The Benefits of “Park Days”

I learned a lot about myself when I studied abroad in London last spring. I’ve already written an article about how difficult that semester was, so I’m going to take a different angle in this one. I’m going to talk about something that really helped me: Park Days.

What is a Park Day, you ask? Pretty simple. It’s a day spent in a park, a day spent trying to avoid the hustle and bustle that comes with living in a city.

 

I’d never lived in a city, before London. Not even close. I grew up on the edges of a town of about 5000 people, then came to a college in a village even smaller than that. A year or so ago, my parents moved to Pittsburgh. Well, to a town that’s 45 minutes outside Pittsburgh. For us, that’s the big city. We have neighbors! There’s traffic! We can go to shows and museums and nice restaurants without making a full day of it!

 

It’s an understatement to say that moving into an apartment on the East End of London was jolting. Suddenly, there were people everywhere. Buildings everywhere. Cars and buses and noise everywhere. It was chaotic and hectic and very, very new.

One of London’s best features is its park system. Enormous, sprawling parks. Parks big enough you can hide in the middle and forget that you’re in a city at all. There was a spot in Regent’s Park, my favorite park, where you couldn’t see a single building or hear a single car. It was so quiet and so still. The perfect break from real life.

 

On Park Days, I’d put a book in my bag and head to one of these parks. Then I would just wander. I’d walk along paths or cut across the grass. I’d sit under a tree for a while and read. I’d stand by a lake and watch ducks swim. I remember seeing a dog learn how to fetch and a baby learns how to walk. I remember sitting in silence and feeling like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I remember feeling at peace.

I know how much better I feel after one of my Park Days. Even now that I’m not living in a hectic city, spending time outside allows me to unwind from the hectic aspects of everyday life. Maybe I feel these effects so strongly simply because of how I grew up—playing outside, weekend hikes with my parents, summer camping with my extended family. Loving nature was ingrained in me from a young age, and I count myself lucky for that.

 

One of my psychology classes talked about the proven benefits of spending time outside, and specifically, spending time in nature. I don’t remember any of the specifics (sorry Prof. Dickens), but I do remember that nature is great for your well-being.

 

I know how hard it is to carve time into your day to spend time outdoors. I don’t do it nearly often enough (especially now that it’s freezing out). But, trust me: it’s worth it.

 

Image Credit: Paige Ballard