I was listening to a Joe Rogan podcast the other night with Elon Musk, and Elon said something seriously mind-boggling, yet simple at the same time. When chatting about the future of AI & robot takeovers, Elon basically stated that humans are already cyborgs, we just don't consciously think about it. We are attached to our phones, rely on them for thinking for us half the time, and become smarter with them (because of unlimited access to knowledge). We have literally already started merging with technology.
There are really polarizing views on this massive boom in technology. There are amazing technologies being created that improve lives, like advances in the medical industry, automotive industry and more. Heck, it has given people the opportunity to work from home & spend more time with family or children. Although some people argue that this dependence is not natural, and could get out of hand faster than we imagine. I honestly agree with both.
If there is anything concrete about the increased reliance on technology, it is the way it impacts us on a day-to-day basis. More people have smartphones and access to the internet today than ever before. With increased access comes tons of laziness, addiction, depression, anxiety, ADHD, lower social skills, sleep issues, and more. Because of this, we've seen a decrease in the amount of people that actually get out and connect with their surroundings; According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average American spends 93% of their time indoors.
Fortunately for us, there are things we can do in our daily lives to combat these addictions and improve our mental health. Activities such as "forest bathing" and "wilderness therapy" have become really popular in this technological age, because it works!
Wilderness therapy is also considered "outdoor behavioral healthcare", which uses expeditions into the wilderness as a way to combat mental illness and behavioral issues. Forest bathing, in contrast, requires no expedition and has a less rigid structure. Originally a Japanese practice, forest bathing is just the simple act of being in nature and connecting to it through our senses.
One thing they do have in common is that they both require getting outside in nature. Let's explore the benefits of both practices, and show you the 6 reasons why you should ditch the phone for the forest.
A World Health Organization study found that the rate of depression in young individuals rose ~18% in just 10 years. They found that regardless of what content you're consuming, increased screen time directly correlated to increased thoughts of depression within teens. The younger children are, the worse. Multiple studies have shown that "micro-dosing" on nature reduces stress levels in your body. A study published in 2011, which had one group of people walk in nature & the other in an urban environment, uncovered that the "nature walkers" had a significant decrease in their blood-pressure levels from before their 4 hour walk in nature.
Trees emit a natural oil or chemical into the atmosphere called phytoncides. They are naturally antibacterial and may play a role in the human immune function. Studies have shown that these compounds significantly enhance white blood cell count or human "natural killer" activity, which is a cell that supports our immune system, and when strengthened, can strengthen our immune system as well. The same studies even show that it exhibited anti-tumor efficacy in mice. Sitting inside on our computers or playing video games all day doesn't benefit our body in any way. Besides, our phones tend to be the dirtiest item we own; Studies at the University of Arizona have shown that our phones tend to carry 10x more bacteria than most toilet seats!
Ditching the phone for the forest might help you out if you're looking to improve your quality of sleep. The blue light emitted from our phones has been proven to suppress levels of melatonin, which controls your sleep cycles & waking cycles. Not only that, but it consistently keeps your brain alert and may disrupt your sleep if you have it on throughout the night. This will likely cause you to be more tired throughout the day compared to someone who doesn't do that. Not only should you ditch the phone within 30 minutes of going to bed, but give yourself some time to immerse into nature. Forest bathing, among the tons of other benefits, can actually help you sleep longer! They've even discovered that afternoon walks were more effective in improving sleep quality than morning walks. If you're having trouble sleeping or staying asleep, try setting aside some time to have a walk in nature after work, and make sure you leave your phone behind!
Studies have been conducted in Switzerland regarding the frequent use of technology and memory, specifically in teens. They found that, over one year, ongoing exposure to the radiation emitted from our phones could negatively impact our memory, especially when phones were held to the right side of the head (if it were for a call, for instance). Skip the radiation & head straight for the forest - a University of Michigan study found that people who took frequent walks in wooded-settings, rather than urban ones, did 20% better on memory recall tests. Take a break from your device & reflect on your studies on a walk through nature, you won't regret it!
It is so clear that our phones & computers affect our eyesight. If you've ever had a desk job where you're looking at a screen all day, you can actually feel it take a toll on your eyes at the end of the day. Opticians have discovered that prolonged staring at screens emitting blue light (smartphones & computers) can be hazardous to the back of our eyes; This can put you at a higher risk for macular degeneration, or blindness. When you take time out of your day to get outside, you actually can help your vision. Studies have concluded that outdoor activities could actually protect the eyes from developing any mytopia, or nearsightedness. Who would have thought that just by being outside, you could actually help protect your eyesight.
There was one study that delivered creative problem-solving questions to people who had spent four days in nature and found that responses were boosted by almost 50% for those people who had spent prolonged time in nature. They could not necessarily conclude though that nature was the driving force of creativity, since any use of attention-demanding technology was significantly reduced in those four days. When you think about it, when we have a smartphone around, acting as a limitless extension of our brain, we tend to not think as individually as we could since we rely heavily on the information we see online. Therefore, they believe that a combination of time in nature and reduced technology use can significantly flex your creative muscles.
If you're ever feeling down in the dumps, have mental fog, creative blocks, sleep issues, respiratory issues, or any immunity issues, try giving nature a shot. There are tons of studies out there showing the positive impacts spending time in nature can have on our lives. Forest bathing and wilderness therapy have helped many people immensely and is now even being prescribed by some practitioners. Don't ever underestimate the power of Mother Nature, make an effort to spend less time on your devices and more time in nature. Your body and mind will thank you for it!
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