Spending just ten minutes a day in a natural setting can make college students happier and decrease their level of both physical and mental stress, Cornell researchers announced in their study.
The study was recently published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology and is part of a larger research into “nature therapy.” The goal of the study was to quantify how much “dose” of nature can be prescribed by doctors to prevent high levels of stress, anxiety, depression and other mental health issues college students face.
“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 lead author Gen Meredith, associate director of the Master of Public Health Program and lecturer at the College of Veterinary Medicine, in their 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,” she said.
Ten Minutes Sitting or Walking in Nature
The Cornell researchers looked at how being in a natural setting affect college students (aged 15 to 30). They wanted to find out specifically how much time the students should spend in nature to have positive benefits, and what activities the students should be doing in nature. In the study, the students experienced positive changes in mood, focus and physiological markers like blood pressure and heart rate after being in a natural setting for 10 to 50 minutes.
They found that after 50 minutes, the psychological benefits tended to plateau, though it did not necessarily decline.
In addition, the researchers found that the students needed only to do one of two primary activities – sitting or walking, to enjoy the positive benefits of being in a nature space.
These findings open up more potential of using and designing nature spaces for students to lower their stress level. The researchers suggested just adding some nature spaces in urban settings can give students places to go to enjoy the benefits of nature.
“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.”
Whether you are a student or not, these findings show what traditional wisdom has taught – just being closer to nature can really bring us internal balance, happiness and calmness. If you’re a college student, just ten minutes a day in nature can reduce your stress level.