Nature's Classroom: Exploring Outdoor Self-Care on College Campuses

Time to read: 8.5 minutes

Date: October 14, 2023

Feeling burned out? Overwhelmed by coursework, social obligations, or just the rollercoaster ride that is college life in general? 

Welcome to college, where exams pile up, deadlines loom, societal expectations skyrocket, and FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) is a near-constant companion. It's a whirlwind of opportunities, personal growth, new friendships, and, let's be real, stress and anxiety.

We've all been there, and it's no joke. Academic pressure stands high on the list of common stressors. Pressure to perform can induce sleepless nights, eating disorders, and feelings of burnout. Add in the societal pressure to "fit in," juggle jobs and internships, maintain a bustling social life, all while figuring out who you are and who you want to be – it’s a tough gig for sure! It’s during these moments that self-care becomes crucial. Go on, give yourself permission to prioritize YOU. 

But here's a thought - have you ever considered turning to Mother Nature as a potential remedy? Let's dive into the transformative power of outdoor self-care practices.

If you're picturing grueling wilderness hikes or dashing about a sports field when you'd much rather be knee-deep in the latest Netflix binge, pause right there. Outdoor self-care isn't about strapping yourself to activities you loathe in the name of some alleged 'greater good.' It’s about using the incredible resources right on our doorsteps to help soothe turbulent minds, recharge weary bodies, build resilience, and counterbalance some of the stressors that come along with campus life.

In this blog post, we'll decode the concept of outdoor self-care, why it's paramount for us overworked scholars, and the myriad of ways it can be woven into your daily routine on campus. We'll even debunk those pesky barriers that may stand in your path to embracing nature's classroom. Let's navigate the lush green pathway to outdoor self-care on college campuses!

What is Outdoor Self-Care?

Outdoor self-care can be defined as the act of engaging in outdoor activities specifically to reduce stress, enhance well-being, refresh the mind, and nurture the body. It's not about pushing your limits or chasing thrill-seeker vibes (unless, of course, that's your jam!). It's simply about harnessing the power of the great outdoors as a potent tool for self-care. 

From a quick stroll around the campus gardens between lectures, sitting under a tree with a good book, or catching a sunrise run, to joining an outdoor yoga or tai chi group, outdoor self-care activities come in all shapes and sizes. The heart of this concept? Bolstering your mental and physical health without feeling like it's another to-do list task, but rather something you look forward to.

Benefits to Being Outdoors 

Mental benefits 

Ever noticed how a hike through the woods, a walk in the park, or some time sitting near a pond can calm even the most frantic of minds? That's no coincidence. Nature's hues, sounds, smells, and sights can trigger a relaxation response in the brain, easing stress and anxiety. Plus, it can boost mood, creativity, and concentration, as well as improve our quality of sleep - all pretty crucial for acing that 8am test or late-night project.

Physical benefits

Physically, outdoor activities can be a fun, less tedious way to get your heart pumping and muscles working. Regular outdoor exercise strengthens our cardiovascular and immune systems, promotes bone density, improves coordination and balance (no more tripping over tangled charger cables!), reduces inflammation, and helps regulate the body.

Emotional benefits

Self-care acts like a pressure relief valve, offering effective ways to help manage these unique university-related stressors and feelings. It could be as straightforward as taking a break to recharge, promoting better sleep habits, making time for hobbies, or practicing mindfulness and gratitude. Quality self-care helps to keep stress and anxiety at manageable levels, leading to improved academic performance, better emotional stability, and enriching interactions and relationships. 

So, yes, self-care matters. It's our response tool, our way to deal with stress and anxiety and ensure that we foster resilience and emotional health. Remember, as the old saying goes, "you can't pour from an empty cup." So refill yours with some self-care goodness, and watch your college life transform!

Resources and Opportunities for Outdoor Self-Care 

Most college campuses are ripe with resources for outdoor self-care. Look out for college clubs and societies focusing on outdoor activities. Not familiar with them? Navigate to your college website or student services center. Find campus gardens, nature walks, running trails, or outdoor sports facilities. 

Off-campus, you can explore local parks or hiking trails. Search for free outdoor yoga classes in your city, join community clean-up events, or just pack a picnic in a green space. Embrace these opportunities, and let the outdoors become your mindful retreat!

On campus

Let’s start close to home - your campus green spaces. These are prime spots for walking, jogging, or simply getting some Vitamin D through sunshine. Why not explore the hidden trails around your campus? You never know, you might just find a shortcut to chemistry class, stumble across a peaceful haven for silent reflection or encounter campus wildlife.

