Outside adventures prove beneficial for mental health

Gwyn Skiles, asst. opinions editor

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Adventure. When I lived in Sammamish, Washington, weekends were spent hiking, swimming in lakes and building forts out of fallen tree branches. Now, my time is consumed with school work and extracurricular activities that prevent me from venturing outside. Any free time I do have is spent indoors in front of a screen.

The landscape of Sammamish is vastly different from Glenview. There are trees as tall as Chicago’s buildings everywhere you look. Streams run through backyards, hiking trails lie behind schools, and animals such as deer, woodpeckers, salmon, and moles are often seen. Sammamish is on a plateau, thus bike rides and walks to school are often steep, making exercise more intense.

The other night while studying for a math test, I looked up at the family photos in my living room, and longed for the adventure I had in my previous life in Sammamish. I yearned for the exciting terrain, crisp air and scenery that I deemed missing from Glenview. But what was I supposed to do? Drop everything and get on a plane?

I came to the conclusion that I had to find adventure nearby. I needed to carve out time to spend outside. No matter how hard I tried, going on my phone for two hours was not going to give me the relaxation and excitement I was looking for.

Now, if I need a break from homework, I will walk my dog for 10 minutes instead of searching aimlessly on social media for half an hour, never relieving my tired mind. On the weekends, instead of skimming through the free movie section on my TV, I will call a friend and drive to new places.

I found that venturing outside more has helped me to live in the present and become mindful. I am less stressed about my grades and college pursuits, yet more motivated to complete my homework. I have also found that spending time outside has helped me to eat healthier and exercise more. By spending time outside, I eased the stimulation from looking at a screen and being cooped up inside, and I became less inclined to reach for unhealthy snacks to get me through a homework assignment.

According to a study conducted by Common Sense Media, teenagers spend nearly nine hours a day in front of screens. Imagine how free our minds could be if we spent even an hour in fresh air with nothing but ourselves and our thoughts to keep us busy.

It can be difficult to grasp how much time you spend on your phone. To help me, I turned on notifications that tell me how much time I have spent on each app. Every 30 minutes I get a notification from YouTube, informing me on my usage. I was surprised by how much time I was spending browsing media that could have been spent in nature. Thirty minutes feels like five when you’re on your phone. When we tell ourselves that we don’t have enough time to go outside, we are making excuses only to our detriment.

Next time you find yourself checking PowerSchool every five minutes, or pulling your hair out because you can’t solve a certain math problem, I challenge you to catch yourself instinctively reaching for your phone, and to take a walk outside instead. You might just discover more about yourself and the environment around you, rather than prolonging your stress.

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