Many studies have been carried out to investigate the effect that nature has on our mental well-being, and most of them have come to the same conclusion: green spaces, plants, trees… All have been shown to improve mental well-being. Even a photo of a tree has some positive effect, apparently. I often read articles on these topics with some scepticism. How can spending time in a forest have a lasting impact on your overall well-being? But now, since moving to a city and finding myself in drastically less green surroundings, I realise that nature really does play a big role in my own well-being.
At home it only takes me a ten minute walk to reach a very secluded area of the beach. As the saying goes, you only realise what you have once it’s gone. This is a rather dramatic way of saying that I really do miss this space when I’m in Oxford,. It’s become a place where I feel completely at ease. I let the refreshing sea breeze run through me, and if I’m lucky, there will be nobody else around. The ground is an awkward mix of both sand and pebbles, so perhaps it’s understandable that not many people spend time there. On the rare occasion that there is a clear sky, watching the beautiful sunset is one of the most calming things to do. So, as it turns out, this quiet, open space really does improve my well-being. But it wasn’t until university that I realised how much. If I ever had a bad day at school, or wanted to be alone for no particular reason, wandering along the footpath through the trees and staring at the calming waves offered me solace. Rather than sit inside listening to music or reading, I take myself to the beach to be in the open atmosphere, and I always notice how much calmer I feel as I begin the short walk back home. Feeling connected to something completely natural has a cleansing effect.
Obviously, there are no beaches at Oxford. However, there are lots of parks which I have found to be a good substitute. Walking through Christ Church Meadow has become somewhat routine for me, and I feel at ease as I walk alongside the river. At the right time of year, see the daffodils blooming. And you don’t need to actively place value on nature for nature to have an effect on you. Getting plants or flowers for your room can be a great way to harness nature’s positive effects: Tesco has a reasonable choice, but The Garden of Oxford (in the Covered Market) is standout when it comes to variety. However, if caring for plants is not your strong suit (don’t worry, me neither), make use of the green spaces in Oxford, and find the place that you gravitate towards. The simple act of walking in a green area, even if it’s on your way to go somewhere else, can subtly brighten up your day and provide great relief from the busy terms.