After a long winter cooped up studying, it’s finally spring. Translation: time to break out of your library rut and get some fresh air. It’s not just the thought of warmer weather that can get you pumped. Something about spring—more time outside, maybe some new classes—makes everything seem more exciting. The season is so fresh and new that even spring cleaning can feel good (seriously).
“Spring cleaning is like a fresh start. You get to clean all the extra clutter from the year before and start on a good note, and you also spend time away from your phone which is also nice,” Gabby U., a third-year undergraduate student at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in British Columbia, said in a recent Student Health 101 survey.
When we talked to students, it turns out there’s a lot to be excited about in spring (beyond cleaning, we promise) and a lot of ways to enjoy the season. Check out our favourites below.
Hiking, biking, running, swimming—you name it, it’s all back on your list of weekend activities come spring. Aside from being fun, getting outside has some added benefits. Research shows the change of scenery can actually help make you sharper in class. A 2018 study found that when instructors took their classes outside, students were significantly more attentive and engaged (Frontiers in Psychology).
And those benefits go way beyond helping you learn. Getting out into some green space, whether that’s a hiking trail or city park, can help reduce your risk of diabetes, heart disease, stress, and high blood pressure, according to a 2018 report by researchers in the UK. “I always feel really good after having spent the day outdoors and being physically active. Especially if it means I got to do it with my loved ones,” says Charlotte V., a third-year undergraduate at the University of New Brunswick.
Many of you reported spring is the season for giving your time to others—nearly a third of the students we surveyed said volunteering was one of their top three spring activities.
If you haven’t tried it yet, volunteer for a cause you believe in. It might help you connect with people who share your energy and values—and it can help you figure out which career path you might enjoy. Check out your options at Volunteer Canada.
Despite all the intense headlines, social media isn’t all bad—as a 2017 review of studies confirmed, social media is often a powerful (positive) way to connect and build relationships. But too much screen time can lead to lack of sleep and increased risk of depression, the same study found.
Use the longer, warmer days as an excuse to enjoy some screen-free downtime. “Outdoor activities are great because they get you unplugged from the stress of cellphones, internet, and essentially being in constant communication with everyone. Activities like climbing and hiking in nature are awesome no-signal zones where you can breathe fresh air and get active,” says Daisy*, a second-year undergraduate student at Southern Alberta Institute of Technology.
OK, maybe it’s not the best thing about spring (though 11 percent of the Canadian students we surveyed thought it was), but spring cleaning can be a great way to set yourself up for the new semester and finish the year strong.
Organizing our closets and bedrooms can help us create an environment more conducive to relaxation and productivity. Really—a 2011 study published in the Journal of Neuroscience found that looking at clutter can create chaos in your brain. In other words, if your room is a mess, it can hamper your ability to study. Spring cleaning also has an added bonus: Having a de-cluttered room will save time in the mornings (maybe even earning you an extra five minutes of sleep).
“Visible mess helps distract us from the true source of the disorder,” says Marie Kondo, author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and unofficial spokesperson of spring cleaning.
Per Kondo’s advice, ask yourself the following when cleaning out your closet and dresser:
- Do I need this? If the answer is a resounding yes, keep it.
- Does it fit? If not, donate it.
- Does it have sentimental value? If yes, keep it. But if you haven’t worn it in over a year, consider donating it.
- When was the last time I wore it? Again, if it’s been more than a year, chances are you won’t wear it again. Donate.
Whether you’re at a party, hanging out with a few friends, or chilling one-on-one, research shows that spending time with friends and loved ones makes us happier, healthier, and helps us live longer lives. Friendships are so vital to our well-being, they can actually help ward off serious health issues, including heart disease, high blood pressure, and even cancer, according to the findings of a review of studies published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior in 2010.
“[I recommend that you] plan things with friends and family. It makes you feel like you aren’t alone in this world and it’s always more fun to be with someone,” says Selena L, a fourth-year student at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in British Columbia.
One of the best things about spring, according to the students we surveyed, is the chance to be more active after a season of hibernating. “I think my favourite activity is hiking. Just being outside reduces stress and having a goal such as ‘I’m going to hike to the waterfall and back’ gives you a great sense of achievement. Even a 30-minute walk in the woods can do a lot of good,” says Maria*, a third-year student at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in British Columbia. . Whether it’s playing sports or simply moving more, spring is bursting with chances to get back into action.
Not convinced? George, a student in Normal, Illinois, paints a perfect picture of playing Ultimate Frisbee. “There is nothing quite like playing in the spring,” he says. “The season is in mid-flux: Will the day be 60 degrees [Fahrenheit] or below freezing? Will there be sun? Rain? Snow? What about mud and snow?! Then you spend the whole weekend at the whim of Mother Nature, and you are surrounded by your teammates and all of the new friends suffering through the same climate exchanges just for a weekend of chasing a piece of plastic around.”
One of the top three things students we surveyed said they looked forward to in the spring? Getting out and travelling.
“I love to go camping or travelling because it help[s] me relax,” says Helen Z., a third-year student at Queen’s University in Ontario. “Also, I can put down my phone and actually enjoy nature.”
Other ideas for a fantastic spring
Going on photography walks
“You get to spend some time outdoors and see the trees, flowers, and plants reviving.”
—Helena G., fourth-year undergraduate, Clemson University, Georgia
“I enjoy getting a plant in the spring and taking care of it. It is a nice, solitary activity.”
—Mariana C., third-year graduate student, University of Montana Billings
Hitting up local festivals
“It’s a good time to enjoy a free concert, free games and activities, and, my personal favourite, free food.”
—Nic S.*, fourth-year undergraduate, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
Taking time to just enjoy the weather
“Anything under the sun or with friends. Getting sunshine feels amazing after a long winter and both make you happier.”
—Cassandra V., fourth-year student, Mount Allison University, New Brunswick
* Names changed
Kondo, M., & Hirano, C. (2014). The life-changing magic of tidying up: The Japanese art of decluttering and organizing (First American edition.). Berkeley: Ten Speed Press.
Kuo, M., Browning, M., & Penner, M. (2018). Do lessons in nature boost subsequent classroom engagement? Refueling students in flight. Frontiers in Psychology. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.02253
McMains, S., & Kastner, S. (2011). Interactions of top-down and bottom-up mechanisms in human visual cortex. Journal of Neuroscience, 31(2), 587–597. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3766-10.2011
Uhls, Y. T., Ellison, N. B., & Subrahmanyam, K. (2017). Benefits and costs of social media in adolescence. Pediatrics, 140(2).
Umberson, D., & Karas Montez, J. (2010). Social relationships and health: A flashpoint for health policy. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 51, S54–66. doi: 10.1177/0022146510383501
University of East Anglia. (2018, June 7). It’s official—spending time outside is good for you. Retrieved from https://www.uea.ac.uk/about/-/it-s-official-spending-time-outside-is-good-for-you