Screen time is a reality and necessity for many people in their work. It’s also not news to anyone that we are hooked to our little screens even when we aren’t at work. According to Datareportal the average American spends 6 hours and 59 minutes looking at a screen every day. And if you want more data, here’s a handy summary of screen time specifics by Comparitech.
And besides our screen time saturation, many people are navigating high levels of stress, personally and professionally whether in relationships, workload, loneliness, boredom or getting caught up in the rat race, comparison trap or any other cultural norm or hook that can quickly trap our attention in ways that are not helpful let alone nourishing to our brains, bodies, hearts and minds.
I have the good fortune of living in an area surrounded by natural beauty right down the road from the Blue Ridge Mountains understandably visited by close to 16 million people in 2022. Vistas and hikes and comfortable temperatures with lots of water for a stand-up paddleboard or to simply soak post-hike feet are at the ready.
Not everyone has easy access to so many outdoor options, but spending any time in nature, as small as that grassy patch might be, has significant benefit for our mental well-being.
There are various theories related to why nature is so helpful in reducing stress and nature’s contribution to flourishing, which the researchers note has the added bonus of boosting wellbeing fairly quickly. We also saw the positive effect of nature as the Covid-19 pandemic led lots of people to more outdoors activity, for example with the boom of outdoor tourism. And healthcare facilities are also recognizing the importance of, for example, healing gardens to support wellness in a comprehensive way.
Among the benefits of unplugging from screens and connecting with nature are:
-improved energy levels
-decreased anxiety and stress
There are cognitive benefits too – like enhanced working memory, attention and cognitive flexibility
These findings are consistent for children and adults and research has also demonstrated that even virtual exposure to nature, such as watching a nature video or looking at nature photographs can contribute to some mood boost.
Choose ONE strategy to build into your day, your week that includes a regular dose of nature. Here are some ideas to get you started:
-Get a plant for your indoor space – I’m not a green thumb but I have been able to keep the thankfully hardy snake plant alive and well!
-Change your commute to incorporate driving through more green space.
-Set an hourly alarm to at very least go to a window in your office building or step outside for just 2 minutes.
-Use a natural landscape visual (ideally a place you’ve actually visited) as a desktop image. If you’re on a virtual team, encourage your colleagues to share theirs as a way to connect before starting a meeting.
-Even better, encourage team members to take their screen outside for this meeting. If you’re meeting face to face, can you walk and talk?
-Stack your nature exposure with other mood-boosters like walking outside with a friend, finding a spot to do some stretching or yoga beneath a shade tree, or taking a blanket and a water bottle, maybe even a journal to do some reflection in the great outdoors.