[Editor’s Note: “A Breath of Fresh Air” is a biweekly column that unearths local nature-escapes embedded in our metropolitan environment and is specifically concerned with highlighting the benefits that spending time in the great outdoors can have on our holistic well-being.] 

Believe it or not, we are already in the fourth week of spring quarter. For better or for worse, that means midterms are fast-approaching.

While preparing for tests, it is helpful to incorporate breaks into your schedule. Giving your mind a rest can be beneficial to your overall productivity because, rather than give decreasing attention to a task, you can recharge and then return to it with increased attentiveness.

Break frequency varies from person to person but generally they should be taken every 45-60 minutes of studying. 

For me, I know that it is time for a break when my attention feels maxed out. After I have been concentrating for a while, I reach a point where looking at a screen or a textbook doesn’t benefit me because my mind is tired out. At this point I opt for a walk in order to shift my attention to something new and refreshing. 

Research by the University of Illinois, released in the Journal of Attention Disorders, discovered that taking a 20-minute walk outdoors increased the ability of children with ADHD to focus. Better yet, attention increased the most in those who walked in natural settings in comparison to subjects who walked in neighborhoods and urban areas. 

This finding is relevant for college students because it suggests that taking a walk, primarily one in nature, would be beneficial for our minds. 

One of my favorite green spaces to rejuvenate is the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, otherwise known as the Ballard Locks. This park offers Seattleites the perfect combination of water and gardens, as the locks facilitate boat movement between Salmon Bay and Shilshole Bay. This connection allows travel from Lake Washington and Lake Union to the salty Puget Sound. They include two different sized locks which adjust water levels to allow boats to pass through the bodies of water with as little mixing as possible.

Visitors to the locks can view the unique process of boats being raised and lowered from up close or from hillsides on either side of the water. Admission is free and there is an informative visitor’s center for those who would like to learn more about the distinct locks that are part of the National Register of Historic Places. Built in 1917, the locks are just a few months away from their centennial birthday. 

In addition to the locks, the Carl S. English Botanical Garden is a focal point of the seven acre grounds. A peaceful paved trail runs along nearly 600 plant species, open grassy space, and benches. This is the quietest and least traveled section of the park, so it is the best spot to read a book, journal, or study. 

Wildlife that has been spotted at the locks includes the great blue heron, salmon and trout climbing through the fish ladder, bald eagles, seals, and california sea lions. This spring is breeding season for the herons so bring your binoculars to look for the babies up in their nests! 

Luckily for Huskies, traveling to the locks is easy. The locks are a 20-minute drive or a 30-minute bus ride from west campus. Along the Burke-Gilman Trail, cyclists can reach the locks in about the same time as bus riders.

If you find yourself needing a break while highlighting notes, studying flashcards, or completing a review guide. then venture to the Ballard Locks. They won’t disappoint. 

Reach writer Kara Patajo at wellness@dailyuw.com. Twitter: @karapatajo

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