As a gal from rural Georgia, I’m not quite familiar with the hustle and bustle of a metropolis like London. It’s all jazzed up 24/7. However, there is some peace to be found within the hum of its habitants. While in London, I’ve started sleeping with my windows open and gazing out at the cranes and planes outside. I know this is something I’ll crave when I’m trying to slumber back in my sleepy corner of the south.
Last summer, I went on a pseudo-pre-assessment trip as it would turn out. I went to Manhattan, New York for one week with my school. The days were long and filled with activity—and for me, anxiety. At the end of each day, I found myself drained, grumpy and ready for bed. I thought it was uncharacteristic of me because I’m a very active person in my daily life. It didn’t take me long to realize that my depleted energy was the result of excessive exposure to the concrete jungle. Luckily, this experience helped me realize I need to take extra care of my mental health during my time in London.
While in London, I interned at a sustainability-focused news outlet. It was wonderful but could also be overwhelming. I went from staring at the computer for hours to having reporters ask for things to be quickly done. Additionally, studies have shown that constant interaction with technology can also be depressive.
Luckily, I knew a good remedy for my potential city- related stress could be found in nature. It has been shown that relaxing in nature relieves stress, increases social interaction, boosts creativity and can help soothe mental illness.
After my first day of work, I took a walk in the park and I was truly present in my surroundings. Shifting my focus to the happenings of the squirrels in the park immediately calmed me down. Recently, I also sat with my coworkers on a grassy patch near our building for lunch.
During my time in London I’ve biked through Regents Park at dusk, ran by canals and ponds on my morning runs, explored Kew Gardens, picnicked under trees, danced in the Queen’s Rose Garden and spent time reading and drinking wine on rooftops. I have also adventured to the English countryside and made my way to the cliff embellished coasts of Northern Ireland.
Making nature a priority on my trip abroad was one of the best personal decisions I made. This coping mechanism kept me sane, invigorated and excited, even for the days spent at my internship. You should always take advantage of the free and accessible open air around you!
If you want to learn more about mindfulness and ways that being in nature will improve your perspective, check out the book “Mindfulness and the Natural World: Bringing out Awareness Back to Nature“ by Claire Thompson. I picked up this book on a day trip to Kew Gardens and it is the inspiration behind this post!
Madelyn Newton is a student at the University of Georgia, studying abroad in London, England through an AIFS Customized Faculty-Led program. Madelyn, or Mads, will be graduating Fall 2018 with her Bachelors in Fashion Merchandising and Sustainability.