Americans are facing a new crisis: disconnection from nature. Due to advances in technology and people relying on it for all aspects of life, we are spending more time indoors than ever before. Unfortunately, hunkering down indoors can harm our physical and mental health. Additionally, it causes us to lose contact with the natural world. Disconnecting from nature is a problem that many of us need to address.
It’s Time to Leave the Great Indoors
Back in 2001, musician John Mayer released his album “Room for Squares” including the song “Great Indoors,” about people spending way too much time inside. While the song was released almost two decades ago, it is even more relevant today. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average American spends about 93% of their life indoors—a shockingly high statistic. That’s only half a day a week spent outdoors!
What’s even more alarming is that today, children aged 5 to 16 years are spending an average of about 6.5 hours a day in front of a screen, more than double that of 1995 when kids spent about 3 hours. Additionally, back then, the “screens” were mostly TV and maybe a clunky desktop computer. Today, kids have a plethora of options from giant flat-screen TVs, to laptops, desktops, tablets, smartphones, portable gaming consoles and smart watches—the options are endless.
The Dangers of Too Much Indoors
By spending too much time indoors resulting in a disconnection from nature can cause many negative impacts like increased levels of anxiety and mental health issues. Here are just a few of them:
Vitamin D Deficiency
The lack of exposure to the sun, a natural source of vitamin D, means a person can experience problems like fatigue, depression, low immune system, bone and back pains, muscle pains, and even hair loss.
Exposure to Indoor Pollution
Staying indoors also involves prolonged exposure to “indoor pollution,” which experts say is even more dangerous than outdoor pollution. Smoke, chemicals (such as in paints and cleaners), and fungal spores can all contribute to “sick building syndrome,” a condition often caused by poor ventilation. Simply spending too much time in a polluted building can make you sick, according to a study published in the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health.
Increases Risk of Early Death
A study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that working at night leads to impaired health and well-being. This includes higher risk for diabetes, obesity, substance abuse, and depression, among others. Electric lighting and an absence of natural light tend to throw off your internal rhythms, which leads to the aforementioned problems and more.
Benefits of Spending Time Outdoors
Spending time outside connecting with nature is beneficial to human health. Getting outdoors can:
- Improve blood pressure
- Boost mental health
- Decrease cancer risk
- Improve short-term memory
- Reduce levels of inflammation
- Decrease anxiety
- Improve mood
- Treat depressive disorders
- Increase focus
- Stimulate the production of anticancer proteins
- Lower overall risk of early death
Spending time outdoors has also been shown to lower stress hormone concentrations by more than 15%, lower average pulse by almost 4%, and lower blood pressure by just over 2%.
While the disconnection from nature crisis can seem pretty alarming, we still have time to correct it. Time management, being more alert and sensitive of the activities we participate in daily and being more proactive when it comes to our health and wellbeing are steps that can help create a positive impact in our lives and the lives of those we care about.