As the world becomes more urbanized, we are spending less and less time in nature. In the year 1800 only 6% of people lived in urban areas. In 2000 that percentage went up to 79. People working outdoors was 90% in 1900 and down to 20% by the year 2000.
Ultimately, it can matter little where we live as technology is replacing the outdoors by dominating our attention almost everywhere. Screen time is up every year, over 10 hours a day for the average adult while time spent outdoors fishing and camping has gone down. Children’s time spent outside has declined dramatically giving us a generation more obese than ever.
So, this can sound familiar to you. You have an indoor job and are attached to your devices day and night. If you haven’t noticed you are probably suffering stress, anxiety, or even depression. Several years ago, researchers assigned people to walk in nature and in an urban setting. The nature walkers had lower anxiety, better mood, and better working memory. They have more confidence in themselves and are less concerned how others view them. A 2008 study showed four days without technology, immersed in nature, increased problem solving and creativity by 50%! Bottom line: you really can’t afford to avoid getting more nature in your life.
So, let’s get out and commune with nature! People have found that “grounding” the human body by walking barefoot outside can better your mood and your health. Fit some outdoor time in your schedule. Walk outside after lunch and dinner. Even urban areas have parks, and most now have forest preserves of some sort with walking paths. You just have to seek them out.
Being outside will calm you down. It helps you focus on the important things, like your family, faith and friends. It can bring meaning to your work and everyday life. If you think you hate the weather, bugs, etc. know that research has found we actually enjoy walking in nature much more than we think we will.
Kathleen Weaver-Zech and Dean’s Team Chicago