Branching out: resetting our screen time addiction with nature

New Zealand teenagers are spending more than six hours a day in front of screens – that’s more time than some of us spend sleeping!

For many of us, screens are not only an essential part of our work, but an essential part of our lives. Often, we simply don’t have the option to put ourselves on a total screen time ban. But it is worth keeping an eye on the amount of time your screen is taking up in a day as too much screen time has been linked to anxiety, depression and reduced sleep quality.

Is nature the solution?

Whether it’s outdoor daily exercise, a weekly walk through the bush or along the beach, or simply spending time in the garden, research consistently shows that spending time in nature can reduce anxiety, improve mood and strengthen your relationships. Just 30 minutes a week can make a difference.

So if too much screen time increases anxiety and getting into nature reduces it, why not try a direct swap? Find some time – whether it’s an hour a day or an hour a week – to put your phone down and get outside.

Swapping screens for nature: tips to inspire you

Start small: Is your phone the first thing you reach for when you wake up? Before you go to bed, pop it in a drawer or leave it charging in the kitchen. When you wake up, head outside for those first 10 minutes you’d normally spend mindlessly scrolling and spend that time doing some outside stretching, meditating, or just appreciating the new day. Then you can grab your phone!

Meet you for a walk: Consider inviting your colleagues to take part in the swap, and invite them on a ‘walking meeting’. This gets everyone up and out of the office, with the added benefit of getting you moving and using nature to inspire fresh thinking.

Bring nature inside: We can’t be outside all the time, so why not bring a bit of nature inside? Plants on your desk at work and throughout your home will not only give you a sense of nature and improve the air quality, they also look great.

Screentime addict? There’s an app for that. Here are some of our favourite apps that can help you unplug and recharge:
  • Moment (iOS) – track how much you and your family use your phone and tablet each day, with the option to set daily limits.
  • Headspace (Android and iOS): Turn your phone to ‘do not disturb’ and switch on a guided meditation with one of the most soothing voices online.
  • AppDetox (Android): If apps are your vice, AppDetox can help you put down the Candy Crush and pick up your running shoes. Set your own parameters and be reminded when you need to put down your phone.