#thetimeisnow

Season activities and student health Mental health can be linked to outdoor engagement

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By: Aliza Prodaniuk

Many students dislike winter on campus. The season throws rain, slush, and snow, in varying degrees, onto the student masses, making hiking to class messy and miserable. Other areas of contention are having to wait for the bus in sub-zero temperatures and McMaster’s sidewalk-salting fetish. Although I personally and admittedly identify with this struggle, I think it is important for optimal student mental health to get outside and enjoy winter-based activities.

I have always been a firm believer that staying mentally and physically active is important in order to maintain a balanced and healthy lifestyle. While education provides us with opportunities to exercise our mental fitness, it can also be the source of stress due to pressing expectations.

I know that for myself, being a successful McMaster student has been contingent on the endless fun of impromptu snowball fights, building snowmen and many a winter hike to see the spectacular frozen waterfalls in the area, all of which offer blissful liberation throughout the winter months.

According to an article published in Frontiers in Psychology, “proximity to green-space has been associated with lower levels of stress and reduced symptomology for depression and anxiety […] [known as the] being away [philosophy].”

As this philosophy suggests, being away incites personal feelings of “escape from the stressful demands of daily life, an extent, in which a perception of vastness and connectedness in an environment helps promote related experiences of being away.”

I have always been a firm believer that staying mentally and physically active is important in order to maintain a balanced and healthy lifestyle.

Luckily for us, McMaster’s natural backyard offers a plethora of opportunities to get out, get involved and escape into nature. Besides, we have snow this year, snow that will no longer require us to toboggan on half dirt, half slush. It is this year that we have snow, so let’s get out and play.

Two of my absolute favourite, budget-conscious activities that students can participate in include the Sunday Hike Series, facilitated by Nature at McMaster, and skating at Pier 8.

The Sunday Hike Series includes hiking to waterfalls and diverse ecosystems found near McMaster, bestowing that feeling of “being away” noted in the article above. If you are interested in participating, the hikes take place every Sunday and are free to anyone who wants to get involved, unless otherwise noted. Show up outside McMaster niversity Student Centre at 10 a.m. with bus pass in hand.

The very best winter activity though is skating at Pier 8. For those who don’t know, Pier 8 is located along the Bayfront and boasts a great view of Lake Ontario. In winter, the lake is especially breathtaking, offering up a frosty backdrop to the fun of ripping around the ice rink either as a novice or full out figure skater. It is a place for romantics, friends and family to enjoy a great sport and an abundance of fresh air.

The evening is a magical experience as music plays under twinkling lights. This activity is free to anyone with their own gear and rentals are also available for a reasonable price. If you didn’t think it could get better than that, Pier 8 is also home to Williams Cafe, an excellent space to warm up, eat and enjoy a hot beverage such as my personal favorite, a cup of hot cocoa topped with a mass of fresh whipped cream.Remember, staying mentally and physically active is an essential part of maintaining a healthy and well-balanced lifestyle.

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