Let’s face it in the last year we likely all spent more time on devices than we did interacting with the people we love. It is an unfortunate statistic, to be honest. One that I can’t even bring myself to share. We all spend huge amounts of our free time with our computers, phones, tablets, and TVs. I see the irony in posting this online! While these things do tend to make life easier, they also add to our stress, anxiety, and sleep issues. So how do we solve this in the modern world? Well, we start our tech detoxing in the outdoors.
A Time Without Tech
Some of my best times growing up were out exploring the woods with my family and friends. There was so much adventure that could happen just in the woods behind my house. I expanded that world when I started participating in organized camping trips. I was forced, well at least I thought so at the time, to be outside till the street lights came on. Looking back it was probably the best thing that could have happened to me.
So where and why did that end? Why when we are younger did we seek adventure in the outdoors? We used to challenge our survival skills and made ourselves stronger. We didn’t need technology because a stick could be anything we wanted it to be. Our imagination ruled. Now we sit like lumps behind our screens with instant gratification. We lost our connection to nature and the outdoors.
So what kinds of things are necessary to get back to that imaginative exploration that we loved to do? Well, the first and most difficult part will be stepping away from technology. You will have to learn to trust your instincts a little better. Not to mention, you will need to challenge yourself to reconnect with nature, yourself, and your family. You can start to do this through tech detoxing in the outdoors.
Reconnect with nature in our first National Park. Use our Yellowstone Quick Guide to plan your trip.
Why Tech Detoxing in the Outdoors is Important
There is a significant amount of research that has gone into the benefits of being outside. We have built up a society around us that is controlled in nearly every way. While comfort is key to long-term survival, we were never meant to solely be indoors in climate control. We were meant to be outside feeling the rain softly patter on our faces, or hearing the rustle of wind through tall grass. Sure, the light at night makes us more productive each day, but have you ever looked up and seen a million starts shining back at you? It is a feeling that is surpassed by none.
All flowery feelings and writing aside there is scientific evidence that nature really does help to make us whole again. “There is mounting evidence, from dozens and dozens of researchers, that nature has benefits for both physical and psychological human wellbeing,” says Lisa Nisbet, PhD, a psychologist at Trent University in Ontario, Canada, who studies connectedness to nature. “You can boost your mood just by walking in nature, even in urban nature. And the sense of connection you have with the natural world seems to contribute to happiness even when you’re not physically immersed in nature.”
The American Psychological Association included the previous quote and the following key benefits of tech detoxing in the outdoors.
- Spending time in nature is linked to both cognitive benefits and improvements in mood, mental health, and emotional well-being.
- Feeling connected to nature can produce similar benefits to well-being, regardless of how much time one spends outdoors.
- Both green spaces and blue spaces (aquatic environments) produce well-being benefits. More remote and biodiverse spaces may be particularly helpful, though even urban parks and trees can lead to positive outcomes.
Detox with Nature
Nature doesn’t have to be as rough and ready as it once was. There are so many glamping options available that it will feel like you are visiting a luxury spa while still getting a connection to nature. The important part is that you are stepping outside. Not just physically but mentally as well. We have to allow ourselves to be transported to a time when technology didn’t rule. Only then can your tech detoxing in the outdoors actually begin.
Think about times when you were happiest as a child. They weren’t sitting behind a computer responding to emails. Yes, we may have had enjoyment from our favorite cartoon. It transported us somewhere different. Nothing compares to exploring the world around us. Holding a fallen leaf in our hand, or smelling the smoke curling from a fire. These are sensory things that technology cannot provide to us. These are important. Smells, touch, tastes, and sights all aid in our ability to create memories. They add to a rich experience that cannot be provided through a screen. That is why being outdoors and camping is the best way to take a tech detox. The outdoors awaken each of these different sensations. They make them real to us again.
It doesn’t matter the mode of camping. So if we are in a tent, motorhome, travel trailer, or the back of a pickup truck the real goal is to relax. We must take a deep breath and soak in what is beyond arm’s length. Then nature will embrace us back into our sense of childhood adventure and exploration.
Don’t be Your Own Barrier
Where does most unhappiness come from? Well, I bet your first thought was person X or situation Y. The truth is though that we are generally the reason for our own unhappiness. We put up mental barriers that prevent us from being happy. It is easier for us to find any excuse possible to get out of taking ownership. This is why technology is such a great distractor. It allows each of us to quickly forget about dealing with ourselves. It is an escape that we can take 100 times a day from that growing list of responsibilities. Trust me on this one, that list of responsibilities will always be there. It is the society that we have created. This is not to say that those are not important but we need to prioritize.
