Dec 26th, 2022, 01:00 PM

Getting out of Paris: Mental and Physical Benefits of Taking a Break from the City

By Brooke Berger
Credit Image: Unsplash / Mr Xerty
Students may feel that sticking to the campus is better for their studies, but breaks in nature can be just as important.

I grew up in Northern California and became accustomed to the green hills, fruit trees, and clean air. My move to Paris this fall was spurred not only by starting the Global Communications Masters program, but also by the desire to live in this beautiful city. Little did I know how much I would miss the smell of summer ripe fruit and the sounds of animals at pasture. With all the resources on campus, it’s tempting to stay in the city full time. One might feel that taking time to get out of the city will have a negative effect on grades due to time lost or lack of resources while away. However, psychologists say that getting back into nature can have many benefits for physical and mental health.

Living in a major city comes with a few cons; the pollution, the expense, and the dog merde on the sidewalks are but a few. The air pollution in Paris is one of the worst in Europe according to the article 5 Popular travel destinations with surprisingly terrible air pollution. The article discusses a study conducted by the French Health Agency which “found that nearly 48,000 people die in Paris every year from causes related to air pollution.” An AUP Masters student in the Global Communications program, Molly Eklund, said she likes getting out of the terrible air quality of Paris and said, “As soon as I step off the train in a leafy suburb or the countryside, my body automatically relaxes.” The immediate benefits of being in nature are restorative to the body and mind. 

Credit Image: Unsplash / Léonard Cotte

Many of us are facing intense burnout, lack of motivation, and some seasonal sadness. A trip out of the city may help alleviate all this. According to an article from Alina Health, people “who take regular time to relax are less likely to experience burnout, making them more creative and productive than their overworked, under-rested counterparts.” Getting out of the city can have positive impacts on both your physical and mental health. If you decide to travel with friends or family, you can strengthen the bonds of your relationships. Oddly enough, solo trips can even help feelings of isolation. Choosing somewhere that’s more entrenched in nature can have other positive side effects. In an article published by the American Psychological Association, Doctor of Psychology and Licensed Practitioner Kathryn Isham, said that “students who looked out at a flowering green roof for 40 seconds midway through the task made significantly fewer mistakes than students who paused for 40 seconds to gaze at a concrete rooftop.” Short nature breaks can have fast-acting effects on students. Students can experience more benefits by spending quality time outdoors. Some of the benefits mentioned in the article list “improved attention, lower stress, better mood, reduced risk of psychiatric disorders and even upticks in empathy and cooperation.”

Getting out of the city may be beneficial to your health, but also opens doors to new adventures. When asked why he likes to get out of Paris, MA student Andrew Callaghan said, “It’s nice to take a break from the city. Sometimes I don’t go far, but still can get away from all the tourists and all the people within Paris.” Andrew belongs to a soccer team and gets to explore the suburbs. He also enjoys visiting other cities where he doesn’t feel so on guard. Andrew said he “can blend and breathe more” in other cities.

Credit Image: Brooke Berger

Now that it’s been about a year since I moved to the Île de France region, I notice a feeling of refreshment that comes with branching out. On weekends I enjoy hopping on the RER R and heading southeast to the beautiful town of Fontainebleau. It’s a small historical area and is about an hour and a half outside of Paris. Fontainebleau is home to a lush forest with hiking trails, small creeks, and bouldering sites for anyone who’s a climber. The town also houses one of many French chateaux. This one happened to be the home of monarchs dating back to Louis VII. Granted, the Gardens of Diane are not as luxurious as the Gardens of Versailles, but they still have a charming calm. 

Paris is, in my opinion, the greatest city in the world. That being said, taking a break from air and noise pollution, and an expensive overhead is not only desirable but strongly recommended. needed. Psychologists' studies have shown that the benefits on mental and physical health can have big impacts on students. Everyone, from native Parisians to expats, needs to be aware of the advantages of getting out of Paris.