Student and stressed? Take 10 minutes and go to the park, a study suggests

Going to university can be more than stressful for many, especially when exams and deadlines start to pile up.

Understandably, many students deal with those high levels of stress.

Image credits: Lukasz Szmigiel.

According to a group of researchers, taking as few as 10 minutes in any natural setting every day can really make a difference for most of the students.

Up to 80% of the people studying in higher education said to have experienced stress or anxiety, according to a study by Uni Health in the UK, while a survey by NUS from 2016 said nine in 10 students experienced stress.

An interdisciplinary team from Cornell University reviewed previous studies to see what effects nature has on the mental health of college students.

They wanted to discover what was the right amount of time students should spend outside and what sort of activities they should carry out when they were in nature.

Gen Meredith, associate director of the Master of Public Health Program, and her team discovered that the best range of time to spend in natural areas was of 10 to 50 minutes and that this improved the mood, focus and physiological markers of the students.

Image credits: Wikipedia Commons

“It doesn’t take much time for the positive benefits to kick in — we’re talking 10 minutes outside in a space with nature,” said Meredith in a press release. “We firmly believe that every student, no matter what subject or how high their workload, has that much discretionary time each day, or at least a few times per week.”

Once outside, it’s enough with just sitting or walking to benefit from the positive effects of spending time in nature, according to the researchers. They focused their study on those two activities in order to quantify nature doses in just minutes.

Students in universities with a big and green campus will probably have plenty of places to spend their daily 10 minutes. While it might be trickier for urban universities, it doesn’t mean it’s impossible. They can add green elements to build space and get the same results, the study argued.

“This is an opportunity to challenge our thinking around what nature can be,” says Meredith. “It is really all around us: trees, a planter with flowers, a grassy quad or a wooded area.”

The researchers decided to focus on this area of study as a way to encourage students to spend time in nature to deal with their stress or anxiety and gain positive physical and mental health outcomes. They hope that more universities will consider this, making spending time in nature a daily habit for their students.

“This nature dose is an upstream ‘prevention’ approach to, hopefully, reduce the number of people getting to the point where a pharmacological approach becomes necessary,” Donald Rakow, associate professor in the School of Integrative Plant Science and author of the study, said.

The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.

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