March 5, 2017
Words: Helene Ravlich
When you sit and read the tips and tricks – often online - of high achieving people you admire, many mention regular "digital detoxes" as being key to their success.
The fact that the phrase "digital detox" made its way into the Oxford Dictionary online last year is proof in itself that many of us could stand to benefit from a little break from our screens, especially when you consider that up to 70 per cent of our waking life is spent in front of digital media. Chances are your smartphone is within arm’s reach right now, if you’re not already using it to read these words. We’re spending more time than ever on our devices, and with the flood of texts, emails, calls, and notifications coming in at the rate of knots, it’s rare if our screens stay dark for more than a minute.
While there’s no doubt technology has made our lives easier in many ways, recent research suggests that our addiction to it is real. "Every new notification or text triggers the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that drives us to seek rewards, so you keep coming back for more", according to Levi Felix, a very clever man and the co-founder of Digital Detox and Camp Grounded, two companies that run tech-free weekend getaways. Tech is essential to modern life and there is no harm in embracing its many and varied positives, but it is important to see it as a tool rather than a code by which to live. We’re not talking separation but rather a regular break from your gadgets (and social media in particular), for the better.
when technology no longer dictates your life, you’ll feel like you’re truly living to the fullest"
It has been said that when technology no longer dictates your life, you’ll feel like you’re truly living to the fullest, and one of the best ways to unplug and reconnect is by spending time in nature. It needn’t be a trip to that five grand per week wellness retreat you have been aggressively following on Instagram either - just a few simple steps outside can help you feel more fulfilled, calm, and connected to the things that really matter. Those with a busy, tech-filled life can benefit from some time spent in nature; the two co-existing quite peacefully. Even for the most budget-conscious urban dweller, there are many ways to enjoy one’s natural surroundings without collapsing the credit card:
Get your hands dirty
Gardening in your own backyard or even on your balcony is both an excellent way to get outdoors and even to grow your own produce. You can find advice on how to get started in books, on gardening blogs and even by checking out groups that support local gardeners by offering classes and workshops on everything from composting to container gardening. There may even be a community garden in your area if space is tight for you, and you’ll get the added bonus of being able to share your spoils.
Feel the sand between your toes
Heading to the beach is one of the best ways to spend a warm summer day, or a moody grey one if you wrap up warm and pack a hot beverage or two for after a long walk. Sadly, many beaches and oceans are in peril due to environmental degradation and the effects of climate change, so in addition to reducing your carbon footprint, why not help keep the coastline clean near you by participating in a beach cleanup?
Get lost in the woods
Getting back to nature by doing something as simple as taking a walk under a canopy of trees has been found to relieve stress by significantly lowering cortisol levels. A 2007 study published in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology examined subjects’ cortisol levels, immune system responses and nervous system balance when walking in nature, versus walking in a city environment. Volunteers were given physiological stress tests before and after a walk in the woods, and then the same tests before and after walking in the city. The results revealed that the study participants’ cortisol levels and blood pressure readings were significantly lower after going bush.
Boost your creativity
In a study conducted by psychologists from the University of Utah and University of Kansas, backpackers scored 50 percent better on a creativity test after spending four days in nature without any electronic devices like smartphones or laptops. Study co-author David Strayer, a professor of psychology at the University of Utah, said the study was "a way of showing that interacting with nature has real, measurable benefits to creative problem-solving that really hadn’t been formally demonstrated before. It provides a rationale for trying to understand what is a healthy way to interact in the world, and that burying yourself in front of a computer 24/7 may have costs that can be remediated by taking a hike in nature."
If a digital-detox-meets-walk-in-nature will teach you anything, it’s that not every incredible view must be shared through an Instagram filter. Take time for some Slow Time, and it’ll make your re-connect that much sweeter.