A Breath of Fresh Air Keeps Stress Out the Door

Elaine Sarazen Have you ever felt unfocused, unhappy, stressed or trapped inside your home, school, or work? These problems may be due to the absence of nature in your life. A tremendous amount of research has been done about the benefits of being exposed to nature. Studies have proven that being surrounded by nature decreases stress, makes a person happier, feel more alive, increases creativity and attention span, and improves mental health. However, just being outside may not give you these benefits. It is nature specifically that allows a person to feel the benefits. According to the experts, walking outside on a busy street surrounded by buildings, or any other urban scene, will not give you the same benefits as walking in a park or a rural area. In his book, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder Richard Louv, states this lack of being in nature is especially affecting children in our digital age. And in Does Nature Make Us Happy?, an article written in Psychology Today, Marilyn Price-Mitchell Ph.D says, “Children, spend far less time in nature today than in recent decades. There are no required classes in nature connectedness in our schools, nor is nature a well-utilized tool for teaching kids to critically think about the world around them.” Students at Latin, especially being high school students, do not spend much time in nature because they are consumed by homework and technology. Usually when people are outside in nature they are “unplugged” from electronics, which is one additional reason why they may feel better. Latin’s location in the city further separates students from easy access to nature. While most people do not frequently recognize how removed we are, particularly those that were born and raised in Chicago, people that have lived in other areas notice distinctive differences between people’s typical lifestyles in the urban and rural areas. Brooks Marks 17’ lived in the mountains of Park City, Utah before moving to Chicago. “I really love the city, but Utah was fun and everything definitely did seem more relaxed,” he said. “In general, people seemed to slow down, enjoy life a little more, live more in the moment, and not worry so much about the future.” Emma Goldberg 17’ feels similarly. While she lives in Chicago, she has a farm in Indiana that she is able to visit frequently. “When you’re not in the city, you have the ability to take walks and engage with nature and really take in what’s going on around you,” she said. “It gives you time just to think.” Living in the city makes it more difficult to be in nature, but it’s not impossible. It is easy to forget to spend time outside, but recognizing its benefits is the first step in better integrating nature into our everyday lives. What Latin do? Raise more awareness, and help add nature and the outdoors into student’s daily schedules What can you do? Walk home from work or school, go to the park or the lake. Ms. Lawrence, upper school guidance counselor, also suggests students do their homework outside, sit outside, find a green space, and during free periods take a walk or go to the Lincoln Park Conservatory when weather and time permits]]>