Many of us have been holed up inside for months now, and many of us want to get out in the world again. Personally, I’ve never wanted to be in nature more. While the general public knows of the adverse effects of such accessible technology and the positives of being in nature, the two correlate quite well.
Nature and technology are commonly seen as complete opposites. While nature is untouched by humans, technology is manmade. Manmade things are commonly known to make life more efficient and comfortable for humans. While this is mostly true, technology, specifically in the form of electronics, has its cons.
The most common cons of electronic use is eye strain. Of the 80 percent of adults that use digital devices for more than two hours a day, 59 percent of them reported signs of digital eye strain such as headaches, blurred vision, and dry eyes. Another common symptom of electronics, dubbed “text neck,” strains the upper spine due to the angle that many people tilt their heads while texting. Electronic use can also contribute to sleep problems and obesity, as the blue light from screens causes disruption to sleep cycles, and using electronics often contributes to a more sedentary lifestyle.
Electronic use also tends to impact mental health negatively. The concept of “fear of missing out” has become a buzzword, but it can seriously affect mental health. Seeing others having more fun or getting more likes on social media can cause anxiety, depression, and other negative thoughts due to the fear of missing out on whatever everyone else is doing. Social media is designed to work similar to other addictive things- likes give gratification, which seeks the user to try to gain more likes. When the user doesn’t get enough likes, they start to feel worse about themselves. A report from the UK Centre of Medical Health has said that “9 in 10 young females say that they are unhappy with the way they look” and many believe that social media and fear of missing out contribute to this.
On the flip side, spending time in nature can combat quite a few of these issues that technology causes. While more screen time and less outdoor time, also known as nature deprivation, can lead to depression, more time outdoors can help improve all facets of life.
Going outside promotes more active living, unlike electronics. Many people run, walk, and bike for exercise outside. Being in nature also helps to reduce blood pressure, heart rate, and production of stress hormones.
Being outside can help those who feel depressed or angry feel more calm and balanced. Research has shown that having some form of nature or plants in hospital rooms can reduce the pain response the patient has.
Being in nature has also been shown to improve mood, which means less fear of missing out and more living in the moment.
While technology isn’t terrible by any means, being inside for so long reminded some of us how important nature really is.
During the stay at home orders in Pennsylvania, many people in the suburb of Mt. Lebanon were seen out and about- going for a jog, walking a pet, or just getting some fresh air. Some folks also caught up with neighbors and friends by walking six feet apart together. The stay at home orders forced people to get out of the house simply because they had nothing better to do.
Even more urban environments are seeing an increase of more natural elements. The city of Pittsburgh has been increasing green elements in the city in recent years, and green spaces like Schenley Park are often filled with people enjoying nature.
Regardless of what we may think, human nature is wanting to be in nature. So next time you’re bored at home, consider taking a walk to a local green space or forest, or simply sit outside. Even sit on a covered porch in the rain!