The Great Outdoors: Connecting to Your Roots

Published April 19, 2017

Boone Fork Bridge by  Joe Giordano     I have been thinking a lot lately about the power of the outdoors and the intrinsic connection we humans have with nature. Perhaps it is the coming of spring and the longer, warmer days of this season. Or maybe it is the stories I hear every day in my work with students about how much better they feel after the simple act of spending time outside. Or it could be the panic I felt after I reading a recent news headline about today’s youth spending an average of seven hours a day on entertainment media, including televisions, computers, phones, and other electronic devices. Ever since I was a child, I have found solace in being outside, especially in nature. I grew up in remote, rural places so my playground was the woods, beach, and ocean as opposed to a cityscape. I think I discovered at an early age, without even knowing it, that the simplicity and vastness and beauty of the natural world is a remedy for all sorts of ills.

     A growing body of research has linked exposure to nature to numerous psychological, physical, and spiritual health benefits. In the 1980s, E.O. Wilson conceptualized the idea of “biophilia,” referring to humans’ innate affinity for the natural world. We know that spending time outdoors is restorative, leading to increased creativity, problem-solving, critical thinking, attention span, and memory, as well as reduction in the mental fatigue associated with sensory overload. Emotional benefits include reduced stress, rumination, anger and increased positive feelings, resilience to adversity, sensory engagement, generosity, the ability to self-soothe, and self-esteem. This means that spending time outside, especially immersed in nature, is an antidote for some of the more common mental health concerns experienced by students, such as anxiety, depression, relationship distress, and academic stress. Imagine, all of these benefits at the tip of your fingers! Additionally, more time spent in nature positively impacts attitudes and behaviors towards the environment, which means that people are more likely to protect natural resources if they have spent time outdoors (you know the old saying, “you care for what you know and love”?).

     We are blessed to live and work in one of the most beautiful places on earth. The High Country boasts enough trails to hike, rivers to fish and paddle, mountains to climb and bike, and meadows to daydream in to last a lifetime. If you are in to more structured or guided outdoor activities, check out our own ASU Outdoor Programs, which offers low cost outings, expeditions, service, and leadership development in the great outdoors. Whether you are new to the outdoors or an avid adventurer, I encourage you to get outside as soon and as much as possible, to feel the sunshine on your face or the rain on your back, the chill of a spring morning or the brilliant green of newly budding trees. Rediscover your sense of wonder. You won’t regret it!

 

Wishing you peace and fun in the great outdoors,
Heidi Campbell, MA
Staff Counselor


 

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Boone, NC 28608-2044

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Boone, NC 28608

Phone: 828-262-3180
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