Did you know that spending time outdoors and in nature has many mental health benefits? It is linked to lower stress, improved mood and attention, reduced risk of developing mental health conditions as well as an increase in empathy, happiness, and a better connection to yourself, purpose, and community. Being in nature doesn’t always require going on a hike. It could mean taking a walk on the quad, sitting under a tree, or bringing some plants indoors. It can also mean going on a bubble hunt around campus and sharing the fun with others!

During these last couple of weeks of the semester when stress tends to build up the most, take time to connect with nature. To help you get started, the Counseling Center aims to add some fun and play during finals to help you de-stress, learn tips for studying, and celebrate the end of the semester. Between May 8-12, you will find bubble bottles all over campus. When you find a bottle, invite those around you to join in the fun! Take a picture and tag  @lafayettecounselingcenter on Instagram and use the #LafBubbleHunt to share the joy!

Why a bubble hunt you may ask? Bubbles also provide the opportunity to practice deep breathing as a tool to help manage stress.

Deep breathing and why it works:

Deep breathing, belly breathing or diaphragmatic breathing, is a practice that allows more air to flow into your body which can help calm nerves, reduce anxiety, increase energy and motivation, and strengthen the immune system. When practiced daily, as a preventative tool, deep breathing helps activate the body’s relaxation response and improve our capacity to deal with stress in the future.

Deep breathing also helps to quiet our sympathetic nervous system (CNS) which controls the body’s fight-flight response. When you exhale during deep breathing in particular, your parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) gets stimulated. The PNS controls the body’s relaxation response as well as overall physical functioning.

How to practice deep breathing:
Find a comfortable seated position. You can also try this exercise laying down.
Place one hand on your chest and one hand on your abdomen. The hand on your abdomen should do the moving and the top hand should remain still.
Inhale through your nose for four counts, feeling your abdomen expand and slowly exhale through your mouth for four counts.

Repeat this cycle for about one minute: four counts in and four counts out.
When you’re ready, return to your normal breathing without trying to control it.

Bonus tip: Integrate more mindful moments in your days!

Mindfulness is a state of awareness that involves intentionally paying attention to the present moment. It allows us to become a nonjudgmental observer of our thoughts and feelings and release them, rather than cling to them. Mindfulness can enhance our ability to cope with stress, improve our attention, and promote connection.

Consider trying this mindfulness exercise when you are outdoors this week:
Choose a natural object within your environment and focus on watching it for a minute or two. This could be a flower, insect, clouds, or the moon. Don’t do anything except notice the thing you are looking at without judgment. Simply relax into watching for as long as your concentration allows. Look at this object as if you are seeing it for the first time. Visually explore every aspect of its formation, and allow yourself to be consumed by its presence. Notice how you feel afterward.

Here are some more deep breathing and mindfulness resources worth checking out:

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