College is the proverbial stop before adulthood when spring break serves as a rite of passage and beer-guzzling is the weekend norm. Beyond the college facade of 24/7 fun, college life has its struggles, from homesickness and loneliness to academic stress and even depression. According to an American College Counseling Association study in 2012, more than 30 percent of college students seeking help had severe psychological problems, reported Business Week. Among mental health problems, depression and anxiety are the most prevalent issues students face, says John MacPhee, executive director of the Jed Foundation, a non-profit organization that promotes health and suicide prevention for college students.
Anxiety and depression can grow to be debilitating, but indulging in mother earth and receiving quality dosages of vitamin D can help alleviate symptoms of stress and sadness. Ecotherapy, also known as outdoor green therapy for mindfulness and meditation, can help mitigate depression and improve mental health, reports Medical Daily. Just by taking a walk in nature can reduce depression, reveals a study from the University of Essex. A connection with nature and embracing green can not only fight depression, but also boost energy and overall wellbeing.
Students confronting emotional and mental stress can maximize the organic healing of nature even more with outdoor activities, from exercising to extreme sports. Volunteers in studies enjoyed outside activity more than indoor activity and scored higher on psychological tests for "vitality, enthusiasm, pleasure and self-esteem," as well as "lower on tension, depression and fatigue," according to The New York Times.
If you're in a rut or overwhelmed by school stress, retreat to the outdoors and get moving. The following workouts and outdoor thrill-seeking activities can help restore mental health and balance:
Picking up an adventurous hobby such motocross or skiing can refocus the mind away from a bad stressful event, like struggling to study for a finals exam. In fact, the good stress of an adrenaline-pumping activity can actually enhace performance and trigger the release of the pleasure-inducing dopamine and endorphins. Whether you're dirt biking, rock climbing or snowboarding, experiencing the stress hormone epinephrine can create a dopamine reward — or euphoric high.
Every time you hop on your custom-built dirt bike or plan your next snowboarding excursion, you'll anticipate the exhilarating thrill that comes after the physiological stress response, explains SRxA's Word on Health. Familiarizing your mind and body with strenuous situations that end in a rewarding high can then cross over into other challenging and difficult areas of your life. The adrenaline junkie will be able to experience types of stress differently and with more confidence to respond healthily and in more control. SRxA sums it up by suggesting that as long as you can leap outside your comfort zone, get that adrenaline kick and test your limits, your relationship with stress can improve.
According to an online poll by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 20 percent of poll takers who exercise to cope with stress prefer running. Running is a stress-management tool that can enhance cognitive function by reducing fatigue, sharpening concentration and improving alertness. Running outdoors while breathing in fresh air and trekking through green space can provide even more mental health, stress-busting benefits. Studies show that people experience lower blood levels of the stress-related hormone cortisol after exercising outside, reports The New York Times. A natural environment and sunlight can also positively affect moods and encourage consistent exercising, whether you're running around a lake or trail running through a park.