If each of us tallied up the time spent looking at a computer, smartphone, tablet or TV screen each day, whether it be for work or leisure, the numbers would be staggering. Now, consider that screen time across a week, month or even a year—we’re spending the majority of daylight hours, and in some cases over two-thirds of our wakeful state, scrolling, swiping, clicking and toggling in a blue light trance. And while technology has become an increasingly essential part of life and productivity – and certainly has many benefits, such as health tracking and communications – it’s equally as important for our mental and physical health, relationships and more to turn devices off, take a beat, fully disconnect and immerse ourselves in the natural world each day.
According to a recent survey conducted by the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, over 76% of participants reported that their recreational screen time had been influenced at least somewhat by the COVID-19 pandemic, and nearly half (48.6%) of people reported an increase in average weekly hours spent on devices. In fact, since lockdown, the hours of daily screen time for the average person has increased to an incredible 19 hours per day.
As a tech company, we know that connectivity and our devices serve up a myriad of good, but it’s undeniable that staring at a screen for countless consecutive hours can be detrimental to our mental and physical health. It has been found that increased levels of screen time lead to a number of issues, from sleep loss and weight gain, to chronic back and neck pain. Doctors have also found that those who spend more than six hours on their devices each day are more likely to suffer from moderate to severe depression than those who limit their screen time.
The warning signs are ever-present, yet there appears to be no reprieve in sight—our culture continues to emphasize and prioritize a connected lifestyle. As a tech company, we see this first-hand, and we’ve had to reconcile that we’re also an outdoors company, connecting people to nature and experiences by land or sea. Technology, however, should be the enabler of an experience, not the totality of it. And it’s up to us to lead by example and encourage everyone – not just those at The Wanderlust Group – to step away each day, reflect and find solace in the great outdoors.
According to a study from Rachel Hopman, Ph.D. and neuroscientist at Northeastern University, people should abide by the 20-5-3 Rule. Hopman recommends that something as simple as a 20-minute walk around the block, three days each week, can boost cognition and memory, reduce stress levels and improve overall feelings of well-being.
Where does the five of the 20-5-3 Rule come in? Hopman recommends that people spend at least five hours in nature each month (and we’d argue this should be even higher!) doing what they love, from a hike with family to a boating trip with friends. Being in nature exposes us to colors, sights, sounds, and smells that all boost creativity levels and reset our minds.
But, what’s the caveat? To get the full benefits of the great outdoors, you need to leave your phone at home. This isn’t just because it’s essential to disconnect each day. Hopman notes that when we are in nature, our brains enter “soft fascination mode,” which is a mindfulness-like state that restores and rebuilds the resources you need to think, create, and process information. And as much as you want to stay plugged into the digital world, bringing your phone with you increases the likelihood that you’ll be thrown out of “soft fascination mode” and lose any real benefits that nature has.
We know the proven benefits of getting outdoors, but how are we going to encourage people (both in and outside our organization) to take that step of putting the phone down and stepping away?
The 20 Minute Challenge is our way of creating tangible and easy steps for people to put their mental and physical heath first by getting outdoors, even if it’s just for 20 minutes during a lunch break. The challenge the first in a series that we offer up each quarter to help you spend more time out in nature. Stay tuned for more challenges throughout the year.
The Challenge: 20 minutes isn’t a lot, but developing new habits needs discipline and repetition. Join us in committing to set aside 20 minutes every day to spend time outside. Here’s the hard part: You’ve got to leave your devices behind, or have the willpower not to check them during the 20 minute window. To get the full psychological and physical benefits of time spent outside, you need to fully experience it. Something that just can’t happen if you’re checking notifications or scanning websites.
What to do: You can do this on your own or as part of a community. In the form below, tell us your email, time-zone, and time of day when you want to make the commitment. We’ll send you a calendar invite to block your schedule and mail you a Wanderlust journal to carry with you. If you want, you can share your experiences using the hashtag #20minutewander upon your return (remember, no phones during your time outside!) and we’ll reshare them. For a select few, we’ll even create a custom illustration just for you. Not on social media? You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.