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2 The Outdoors: Does technology disconnect us from nature?

Our obsession with technology is leading to some unhealthy consequences, and nature can hold the cure.

SPRINGVILLE, N.Y. — Technology has accelerated at an awe-inspiring pace over the past few decades. It's gone from having a mere influence on our lives to almost total dominance, though it has improved many aspects of life, it has caused damage as well, including disconnecting us from Nature.

Sourav Sengupta, a Child & Adolescent General Psychiatrist at the UB School of Medicine, explains. 

"It does! You know, and I'd say, even more than that I think it disconnects us from other people. And as part of that, I think a lot of that is mediated from an increasing disconnection from nature."

Environmental Educator Mark Carra agrees. 

"It takes our focus and it narrows it, and what you're focusing on, it generally, a lot, it's disturbing, it's negative, whereas when you go into nature, all that melts away."

There is evidence that our addiction to technologies such as social media can lead us down a very dark path. "We do know that increased amount of time focused in on screens and technology can be associated with things like anxiety and depression," says Sengupta. "And it's usually sort of mediated by an increased sense of social isolation, often times a decrease in our self-esteem."

"They're literally driving us away from each other, and you need to feel empathy not only for nature but for each other," said Carra.

Credit: Terry Belke
“Looking at the beauty in nature is the first step of purifying the mind.”– Amit Ray

So how does the natural world help us recover from our self-inflicted wounds? 

Sengupta says that it's often a very simple formula, perhaps just a hike in the woods can do it. 

"That's one of the great things about nature, if you're engaging with it, you're also probably doing other healthy things, you're moving your body, you're getting fresh air, you're doing positive aspects for your overall health."

Credit: Terry Belke
“Longer term studies looking at brain activity of people after three days of being in nature (without any technology) reveal lower levels of theta activity suggesting that their brains had rested.”– David Strayer, Dept. of Psychology, University of Utah

Unfortunately, we are destroying the very cure we need to achieve a healthy balance. Taking responsibility for our own actions seems a good first step to restore that, Carra believes. 

"We here in the United States are a minority in terms of the world population, and we use a majority of the natural resources. Every little thing that you do is actually a bigger impact than in many other places in the world. We need to lead."

Credit: Terry Belke
“Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life.”– Rachel Carson

Finding that balance is something we need to do now for the sake of generations still to come. "I'm a big believer in getting out into the world and seeing the world for what it is," Carra says, "It's our home, it's beauty, it's our salvation."

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