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Managing Your ‘Thyme’ with Nature: Advice on Overcoming the Year

My name is Daniel Morris – I’m a 4th year student for my B.Sc in Honours Psychology. I’d like to tell you about plants and brains.

The Tahina Palm tree is a rare palm tree that was discovered in Madagascar in 2007, following its one and only bloom after an estimated 50 years dormant. This distinguished it from the other species of palms that it was once thought to belong to. Since then, there are now thought to be less than 100 of these trees in existence – and we just recently noticed them there – perhaps exemplifying the idea that humans take for granted their environment. Nature has an effect on our psychological state, and how could it not? Matter is constantly being exchanged via molecules, electrons are traded among beings to provide energy – humans ARE nature. Although, let’s get to the point – university is noticeably different from the beaches of Madagascar, however, the idea of missing details in our environment remains valid.

In this context, imagine nature as a lush green forest. There’s a cornucopia of benefits that can be gained from being exposed to this setting. Research in nature psychology supports that exposure to nature (ie: picture of nature, house plants, a jungle), helps to reduce stress and increase happiness through developing a relatedness to nature. The more someone feels connected to nature; the more it will benefit them when they are exposed to it. This could in-turn help increase sustainable behaviors such as reducing litter and saving energy.

But why is this important for university? For many, university means being in close quarters with unfamiliar faces, and exposed to perhaps less-than-favorable sleeping environments. Stress and anxiety can easily build up and it’s important to create strategies that help to mediate those. Trent University has many trails and open green spaces that can help you connect with nature. Just to name a few: the Drumlin trail at Lady Eaton, the Greenway Trail, Camp Kawartha near Gzowski and many others. All of these are great hiking locations and are respectfully well kept. But if hiking isn’t your jam, consider getting a house plant. House plants can help you keep track of your own emotional well-being – to put it simply; if the plant is sad, you might be too.

However, none of these benefits can be gained if you’re not paying attention. Put your phone down when you’re hiking. Attention must be given to nature for you to feel immersed in it and that is when you can start to feel happier and more relaxed. This is often easier said than done though, as assignments pile up, and therefore it’s important to integrate nature exposure into your daily routine. Take the trail when you need to study, or bike to campus from downtown if you can. Bikes can cost very little at second hand stores or on community buy/sell groups. This will encourage your mind to take notice in the life that’s growing around it.

University life can be a hard adjustment for some and it’s important to recognise that. There are many supports available at Trent University, such as the counselling center in Blackburn hall, and again the campus is covered in green life. There are also various sports and activities that you can sign up for, or if you would like to get more involved in mental health advocacy there exists an Active Minds branch on campus. They are a student-led group that focuses attention on psychological well-being and community involvement. Their email is Unlike the Tahina palm, it’s important to notice the little details that might suggest that one needs to take better care of themselves early on. Everyone will have a different experience at university, and so no one plan fits everyone, but everyone can connect with nature. Get out and explore!

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