Counseling Services and Rice Creek Field Station collaborated this semester to support students’ mental health using the powerful effects of the natural world.

Out of this collaboration comes a series of guided meditations that are now available on the Counseling Services’ website. Each meditation guides participants through a relaxation and mindfulness practice with the wonderful sounds of the natural world, recorded at Rice Creek, accompanied by nature videos. This archive will continue to grow next year.

For examples, this video offers an opportunity to practice meditation.

Meditation is an evidenced-based practice that has been shown to improve attention, increase resiliency to stress, increase compassion and improve mental health. This mindfulness practice helps participants become more aware of their thinking, connect better with the present moment and slow down their physical bodies and thinking minds. Guided meditations also help focus on sensory experience, which assists in feeling grounded and centered, as well as letting go of intrusive thoughts. These practices often help regulate our stress response and improve ability to manage stress.

In addition, the effects of nature on humans has been well documented, and in a 2014 meta-analysis, researchers found “individuals who are more connected to nature tend to be happier.” Most students have not yet wandered out to the wonderful natural space at Rice Creek, and could benefit significantly from walking the trails, practicing mindfulness and exploring the area. While the restrictions around COVID-19 have created barriers for group outdoor exploration, project organizers hope the video and sounds bring the natural world to everybody. They highly recommend listening to these meditations outdoors, although they can be enjoyed in the comfort of one's own room.

Rice Creek's new virtual portal provides additional related opportunities and experiences.

For those in need of relaxation or a little more nature in their lives, project organizers hope these virtual experiences help ease the stress of 2020. Counseling Services hopes to continue creating opportunities for students to interact with the natural world at Rice Creek and learn more about how it benefits their mental and physical health, so one can follow @mindful_oz and @ozricecreek on Instagram to learn about upcoming events,

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