Try Some Green Space for Your Finals Week Blues

Happy Almost Finals Week Bruins! The end of the quarter can be a stressful time for many of us. Between studying for exams, finishing final projects, and making last-minute preparations for winter break, it often seems like taking care of ourselves is the easiest thing to cross off the list. If you just can’t bring yourself to take time out for that bike ride or bubble bath, a simple change of scenery might provide some stress relief and even help sharpen your mind for those tenth-week to-do tasks. Spending time outdoors in green spaces can help relieve anxiety, sharpen attention, and improve mood. Luckily for us, UCLA has plenty of beautiful natural spaces that are perfect for a last-minute study session. Here are some of my favorites!

Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden

Why it’s awesome: Located in the south-east part of campus between the School of Nursing and the Terasaki Life Sciences Building, the botanical garden is the perfect study oasis. Natural amenities include the cool and shady atmosphere, private benches tucked into leafy nooks, and a soundtrack of birdsong and burbling stream.

What to know before you go: The botanical garden is a decidedly analogue study spot. Wifi is spotty, and if there are any outlets hidden beneath the leaf litter I have yet to find them! Bring that book that you’ve been struggling to concentrate on or the set of math problems you’ve been meaning to work through.

Nearest coffee: Terasaki Café, Café Med

Franklin D. Murphy Sculpture Garden


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Why it’s awesome: The sculpture garden is a cool, green north campus retreat with a rolling lawn and a stunning grove of Jacaranda trees. As advertised, it’s also filled with an impressive collection of sculptures to contemplate while paging through your study guide. Secluded seating areas are scattered around the perimeter of the garden, but many students prefer to sprawl out on the lawn instead.

What to know before you go: Shady spots are in short supply, so the sculpture garden may not be the best choice for a hot and sunny day. While this spot has great wifi, the sunlight’s glare may make it difficult to see your computer screen. Recharge your devices at the nearby Charles E. Young Library.

Nearest coffee: Jimmy’s Coffeehouse, Café 451

Dickson Court North

Dickson Court

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Why it’s awesome: Few places on campus rival the leafy collegiate beauty of Dickson Court North. With its brick accented walkways and shady fig and sycamore trees, Dickson Court is a high traffic area ideal for studiers who prefer a little background noise and people-watching over silence and solitude.

What to know before you go: Dickson Court North is great for lounging on a sun-dappled lawn, but there’s no formal seating in the area. If you’re averse to sharing your study space with ants or suffering the occasional grass stain, Dickson Court may not be the place for you. The court is also a popular spot for campus events, so watch out for the occasional closure.

Nearest coffee: Jimmy’s Coffeehouse

Good luck with your finals! And remember: spending time outdoors can have health benefits, but the benefits don’t outweigh the health risks when the air is smoky from a wildfire. If air quality is poor or the air smells smoky, play it safe and stay indoors.

Rebecca Ferdman is a graduate student at UCLA pursuing dual Master’s degrees in Urban Planning and Public Health. She is the graduate student researcher (GSR) for the BEWell pod of the Healthy Campus Initiative.

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The Built Environment of Studying

As finals week approaches, you may find yourself feeling overwhelmed by the academic demands. From exams to papers to group projects, there’s so much to keep track of! Read on for some tips on how you can optimize the built-environment of your studying so that you can be as productive as possible.

First, the lighting. Lighting may seem somewhat mundane but think about it… lighting plays an important role in setting our moods for different occasions. You may prefer a dim light when you are trying to relax, while you may prefer a brighter lighting when you want to feel energized.

Guess what? Lighting can influence our academic performance too. This study done by Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology demonstrated that lights of varying correlated color temperatures (CCTs) measured in Kelvin can be optimized for different activities.

The study was conducted in a laboratory with adults as well as in a 4th grade classroom. In both contexts, the researchers found that light with 3500K, which emits warm, yellowish white light is optimal for encouraging recess activities while 6500K light, which emits cool, bluish light that is similar to natural light, is optimal for academic performance. The authors explained that this may be because higher CCTs cause higher levels of arousal, although “there might be a point of diminishing returns at which higher CCT no longer improves human performance.”

What about the color of the walls of the room in which you study? In this study, the color of private study spaces was one of the six variations, including vivid red, vivid yellow, vivid blue, pale red, pale yellow, and pale blue. Subjects in the study reported feeling more pleasant and relaxed in the pale colored conditions, but scored significantly higher on the reading comprehension test when they were in the vivid color condition.

In addition to the visual elements, auditory cues can also affect our studying. If you are like me, you may prefer to listen to the music while studying. But is it really effective?

Findings from research in this area have been mixed. This study, which was a comprehensive meta-analysis in this domain of research, showed that background music in general disrupts reading comprehension. However, another study which put subjects through slow and soft; slow and loud; fast and soft; and fast and loud background music found that only fast and loud music resulted in negative performance of reading comprehension. Given the complex results, it may be difficult to reach a firm conclusion. Nonetheless, we should be more mindful of what kind of music we choose to listen to when we are studying. It would be important to find songs that enhance our focus rather than distract our attention.

The concept of built-environment may feel distant at times, but lighting, color, and sound are factors that create our built-environment, and could have direct impact on our academic performance. Do you have favorite study space on campus that include these elements or favorite songs to listen to while studying? Comment below!

Miso Kwak is an undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Psychology with a double minor in Disability Studies and Education Studies. In addition to blogging for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative, she plays the flute with the UCLA Woodwind Chamber Ensemble. Outside of school, she works as a mentor for high school students through Accessible Science, a nonprofit organization that facilitates science camp for blind youth.