The rise in time spent on screens over the past 12 months has many people worried about the impacts it may be having on our health, particularly for our kids – and rightly so.
As we attempt to operate in a COVID ‘safe’ world, many adults and children continue to find themselves stuck inside - working, learning and being entertained in a dominantly digital environment - and it’s taking a toll on our physical and mental wellbeing. These concerns, however, are not new and there are a multitude of studies out there that link excessive screen time to a reduction in physical activity, increases in obesity, poor sleep, stress, and depression.
In an endeavour to help rectify the situation and provide a safe environment to learn without cyberbullying or distractions and allow greater opportunities for social and physical activity during school hours, the Victorian Education Department made the bold move to ban mobile phones this year, with many private schools and other states following suit.
However, one of the biggest concerns is that when people spend too much time with technology, they are not spending enough time in nature.
This theory is supported by Richard Louv’s best-selling book, Last Child in the Woods,
where he coined the phrase ‘Nature Deficit Disorder’ to serve as a description of the human costs of alienation from nature. While not an official medical diagnosis, the expanding body of scientific evidence surrounding the topic suggests that nature-deficit disorder contributes to a diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties, conditions of obesity, and higher rates of emotional and physical illnesses. Research also suggests that the nature-deficit weakens understanding and appreciation of the natural world.
The good news, however, is there are many simple solutions to heal this broken bond—and many are right in our own backyard.
One of the greatest ways to counterbalance the amount of time spent on screens and improve our mental and physical wellbeing is to unplug from technology and plug back into real life by taking time out in nature.
Here at Coolabah Turf we’re passionate about the great outdoors and fostering the next generation of healthy kids – one backyard at a time. We dedicate our time and energy to create awesome backyard spaces for families to enjoy and we've made it our lifelong mission to not only produce the highest quality turf varieties for our customers, but also the most sustainable lawn landscapes that encourage active lifestyles.
Reconnection to nature is just one of the many benefits of getting outside, so here we take a look at 7 reasons why you should close your computer, forget your phone and take time to reconnect with nature!
1. Improve your mood
A little fresh air, the sun on your skin, bare feet on the grass - spending time outside can bring many small pleasures, making us feel refreshed and revived. You can find all kinds of different activities outdoors to suit all personality types so whether it’s simply sitting in your backyard reading a book, going for a bike ride or walking the dog – participating in outdoor activities that you enjoy will help boost your mood and make you feel happier.
2. Reduce stress
In today’s digital world we are constantly processing information and input from screens and other gadgets which is putting strain on our brains that evolved from more tranquil environments. Taking the time to disconnect and just go outside can do wonders for reducing stress. Nature presents scenes that gently capture your attention instead of suddenly snatching it, calming your nerves rather than frazzling them.
Even just the sight of the colour green, is known for its calming properties and helps to reduce the stress hormone cortisol, which leads to lower levels of blood pressure and a decrease in rates of depression.
3. Increase creativity, concentration and cognitive function
Ever noticed you often have your best ideas in the shower, when listening to music or exercising? This is because your brain has had some ‘white space’ for mind-wandering.
Professor Daniel Levitin explains that the brain has an attentional mode called the ‘mind wandering mode’. This mode allows thoughts to move seamlessly from one to another, and then to unrelated thoughts, without feeling like you need to direct or control the thoughts. This brain state acts like a neural reset button, as it allows us to problem solve, come up with creative ideas and approach other tasks with a fresh perspective.
Time in nature switches off the prefrontal cortex of the brain where executive function takes place allowing the brain to wander which has been proven to replenish your ability to focus, retain information, and switch off from distractions and negative thoughts.
Nature also comes in many different colours and shapes, from orange sunsets to fast moving waters and spiky plants. Spending time outside gives us a chance to get inspired by all the wonderful sights, smells, and sounds of the outdoors and encourages creativity and new ideas to flourish.
So, if you are struggling to concentrate or notice those negative thoughts taking over your brain, try taking a walk-in nature, carve out some time in the garden, or spend an evening with your family around a backyard BBQ, to really cleanse and clear your mind.
4. Improve sleep
Having trouble sleeping? The blue light emitted by screens on cell phones, computers, tablets, and televisions restrain the production of melatonin, the hormone that controls your sleep/wake cycle or circadian rhythm, making it harder to fall and stay asleep. After spending an entire day surrounded by technology, your mind needs time to unwind and even just keeping a mobile within reach can still disturb slumber, thanks to the chimes of late night texts, emails, calls, or calendar reminders.
To make sure technology isn’t harming your slumber, give yourself at least 30 minutes of gadget-free transition time before hitting the hay and make your bedroom a technology-free zone.
Even better, studies show that spending time in nature helps to provide sleep producing amounts of natural light which helps our bodies better regulate sleep patterns. Sleeping away from artificial light and waking up with natural sunlight can reset your circadian rhythm and allow your brain to release the right amount of melatonin which will help you feel more refreshed after a better night’s sleep.
5. Improve eyesight
We spend a lot of time looking directly in front of us at screens, which can damage our eyesight, particularly in young children whose eyes are still developing. Going outside gives our eyes a break from staring at a computer, television, or smartphone. Studies show that children who spend time outdoors have improved depth of vision and a reduced risk of developing myopia (nearsightedness) later in life.
6. Improve Overall Health
Inflammation in the body can lead to all sorts of disorders, from depression and cancer to autoimmune diseases. A study demonstrated that participants who spent a bit of time each week walking outside in nature experienced lower levels of inflammation in the body and reduced their blood pressure.
It has also been scientifically proven that simply getting between 15 to 20 minutes a day of sunshine will boost your immune system and allow your body to absorb vitamin D, which helps strengthen bones and reduce the risk of cancer, osteoporosis, type 1 diabetes, and multiple sclerosis.
7. Increase physical activity
Spending time outside, even just in your backyard, encourages you to be physically active and can help reduce the risk of obesity. From wrestling with the dog, playing some backyard cricket or jumping on the trampoline, being outdoors provides you with endless opportunities for active entertainment.
Not to mention that lawn turf is the safest surface for outdoor leisure activities, games and sports, particularly for our children.
In the event of any further lockdowns, even just pulling out the weeds, raking the leaves or mowing the lawn could provide the daily exercise recommended for 18 to 65 years olds.
How To Increase Green Time Over Screen Time
Ok, we hear you say – “but how do we actually get more green time in our life?”
Any green space will provide some benefit to mental and physical well-being. Even in urban areas, more natural landscapes can be found in a park, a quiet corner with a tree, several pots with vegetables growing outside, or simply a peaceful place with a view of the sky and clouds.
Here are some more practical tips to ensure you consciously choose green time over screen time:
- Set limits on screen time for you and your children
- Model healthy screen habits to your children
- Remove screens from bedrooms
- Schedule ‘green-time’ every week
- Go on a digital detox
We believe the best place to reconnect with nature is in your own backyard! And if your patch is in need of a little spruce up, installing an instant lawn landscape is the quickest, easiest and cheapest way to transform your outdoor space and create a safe haven to relax and recharge.
For more information about our lawn varieties and how to DIY - you can place an order online or call our friendly team on 1800 736 326 to arrange delivery to your door!