Community garden

Maybe you’ve got a green thumb or want to develop one: consider joining a campus community garden. Not only does gardening offer an engaging way to get outside, but you also get the satisfaction of seeing something grow from a seed into a plant. Gardening is a great way to take control, care for another living thing, and connect with fellow plant enthusiasts. Plus, if it's a fruit or vegetable garden, there's fresh produce on the table and some savings for the grocery budget!


Perhaps you're more of a thrill-seeker, or you want to socialize while doing self-care outside? Outdoor sports could be your next big thing! Universities often have a wide array of club sports that are played in the fresh air, from soccer and Ultimate Frisbee to volleyball and Quidditch (Harry Potter fans, rejoice!). 

Add a splash of adrenaline to your day by joining the campus rock climbing group, or find your inner zen with an outdoor yoga society. The possibilities are endless, and there's likely to be an outdoor activity that aligns with your interests.

Take Advantage of Mother Nature

Why not make Mother Nature your daily buddy? Trust us, she can effortlessly inject some tranquility and balance into your jam-packed day. Here's how to dish up a daily serving of natural goodness without derailing your packed schedule.

  1. Breakfast Outside: Kickstart your day with a mini outdoor adventure. Enjoy your breakfast al fresco. Or swap one indoor coffee break for an outdoor one; take that brew outside. It's a great way to wake up, shake off sleepiness, and get a daily dose of fresh air.

  1. Walking Meetings: Got group projects or study groups? Suggest meeting while walking around campus. Ideas flow better when you're moving, not to mention all the fitness benefits.

  1. Bike, Don't Drive: College campuses are generally quite cycle-friendly. Instead of relying on that bus or car, choose to bicycle. Bonus: It's kinder to the planet too.

  1. Go Au Naturel with Exercise: Why not exchange the gym for the great outdoors at least once a week? Whether it's yoga in the park, a run around the campus, or a brisk walk between classes, nature provides an awesome backdrop for workouts. 

  1. Digital Detox Time-Out: Take some time each day to disconnect from all electronic devices. Spend this time purely soaking in your natural surroundings. Next time you have that urge to scroll through social media, put your phone away, step outside, and simply 'be’ in nature. 

  1. Urban Gardener: Even if you don't have a patch of green to call your own, you can get a plant for your study or living space. Great for a mood booster!

Create a routine

It fosters consistency, helping you to reap more benefits from any self-care practice—outdoor self-care included. Plus, tackling new habits can be less overwhelming when incorporated into your routine. Remember, the aim is not to create a significant additional workload but to gently weave these natural elements into your existing schedule.

Incorporating nature into your daily routine bridges the gap between your indoor-focused college life and the immense benefits of the outdoors. Start small, but start today – soon, you'll see your stress turning into serenity, compliments of our charming ally, Nature.

No more excuses

Alright, we get it. Just because outdoor activities are available doesn't mean it's automatically easy to dive right in. Here we tackle some common barriers that you may face while trying to incorporate nature into your self-care regimen - and offer a few tips on how to overcome them!

Barrier 1: "I don't have time!" College life is incredibly busy. The idea of squeezing one more activity into an already tight schedule can be daunting.

Solution: Start small and incorporate nature into activities you’re already doing. You could study under a tree instead of inside the library or take your coffee break outside. Remember, every little bit counts!

Barrier 2: "I'm just not an outdoorsy person." For some, bugs, dirt, and unpredictable weather rank high on their ‘nope’ list.

Solution: You don’t have to scale mountains to appreciate the outdoors. Even simple activities like watching the clouds, appreciating a beautiful sunset, or reading in a park can be beneficial. Find a level of outdoor interaction that you’re comfortable with.

Barrier 3: "I don't know what I would do outside." Lacking ideas or not having prior exposure to outdoor activities can also be a problem.

Solution: Join a club or society related to outdoor activities on your campus. This way, you would have a structure to follow as well as a community to enjoy it with.

Overcoming barriers is critical for making the most of outdoor self-care, so don't let these initial challenges deter you. Embrace the journey and find your unique way of bonding with nature!


And there you have it, folks - a handy guide to unlocking the magic of outdoor self-care on our very own campus. We've journeyed through the power of nature for mental and physical wellbeing, various outdoor campus activities, and how to incorporate this natural stress-buster into your daily routine.

Our schedules may be packed, and our stress levels off the charts, but as we’ve discovered, outdoor self-care is a powerful ally - and it’s right on our doorstep. So let's step outside our comfort zones into nature's inviting embrace.

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