Miami isn’t exactly an “outdoorsy” place. Sure, there’s year-round access to water sports and white sandy beaches, and the city is almost always bathed in sunshine. But few people spend a significant amount of time outside every day, and it’s especially difficult to do so in college.
During the school year, most of us get stuck in our busy routines, and often our only access to the outdoors is walking to our next destination. Even if this does not seem like an issue, it’s important to make time to get outside.
Constantly staying inside makes us more sluggish and likely to procrastinate. Some studies have even suggested that lack of outdoor activity causes common disorders like ADD, especially in children.
It’s easy to adopt inside-only habits. As we spend more time inside, we feel less of a desire to get fresh air. Many students stay inside because they’re putting schoolwork first, and they feel the need to schedule full-day library sessions to keep up with assignments.
Ironically, this strategy discourages efficiency. If you’re skeptical of this, think of any time you’ve set aside three hours to study for an exam, but only used one hour to study without interruptions from Facebook, Buzzfeed or Netflix.
Sadly, this lack of nature isn’t just a college student experience. In a world where children are overscheduled and sheltered, outdoor playtime has been neglected. Some experts have suggested that a lack of nature can limit child development.
A recent article in The Atlantic highlighted how outdoor play encourages free thought, problem solving, conquering of fears and more. The thrill of being outside, climbing and exploring, empowers children to be more independent and self-confident.
These benefits of nature don’t fade away with age. As we are about to step into our adult lives, it is essential that we fine-tune the same characteristics that young children are trying to build; we need confidence, courage and independence, too.
Even a small dose of nature will do. Exploring the arboretum, taking a walk around campus, or sitting by the lake for lunch are all great activities to get more in touch with nature. Taking outdoor breaks can help students relax after hours of classes and homework, allowing them to be more energized to accomplish tasks later on.
Perhaps more importantly, spending time outside reminds us that we’re surrounded by beauty. It can give us a more positive outlook on life. And if there’s anything that can help us prepare for the real world, it’s a refreshed, optimistic attitude.
Amanda Wood is a junior majoring in ecosystem science and policy.