Being Balanced While Staying Connected

With spring inching up upon us I’m writing today to encourage you to get out of doors and spend a day in nature, enjoying the sights, sounds, smells, feeling and taste of being out in the natural world.

An interesting statistic reached me recently: the average American adult is connected to media for 74 hours per week. And this is but the average — meaning that since many people like me spend substantially less than 10.5 hours per day staring at a screen, many other people are spending substantially more! Screens are mighty inventions that provide us with multiple benefits, including for example the ability for me to write publish and you to read these very words with no bar of time or distance.

While I am truly glad that we have these tools available to us at this remarkable moment in human history that we are sharing, ten and a half hours daily is a lot of screen time, and is yet one more proof of just how addicted we educated cosmopolitans have become to our cyber tools, and how little we recognize the unprecedented impact they are having on our eyes and bodies. Consider this: those who sit and gape at a screen all day are more likely to die sooner than someone who is not. While come of this enhanced morbidity is no doubt due to lack of exercise and general physical inertia, it is also the case that nature never intended us to gaze steadily at flat surfaces. Vertebrate brains evolved to facilitate depth perception, and 3-D trickery is no substitute in the long run for exposure to the real world. Even if it is the Nature Channel or National Geographic that you are watching all day long you are still missing out on the real wonder of being out in nature, an experience which can never be delivered to you through virtual reality.

Electronic reality is in fact its own reality, one that is often not truly indicative of the “without the screen” reality that it represents. Let me therefore urge you to go out into the natural world as soon and as often as you possibly can. Please consider taking regular day-long breaks from your screens (smartphones included!); once a week, or every two weeks, or even once a month just turn off your devices for the day and head out into the wild, the rich and unpredictable reality that is unique to the natural world. You’ll be glad you did!