We need to prioritize a detox from modern life every so often. A reset through tech detoxing in the outdoors will help our bodies function better.
In order to get the true benefit of a tech detox though, we need to tear down our own barriers. We need to recognize that our own happiness comes from within. This means that we need to own our issues and responsibilities. Then we need to prioritize our relationships with family and friends. Once these two things are completed the tech detox can begin. This is because we will start to realize that the quick distraction provided by technology is just that distraction. It is not correcting the root of the problem. The outdoors and nature can help us find that root and explore it within ourselves. Remember we are never really lost if we are always searching for ourselves. Putting technology aside allows us to take part fully in our journey.
How to Start a Tech Detox Outdoors
There are a few easy steps that you can take to start your tech detoxing in the outdoors. Each of these steps should be fairly straightforward and easy to complete in theory. However, until you build up the fortitude necessary some of them may be extremely difficult.
Take a hike and start to explore the world around you. Check out these great Montana hiking options.
1. Get prepared to go outside
Read as much as you can to better understand how to be successful on camping trips. Starting with some of our articles is sure to make you more comfortable and confident in your outdoor skills. Don’t stop with us though. Hit your local library and grab some outdoor guides. Heck, you could even take some classes with family and friends to get you ready to go.
2. Begin a mindfulness routine
The next step is to institute a mindfulness routine. You don’t need to spend that long stepping away from yourself each day to have an effect. In fact, ten minutes a day will help you quiet your mind and find a spot where you can just be. This will be critical when you are outdoors. Learn how to do it before you head out so that you can pull on that experience when you are sitting by the edge of a waterfall.
3. Leave the technology at home
Likely this will be the hardest step of all. The only way to effectively institute a tech detox in the outdoors is to leave technology behind. Now, for safety purposes, you should actually leave the technology at home. However, when you head into the wilderness, place that technology in a place where you won’t be tempted to reach for it. Make sure that it is turned off. Mentally leave the technology behind and focus on being present in nature.
4. Learn to listen again
I said that step three was likely the hardest and this is a close second. Many of us have forgotten what it means to truly connect with people. When was the last time you just sat and listened to someone else? You didn’t pass judgment, and you weren’t thinking of what to say next. Being around a campfire or on a trail allows us to just listen. Not only to ourselves or to nature but to each other. Not having technology in the way allows us to connect and be in healthy relationships.
5. Be willing to explore the slowdown
Just like when we were children and used our imaginations for everything we need to be able to explore. It is one thing to say adventure here I come, and another to openly welcome challenging things. So, you need to be willing to hike that long hike or climb that ridge. You need to see the world from different perspectives and be open to each of them. Sometimes this means just sitting and letting nature happen around you. The time at your destination is just as important as the journey you took to get there. This is especially the case when you go with younger members of your family. Show them that it is okay to just be in the moment. Rushing isn’t necessary.
6. Rinse and repeat
It is not enough to take a tech detox outdoors once. It is something that you need to promise yourself to do regularly. Now, this doesn’t mean that you have to go camping for weeks at a time multiple times per year. As the APA information provided above stated, urban nature can be just as beneficial. Do I recommend a long stint or two camping a year? Absolutely! However, realistically that may not be possible. It is important to still be able to find that natural piece and disconnect with yourself, your family, and your friends. So spend time in the natural world close to home for a few hours a week. Mini detoxes can be just as beneficial if not more since you are building a habit.
Final Thoughts on the Tech Detox Outdoors
In the beginning, I asked why we had lost our sense of adventure. I pondered why we no longer use our imagination. I think that the fact is that it is been trained out of us. We are put in situations every single day where the production of whatever our job is becomes the most important thing in our lives. We aren’t allowed to prioritize being an imaginative adventurer. So we need to take that back for ourselves. With all of the research that shows how beneficial being outdoors is to us, we would be silly to ignore it.
Nature is calling us. Luckily it is a call that technology won’t help in answering. Will you answer by tech detoxing in the outdoors? Or will you let the call go unanswered? By following the steps above and using the resources on this site you can become closer to yourself. Not only that but you will build stronger relationships with everyone in your life.