How about spring with less screens?

The weather has continued to bring us a mix of rain and snow in Oregon. We had 5″ of snow this weekend! However, the weekend before we did have one lovely Saturday, and I thought, “Yes, spring is coming, and we can spend more time outdoors!” I do look forward to being able to get outside, sit on the porch, walk some trails!

Beyond it just “being nice to be outside,” why is it important to spend time in nature? Let’s start with two interesting facts:

· First, “Americans were found to spend 42.58% of their day on screens (7.5 hours), and most European countries averaged around 35% (6 hours).” – from Which Countries Spend the Most Waking Hours in Front of Screens?

· Second, “Excessive screen time has been shown to have negative effects on children and adolescents. It’s been linked to psychological problems, such as higher rates of depression and anxiety, as well as health issues like poor sleep and higher rates of obesity. Many researchers believe that excessive screen use may not be as damaging to adults, but the impact hasn’t been studied as extensively. I suspect there are more implications than we know right now! Recent research has found that it can still have damaging consequences, such as digital eye strain, impaired sleep, and worsened mental health. – from Experts Can’t Agree on How Much Screen Time Is Too Much for Adults

The idea of having eye strain, impaired sleep, and degraded mental health is enough data to say put that screen away, not to mention all the reports on social media and the damaging effects it has on our youth?

Go outdoors to escape the screens

Since screens are everywhere (phones, tablets, TVs, computers!), one of the best ways to truly get away from the constant bombardment (or draw?) of technology is to go outside. Walk in a nearby park. Take a drive to a nature park for a bike ride. Grab a friend for a beach day and walk the beach. Look up a forest hike and meander through the trees. We bought a nice cornhole game that gets us outside more and moves our bodies at the same time, double bonus!

Specifically, the concept of forest bathing has been a growing practice. Quoting from National Geographic, “The term emerged in Japan in the 1980s as a physiological and psychological exercise called shinrin-yoku (“forest bathing” or “taking in the forest atmosphere”). The purpose was twofold: to offer an eco-antidote to tech-boom burnout and to inspire residents to reconnect with and protect the country’s forests.”

Bathing your mind and body in the nature of beauty lowers stress and inspires creativity and increases memory.

So, again, why is it important for you to get outside?

Your brain needs a rest. Your mind needs space to process and recharge and let creativity flow. We’ve all experienced those sudden and unexpected light-bulb moments when we finally solve problems and figure out the next best step in a work or school project. We can give ourselves more of those problem-solving victories if we take a break and go walk in nature.

For those with kids and grandkids, getting away from screens supports creative thinking and imagination. The Child Mind Institute lists even more reasons for kids to spend time outdoors, including building confidence, prompting thinking, reducing fatigue, and teaching responsibility.

For us adults, too, it is better to take a break in order to get more done.

When spring finally arrives, try forest bathing. I know I’m going outside. I hope you, too, will start or keep up this easy and beneficial habit!