09/6-unexpected-health-benefits-of-gardening/ on 5/10/17

Larson, J. (2016). “How Does Nature Impact Our Wellbeing.” Retrieved from: https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/enhance-your-wellbeing/environment/nature-and-us/how-does-nature-impact-our-wellbeing on 5/10/17

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