Is technology altering our brains? This question, although not often asked outside scientific circles, is one everyone should contemplate. The next question that follows is, were it not for technology, how would our brains fare?
That is if we spent more time in nature and not immersed in technology and the endless hustle and bustle of modern living. What if we put down our devices and took a walk outside — out on the grass, among the flowers, in the woods?
To lend perspective to this discussion, let’s first answer the first question, whether technology is altering our brains. The short answer is yes. Multiple sources, including this one, this one and this other one all say this is the case. Unfortunately, although some of these changes are for the better, most are for the worse.
To counter these negative changes, our brains need more wholesome impulses and experiences. Technology and finance consultant, Richard Mgrdechian, an avid outdoorsman and nature advocate, states that spending time in nature is one way of countering the negativity of technology. “We’re all caught up in an artificial world where everything is digital, sterile, bits, software, and information overload; the human mind not made for that,” stated Mgrdechian. “Societal evolution way outstrips biological evolution,” he continues, “and only 10 generations ago we were living a colonial lifestyle with no electricity, phone, railroad or airplanes, not to mention 24-hour distractions and stresses like, text, email, social media and others. According to anthropologists, our brains are fundamentally no different than they were 100,000 years ago, so clearly we evolved for a much different lifestyle.”
Here are five ways spending time in nature can improve your life — physically, mentally and spiritually, according to Mgrdechian.
Nature Improves Vitality
In the book “Your Brain On Nature: The Science of Nature’s Influence on Your Health, Happiness, and Vitality,” the authors cite studies that show spending time in vegetation-rich natural environments can improve vitality. They define vitality as emotional strength when faced with internal and external pressures as well as an ability to live life enthusiastically, all of which Richard Mgrdechian states are attained through a deeper connection with nature.
Nature Reduces Chances of Depression
Living within a kilometer of a park or wooded area can reduce instances of anxiety and depression. This is according to a study done by the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health which found that people who lived further from such green spaces were more likely to experience symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Nature Enhances Immunity
Plants produce phytoncides, airborne chemicals that protect them from rot and insects. A series of studies found that when you spend time in nature, especially areas with plenty of trees, you inhale these chemicals, which in turn enhances your immune functions.
Nature Increases Vitamin D
Spending time outdoors in nature means spending time basking in natural sunlight. One of the primary roles of sunlight in your body is to aid in the production and utilization of Vitamin D. Richard Mgrdechian shares that some studies show that increased Vitamin D production and uptake in the body can help prevent some forms of cancers, heart attacks, and osteoporosis.
Nature Boosts Happiness
If you did not think nature can make you happy, consider the following experiment that Mgrdechian outlines. Ten thousand Canadians participated in an exercise where they committed to spending thirty minutes a day in nature, for thirty days. The outcome? Reports of an increased sense of well-being, elevated energy levels, lowered stress and negativity, fewer sleep disturbances, more productivity, and yes, greater happiness.
Richard Mgrdechian’s Final Thoughts
Technology is increasingly fragmenting society, work, and our minds in general. To keep up with all this, many people are experiencing burnout and a sense of despondence towards life. The natural remedy to this chaos according to Richard Mgrdechian is nature itself. By taking time to step back from technology and busy life, and immersing yourself in nature, you can reconnect with your roots, roots that are firmly grounded in nature. “It’s great that we have been able to make the technical advances we have, but at the end of the day, we can’t deny what we really are — and what we really need: more time with nature.”