Digital addiction is a real thing — and something those of us who grew up without connected devices would have never imagined. Sit inside and stare at a screen alone rather than play outside with our friends? Not in a million years.
But babies entering the world today may see an iPhone before they see a pacifier, and most student have grown up using digital devices daily to watch videos, play games or connect with friends.
Our digital devices are amazing tools with a lot of value: they help connect us, open us up to new viewpoints and experiences, and give us access to all kinds of resources. But there’s also so much value in putting that device down — whether it’s for a weekend, a night, or even just twenty minutes — including a number of really stellar health benefits.
If you’re plagued by digital distraction, here are 3 reasons to ditch the phone and get outside.
1) It increases your empathy. Nature helps us feel less stressed, anxious and depressed and more grateful, curious, and awe-filled — all of which are excellent conditions under which to exercise empathy! I recently spoke with Lauren Bahedry, an English teacher in an all-girls school in Los Angeles, California, about the influence of the ever-present screen, and how it introduces a barrier in person-to-person connection, and she had this to say about nature and empathy: “A digital or urban world can help us feel disconnected — but being out in nature, in a world that’s full of different types of life and diversity, it’s a compelling space for humans to be together.” I couldn’t agree more!
2) It helps protect the health of your eyes. With our new age of convenience and connectivity comes new health concerns. People of all ages are complaining of eye fatigue, headaches, blurry vision, dry eye, and twitching of the eye or eyelid, a cluster of symptoms often referred to as Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS). Every part of our eye is vital to healthy vision, from the tear ducts to the cornea to the various nerves and muscles. And each part of our eye is affected by our habits, including the stress and strain placed upon them from using digital devices.
While research in this area is still new, current studies show that the blue light emitted from cell phone screens and similar devices causes damage to retinal cells. Scientists believe the damage stems from the higher energy level in the shorter wavelength of blue light, hitting the eye with greater intensity than other light sources.
So how do we combat this? Shut off that screen and get outside, of course! (But if you’re looking for other solutions, check out my blog on ways to keep your eyes healthy even when you till have to look at a screen.)
3) It helps boost creative thinking. A 2015 study of the human physiological benefits of viewing nature found that the fractal patterns we see in nature—found in places like shifting tree branches, crashing waves, and breezy fields of grass—have powerful psychological and physiological benefits on us. This suggests that the “visual randomness” that no algorithm can replicate is part of what makes being in nature so impactful!