Authored by: Esther Cho
It can be so easy to get sucked into technology and stay cooped up inside in today’s day and age. Statistically, the average American spends roughly 7 hours and 4 minutes daily looking at a screen. Dedicating so much time in front of a screen can be significantly detrimental to your mental health. Many studies have shown a strong correlation between too much screen time and a higher risk of depression.
According to Dr. Gail Saltz, a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at the New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill-Cornell Medical College and a psychoanalyst with the New York Psychoanalytic Institute, “The constant connectivity (to a screen) may be making us feel more disconnected… Loneliness has to do with more connected intimate relationships that feel real and close, and screens don’t really provide that… and yet people are replacing time invested in real relationships with screen time.”
With various research linking the connection between screen time and adverse effects on mental health, what are solutions individuals can employ to help combat this issue?
For many, it’s nearly impossible to take time away from our screens because of Zoom meetings, work phone calls, and more. However, one essential way to boost your mood and mental health is to spend more time enjoying nature! Even just a few moments spent walking outside, going to the beach, or walking around a lush green park can benefit your mental and physical health.
In a study conducted by the American Psychological Association, researchers examined data from 900,000 residents of Denmark, finding that children living in neighborhoods with more green space had a reduced risk of many psychiatric disorders later.
Spending time in nature has various benefits. See a few listed below.
Improve Your Mood
A study done by an assistant professor at the University of Washington, Gregory Bratman, Ph.D., found evidence that contact with nature is associated with increased happiness, subjective well-being, and a more positive sense of purpose in life.
According to the International Journal of Wellbeing, “there is a psychological theory about why nature reduces our stress: spending time in nature triggers a physiological response that lowers stress levels.”
Help With Tiredness or Mental Fog
In an experiment done in Australia, researchers asked students to engage in a highly dull, tedious task, and then they were asked to look out the window for 40 seconds to look at a flower garden. The students who looked outside the window at the flowers made significantly fewer mistakes than those who only looked out to a concrete rooftop for the same amount of time.
Nurture Your Mind With Nature:
Resources for Improving Your State of Mind with Nature
Hiking with Alltrails
An excellent resource for finding hiking spots near your area is the app “AllTrails.” This app is convenient because you just put in a location to find hiking spots, and it gives you various options with the estimated hiking time and shows whether there is a heavy incline.
Before I got this app, I could never bring myself to hike because I didn’t know where any trails were, and this app makes it easier to find routes in my area. Hiking and spending time in nature is a simple and effective way to prioritize your mental and physical health.
Yoga provides so many great benefits for both your body and mind! One of the best benefits of yoga is how it can manage a person’s stress and anxiety. The practice of yoga creates mental clarity and calmness, relaxes the mind, and sharpens your concentration. You can also take it a step further and try yoga outside. Take a step into your backyard or a local park, do a yoga session in nature, and see how it compares.
One of my favorite pastimes is sitting at the beach, reading a good book, and soaking up the sun. Something about the ocean’s vastness, the softness of the sand, and the warm, glorious sun, perks up my mood immediately! Of course, not everyone lives within driving distance of a beach, but there is nature almost everywhere. If you can’t find the time to go outside and soak up some sun rays, open up your windows! Take a breath of some fresh air to refresh a clouded brain. Even just 60 seconds of allowing yourself to reset and rest can be highly beneficial for your mental health and concentration!
Taking care and prioritizing your mental health is vital for your overall well-being. So, whether it be taking a small stroll outside on your lunch break, going on a hike, or looking at the sunset after work, take the time to spend some time with nature!
There are many other ways to prioritize your mental health, and at times, the weight of our mental health can get very heavy, but try to remember to take everything one step at a time. If you can’t find the time to go outside for a little bit to relax, some studies have shown that even listening to calming nature sounds can reduce stress and anxiety. Remember that you are not alone in this world!
Resources for Mental Health
Crisis Text Line: Text “Hello” to 741741
Available 24 hours a day throughout the entire U.S and is a hotline for anyone who needs any crisis.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800- 273- TALK
Madhav, K C et al. “Association between screen time and depression among US adults.” Preventive medicine reports vol. 8 67-71. 16 Aug. 2017, doi:10.1016/j.pmedr.2017.08.005