Students need nature ‘now more than ever,’ UK campus speaker says


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Rachel Crick

Florence Williams, author of The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative, told a crowd of students and spectators that if they wanted to improve their health, they needed to be in nature. 

Williams is an award-winning journalist and author whose work centers on science, health and the environment. She spoke at the Jacobs Science Building on Wednesday evening as a part of the Urban Forestry Initiative series at UK.

According to Williams, spending time in nature can decrease heart rate, blood pressure and cortisol levels while boosting immunity, mood and creativity. Researchers have varying opinions on the causes of this, ranging from the smells of nature to the colors or fractal patterns we see in forests.

Williams emphasized the importance of these benefits for children and teenagers especially, attributing a rise of obesity, depression and anxiety to “the great migration indoors.” According to Williams, playing outside as children contributes to a sense of adventure and caters to their developing brains in a way that video games simply can’t.

“Access to nature is more than a luxury. It’s fundamental to human well-being,” Williams said.

Williams discussed ways people around the world are incorporating nature into their lives, from outdoor kindergartens in Denmark to plant-filled hospitals in Singapore. Doctors around the world are even beginning to prescribe nature to their patients, especially in pediatrics.

For students at universities, Williams recommends being around nature at every possible opportunity, even if it’s just a quick walk around the block or eating a meal outside. UK’s campus has around 8,600 trees, giving students the opportunity to surround themselves with nature on a regular basis.

“College students need it now more than ever with the higher rates of anxiety and depression,” Williams said.   

 The talk was attended by UK students, local environmentalist groups and members of the general public. Many in attendance agreed with Williams’ message.

Williams said those looking to enjoy health benefits and get a creative boost from nature should go outside for at least 30 minutes every day and try to go to restful natural areas at least once a month.