Illustrated vines with sunflowers swirl out of a cardboard box

Opinion columnist Archana Ramakrishnan encourages people to step away from their busy schedules to enjoy the psychological benefits of nature.

Opinion 

Why go outside when it's freezing cold? Research suggests that a five-minute walk can be immensely beneficial for your well-being.

Even though we live in a fast-paced technological era, we were made to appreciate and experience life in nature. In today’s world, it's astonishing how human beings are somehow always tied to boxes. We live in a box, transport ourselves around in a box and always carry a little metal box in our back pockets.  

The negative effects of constantly staying inside and being tied to these boxes become even more pronounced during the winter. Catching the winter blues is inevitable with the lack of natural daylight and not getting enough fresh air. It is important to spend time away from our work and phones.

A brisk walk is a great way to recharge the mind and body, and it takes little effort yet has monumental effects of reducing cortisol levels, which reduce stress. Exposure to sunlight increases levels of serotonin, which is a hormone that affects your mood and well being. Also, the increase in your heart rate as you walk produces energy within your body and warms the muscles.

Going out on a savoring walk is a happiness practice from a curated list composed of scientifically supported ways to promote happiness, compassion and well-being by The Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley. The center emphasizes that savoring is an effective psychological method of letting positive events have a deeper and more meaningful impact on our minds.

It stops us from taking growth and compassion we experience for granted. Staying connected to the world around us and the people we interact with gives us a sense of belonging and an appreciation for the things with which we are blessed.

Taking a stroll outside also lets us observe many wonders of nature, serving as an opportunity to find carefree happiness in our busy and productivity-focused lives.

The beautiful trees and snow-covered buildings on Mount Oread or the silly squirrels that playfully run around campus will cheer you up and give you a sense of gratitude. Breaks in nature help you return to your work with a renewed energy. They give new perspectives to problem solving and matters that you tend to fixate on.

Zach Newby, a health educator at Watkins Health Services, encourages students to go on walks during winter for many physical and mental health benefits.

Newby said for every hour-long block of studying, students should get up and move around for a few minutes, if able. He said walking improves blood circulation, which effectively improves memory recall, and going outside around 1 to 3 p.m. when the sun is out helps combat vitamin D deficiency. 

If weather conditions are too harsh to go on a walk, studying near a window with access to natural light is also an ideal way to reap some of these benefits. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) lamps are a helpful resource available for checkout at The Lawrence Public Library. These lamps simulate natural light for use in the winter and encourage the brain to promote good moods and better sleep, according to the National Health Service of the U.K.

In 2020, consider making it your goal to step outside your four walls from time to time. Take breaks between hours of building productivity, and prioritize building happiness.

Archana Ramakrishnan is a junior from Chennai, India, studying computer science.