Walks in Nature Can Affect our Mood
Study by undergraduate Psychology student part of growing body of evidence that being outside is a good pick-me-up
With over 30 km of trails and 1,400 acres of land, Trent is the ideal spot to study the correlation between spending time outside and mood, and recent B.Sc. Psychology graduate Nicholas St. Germaine ‘18 made some discoveries to feel good about.
As part of his undergraduate honours thesis project, Nicholas worked alongside Dr. Elizabeth Nisbet, associate professor of Psychology at Trent, to survey students about their mood before and after taking a walk around campus.
Participants completed a survey when first signing up for the study, answering questions about their connection to nature and overall mood. Next, the students walked in nature areas surrounding Trent, either at Lady Eaton Drumlin Nature Areas or along the Otonabee river, taking brakes along the way to observe and absorb the scenery. Students then completed another questionnaire related to their moods during and after the walk.
Nicholas says that regardless of how students felt about nature upon signing up for the study, the effect of the walk on their moods were similar.
“The data showed us that regardless of walking location, and people's connection to nature before the walk, being outside induced the same mood in everyone,” said Nicholas. “There were statistically significant differences between how two groups of students felt related or connected to nature, but the walks brought both groups, basically, to the exact same mood.”
Developing the Right Skills
With the help of Professor Nisbet, Nicholas says he was able to gain new academic and professional skills through the research experience.
“Submitting drafts for feedback was interesting, because it really showed me new areas of improvement in my writing skills, and my researching skills,” said Nicholas. “So, a lot of what happened in the first semester was working on drafts of my literature review and getting feedback from my supervisor, which helped me learn what gaps in skills I had and where I needed to improve.”
Nicholas presented his findings alongside 30 other Psychology Honours students during the annual Trent Psychology Department’s Honours Thesis Poster Presentation Day. The event is an opportunity for students to demonstrate their knowledge of research practices, the subject of their research, and to practice their science and research communication skills as they explain complex topics, methods, and analysis to a diverse audience.
Nicholas says the honours thesis project also gave him an opportunity to make his mark on psychology.
“I really liked the idea of contributing new knowledge to the field of psychology, instead of just taking and learning from the information already out there, to use in my essays, for example.”
Find out more about Psychology at Trent.