Get out in Nature
By Dr. Sylvia Hart Frejd
As I teach and model steps to practice digital wellness in our daily lives, one of those steps is to get out in nature. Did you know that we are currently experiencing what experts are calling “Nature Deficit Disorder,” or N.D.D. for short? It’s true! Today our plugged-in connection to our devices is keeping many of us from taking breaks and getting out into nature.
According to research, “people today spend up to 25 percent less time enjoying nature than people did just 20 years ago.” This nature deprivation is defined as a lack of time in the natural world, largely due to hours spent looking down at screens. It has been associated, unsurprisingly, with depression. Studies also show that without regular immersion in nature, we can suffer physical and emotional distress, including anxiety, depression, and obesity. It seems that the more stressed out and busy we get, the less time we have to experience time in nature.
Poet John Keats once wrote, “The poetry of the earth is never dead.” I’ve heard people call it “Vitamin N” because time spent in nature offers us many benefits and can also have profound effects on our brains. “Modern multitasking overtaxes brain areas that are involved in suppressing distractions, thinking creatively, and developing a sense of identity,” says David Strayer, Ph.D., a neural scientist at the University of Utah. “Getting out into nature allows those parts of the brain to restore and replenish themselves.”
Some benefits of getting into nature:
- It reduces stress and anxiety. It has a calming effect.
- Treats depression. It is a great mood lifter.
- Improves sleep. Who doesn’t need more sleep?
- It gets you moving. Helps you to take in your surroundings and exercise.
- Increased immune function. You will be healthier.
- Inspires creativity. It oxygenates your brain!
- Helps you experience God. He speaks through His creation.
In one study, 95 percent of those interviewed said their mood improved after spending time outside, changing from depressed, stressed, and anxious to more calm and balanced. It’s not surprising since God created this amazing world we live in and He created us to get out and experience it. Psalm 19:1-2 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.”
My favorite part of the day is when I get home from work and go sit outside and rest in my rope hammock, taking in the beauty of the trees, the water (I live on a lake), and the birds. It doesn’t matter how stressful my day has been; just going out into nature renews and revives me. (If you physically can’t get out in nature, studies show viewing images of nature can also benefit your health and well-being.)
So how about you? How could you be more intentional daily or weekly to get out into nature? Take a walk, or hike, feel the sun on your face; I guarantee it will be a breath of fresh air!
Ways to get out in nature:
- Exercise outside instead of going to the gym.
- Have lunch outdoors.
- Spend as much of your weekends as you can outdoors.
- If you can’t get out in nature bring nature to you—get a plant for your home or office.
- Set a timer on your phone to remind you to get up and go outside.
The Mayo Clinic recommends that parents limit children’s exposure to screens—including computers, television, hand-held devices, and video games—to two hours per day. They are saying that more than that could have serious consequences, including obesity, behavioral problems, irregular sleep, violent tendencies, poor academic performance, and dampened creativity. Instead, encourage your child to engage with nature, whether that’s playing an outdoor sport, reading next to a window, or taking a walk with them around the block. Families can experience nature when they are driving in the car by having everyone turn off their devices, look out the window, and then share with each other the art of God that they are viewing.