We arrive at DtBHS each morning, walk past the Michael Kors Cafe, and head to our first block classes surrounded by sterile blank walls and the off-white glow of fluorescent lights—we won’t see sunlight until the school day is over. It is crucial for our mental health that we spend time outside to make up for this lack of sunlight.
Sunlight exposure increases the brain’s production and release of serotonin, a chemical that stabilizes mood and creates feelings of well-being and happiness. The lack of sunlight in the fall and winter months, and thus the lack of serotonin release in the brain, is a major factor that causes seasonal affective disorder. Now that the sun is out for longer and the weather is warmer, it is vital we take advantage of the abundance of sunlight as we push our way towards the end of the school year.
In mid-November, I logged on to my remote AP Literature class feeling drained from being inside all day while knowing that the sun would only be up for another hour after my last class. I was not looking forward to breakout room discussions about AP test questions one bit. To my relief, our teacher Ms. Kelley told us to instead spend the block outside on a nature walk since she could tell we were getting overwhelmed by spending every weekday staring at a computer screen. I benefited from this opportunity to get outside and recharge; taking in a bit of the natural world made me more relaxed and mentally prepared for the rest of my classes. This still holds true six months later: spending time outside is key for being engaged and ready to learn in the classroom. This is why it is imperative that we go outside after school, during remote learning, and on our asynchronous days.
After spending most of the past eight months learning from home, it can be easy to forget that there are places to hang out that aren’t surrounded by four walls. It is essential that we take advantage of the benefits of sunlight now that we have ample opportunities to go outside. This could include playing a spring sport, going on a walk or a hike, or even just relaxing on your lawn or in a park. I’ve been doing schoolwork and logging on to remote classes from outdoor areas with wifi when the weather permits—my statistics homework is much more enjoyable when I can hear birds chirping and waves crashing on the lake. There is still a month left in the school year, and the days are going to continue warming up and getting longer.
So close your Chromebook and go outside—your mind and body will thank you.