More campuses are leveraging the outdoors to support student mental health

Credit: Noah Lyons/EdSource

Students spend time at the turtle pond on San Diego State University’s campus.

According to a 2018 study published by Frontiers of public healthSpending time outdoors can help people in a variety of categories, including “attention and cognition, memory, stress and anxiety, sleep, emotional stability, self-perceived well-being and quality of life.”

Monica Fosnocht, an associate therapist at San Diego State University with a background in natural public medicine, agrees. “For many students who are struggling with their mental health, or even students who don’t have a mental health issue but are simply stressed, it’s important to get plenty of vitamin D and get plenty of vitamin D to keep your brain functioning optimally. It helps a lot to get out.”

SDSU has its own outdoor resources. Turtle Pond, in particular, has become a popular destination for students seeking a break from school.

The origins of Turtle Pond date back to 1973. The campus community asked for more green space, and the school delivered. At first, carp were the main fish, but eventually the red-eared slider became the pond’s unofficial namesake.

Within this area are hammocks, slacklines, trees, ample seating, and of course the pond itself, all of which improve students’ mental health.

The therapeutic effects of being in outdoor spaces are being increasingly noted by mental health experts, including Tri Nguy, a faculty member in SDSU’s Counseling and Psychological Services department.n.

“Therapists are increasingly working outdoors.” Guin said. “Some providers offer therapy outdoors, such as hiking or walking. It’s no longer just within the confines of office space. ”

On the other hand, people between the ages of 15 and 21, Significantly increased stress They are more likely than older generations to report their distress and seek help. Fosnocht is optimistic that young people can normalize conversations about mental health and find their own ways to deal with it.

“Gen Z and future generations can reduce the stigma around mental health and connect mental health to things that are very familiar to us, like spending time in nature, spending time with turtles, talking to others, and taking time. We really hope that people will connect with us directly.”

A frequent visitor to the turtle pond is Natale Canepa, a fifth-year journalism and media studies major. Although he is not primarily a musician, he uses music to enhance Turtle Pond’s personality. He said he started whistling to express his excitement about returning to his classes after the pandemic.

Kanepa, who has the nickname “Turtle Pond Whistler,” posted videos on Instagram that drew others to Turtle Pond.

He sees the pond not only as an outlet for self-expression, but also as a place to truly live in the moment.

“I consider Turtle Pond a magical place. I come here and am enchanted by the sights, sounds and smells,” Canepa said. “I think the best moments in life are the quiet, slow moments when you hear the rustle of leaves in the wind, hear the water splash, and watch the little turtles swim around in the pond.”

Canepa is not alone in feeling this way. Lauren DuBose, a fourth-year business major, visits Turtle Pond almost every day when she’s away from her studies.

Even if she only has 15 minutes between classes, DuBose spends time by the pond, connecting with friends, listening to music, and practicing mindfulness.

“Being in San Diego, we have a lot of sunny days,” DuBose said. “If you can just sit there and close your eyes a little bit and get 10 minutes of sunlight a day, it’s definitely beneficial for your mental health.”

Another outdoor amenity offered by SDSU Counseling and Psychological Services includes four-legged friends. The school’s therapy dogs, Baxter and Luna, frequently appear at school events such as: Lunch with Luna,” takes place at Turtle Pond.

College campuses across California are also embracing the outdoors.

Students, staff, and faculty at the University of California, Irvine are encouraged to participate in “.Wednesday Wellness Walk” Chico State University has its own guided tour. forest therapy A program themed around “forest bathing”, which is popular in Japan.

And in the spring of 2022, the University of California, Davis created an initiative called . stay healthy outdoors” This was part of a campus-wide effort to get students outdoors and spend more time in their natural environment. The program also awarded prizes to participating students.

Fosnocht said mindfulness practices should extend beyond schools and into the community.

“It doesn’t have to be limited to just campus. When I work with students, I encourage them to use all of the outdoor spaces throughout San Diego,” Fosnocht said. “We’re right next to the Mission Trail, Cowles Mountain, and the beach.”

Noah Lyons I’m a fourth-year journalism major at San Diego State University and a member of EdSource. California Student Journalism Corps.

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