UMD has beautiful sunset views. We should pay attention.

The sunset in Portugal. Photo courtesy of Joaquim Alves Gaspar.

Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.

If you’ve ever looked outside your window, you know that the University of Maryland has some beautiful sunsets.

Picturesque scenes — such as the one above — can have an immediate calming effect. After a long day of classes, I sometimes stop — even briefly for just a minute — to gaze at the sunset in the distance. The smooth gradient of soft yellow and orange hues expanding into the horizon, juxtaposed with the shadowy outlines of the buildings has left me awe-struck more times than I can count.

However, their beauty isn’t purely cosmetic. Occasionally taking the time to observe sunsets can be beneficial to your mental health. The awe-inspiring effect can lead observers to experience a “slowing down of time” and increased patience. As a college student, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with balancing school, extracurricular activities and your social life. Allocating just a few minutes to gaze at the sunset can serve as a quick breather from the fast-paced lifestyle of academia and grant some time to recuperate.

Sunsets are also a good excuse, as cliche as it may sound, to go outside. While you can usually see the sunset clearly from your window, it’s not quite the same as witnessing it in person, unencumbered by glass. It can be as convenient as sitting outside your dorm or, if you’re adventurous, trekking to McKeldin Mall and witnessing it splayed out as a gorgeous backdrop to the library.

Unsurprisingly, research has shown how beneficial a breath of fresh air is to your health. Not only does it lead to a healthier body, but it also improves your mental state. While most of us shamelessly reach for another cup of coffee when we’re feeling tired or stressed, we can achieve that same second wind and revitalize ourselves through nature instead.

Aside from the various physiological effects, there’s an intangible element to a sunset that’s almost spiritual. Positive feelings of gratitude seem to effortlessly surface and your mind can wander beyond the materialistic world and ponder the larger meaning of life. According to Gandhi, arguably one of the greatest political and spiritual leaders, “when I admire the wonders of a sunset or the beauty of the moon, my soul expands in the worship of the creator.”

Last week, I was feeling extremely stressed with the final round of midterms before Thanksgiving break. As I finished my second exam in two days, I walked out of the Edward St. John Learning and Teaching Center just in time to witness the sunset. Almost subconsciously, I began to focus intently on the crimson scenery before me. My post-test anxiety slowly began to diminish, and I closed my eyes and took in a breath of fresh air. As I opened my eyes, I thought about the things that I was grateful for in life — my family, friends and the reinvigorating feeling of being alive.

All of this happened within five minutes. As finals season approaches, it’s important that we reserve time for these seemingly trivial activities — such as briefly stopping for a beautiful sunset — to ensure that we don’t neglect our health or lose sight of the truly important things in our lives.

Kevin Hu is a sophomore physiology and neurobiology major. He can be reached at kevxhu@gmail.com.

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