You crawl into bed and a few minutes on Facebook suddenly turns into a few hours scrolling through random headlines and photos (and then another couple minutes wondering what you’ve just wasted all your time on). Sound familiar? Well, you're not alone.
According to recently released data, getting lost in the world of social media and technology is becoming a norm, with U.S. consumers spending an average of five hours daily (yes, five!) on their mobile devices and an average of 50 minutes on applications such as Facebook and WhatsApp.
If you're looking to salvage some of that time and recharge your inner battery, head outside! Sure, being in nature provides ample opportunities for fun movement such as hiking, tree climbing, and rock scrambling, but according to ongoing research, nature also provides a plethora of mental health benefits. Here are five science-backed reasons you should put down your phone and get outside.
1. It'll reset your internal clock.
Raise your hand if you've ever binge-watched your favorite Netflix series for hours and then struggled to fall asleep. This is becoming a serious struggle for many people, and the reason has to do with the fact that we are constantly staring at screens.
Melatonin, which is a hormone released in response to darkness, is now being released much later due to our overexposure to artificial light. Thus, our sleep schedule is thrown off track.
This is where getting outside can help. According to this recent study, just one weekend in the woods will automatically reset your inner clock (or circadian rhythm). The study found that participants who camped for a weekend fell asleep and woke up earlier in comparison to the control group of participants who stayed home. Another note: There was an increase in participants' melatonin after they returned from camping, meaning they were able to fall asleep sooner and stay asleep longer. The study noted, however, that it is really easy to reverse those benefits when you get home if you go back to screens before sleep, so try to power down before bedtime and enjoy the outdoors while the sun is out.
2. It'll boost your creativity.
If you often feel like you can't focus on one thing at a time or you get stuck in a rut at work, the cure could be right outside your door. According to this study, there is data to support the fact that spending time outdoors actually stimulates creativity and replenishes attention.
The study immersed participants in nature for four days and prohibited them from using any type of technology. During the duration of the backpacking trip, participants had to take several creativity tests, and researchers found test scores increased by a whopping 50 percent after four days in nature.
Think of it this way: All this attention-demanding tech is like putting your body through multiple HIIT workouts. Your body (or brain) is bound to get run-down. Nature is like a deep-tissue massage for your brain, so you can refuel and recharge.
3. You'll become more resourceful.
You're starving but only have a few basic ingredients in the fridge. Or maybe you want to work out at home, but you don't have any equipment. Don't Google it; go outdoors instead.
According to a study previously mentioned, time in nature also stimulates our problem-solving skills and strengthens cognition. By distancing yourself from technological stimulation and daily trials and tribulations, you are allowing the part of your brain that controls problem-solving, selective attention, and multitasking to restore itself. Thus, you come up with brilliant five-ingredient dinner recipes or unique ways to use your body weight to work out, without even using the internet.
4. It'll improve your self-esteem and mood.
If you're feeling stressed about life (uh, aren't we all?) or down in the dumps, this is the easiest and most accessible way to pull yourself out of it: This study found that walking 90 minutes in nature decreases activity in a key region of the brain associated with depression.
Researchers had two groups walk for the same amount of time, one in an urban area and one in nature. Although researchers found no physiological change in either group, brain scans revealed a mental one. In the nature group, neural activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex portion of the brain (the part responsible for negative thought) decreased.
5. It'll positively impact your health.
Imagine sitting on a rock near a stream and being surrounded by the sounds of water and birds chirping. Sounds like a meditation app, right? Well, there's a reason for that: Silence is good for you and lack of it could actually harm your health.
According to the American Psychological Association, “noise pollution” is a thing and may lead to higher blood pressure, stress, and fatal heart attacks. By taking yourself away from a hyperactive environment and spending time in nature, your mind will have the chance to stabilize and relax, which will leave you healthier in the long run.