Last week, I attended a wonderful lecture by Hannah Rothlin, one of the excellent trainers at the Intermountain LiVe Well Center. If you are not familiar with this free resource, get to know it. Hannah spoke on what “nature wellness” is, what evidence-based research is being done around the world to demonstrate the health benefits of getting out into nature and how each of us can add more nature wellness to our lives. Several of the statistics Rothlin cited from a book called “Your Brain on Nature” were particularly troubling as they related to our society and our relationship to each other.
• The average American spends at least eight hours a day looking at an electronic screen.
• Since the electronic age people have become more aggressive, narcissistic, distracted, depressed, less cognitively nimble and obese.
• Scores on empathetic concern — the ability to exhibit an emotional response to someone else’s distress — have dropped 49 percent since 1980.
• Overall nature-based recreation has decreased by 50 percent in the past four decades.
However, other research finds that getting out into nature (or even letting your mind drift to a natural place) has been shown to increase serotonin levels, reduce blood pressure and heart rate in patients with mental illness, shorten hospital stays in some patients and even lessen symptoms of attention deficit disorder in children.
After attending this uplifting lecture about the benefits nature can bring to our state of mind and our physical health, I read a column in Website Magazine titled, “Google Glass: Changing How We See the World.” The article extolled the benefits of Google Glass and how it changes our perception of the world by having access to a computer sitting in front of our eyes all the time — a concept at once both laughable and sad, and one that was completely at odds with the lecture I had just attended. The examples of the uses of this technology, which the author suggested, were way off base.
She suggested one could look up facts about music while “listening,” but that is not listening; a swimmer or any athlete could look up their lap time while competing to increase speed — but that is losing focus and getting out of the “zone” that athletes love.
This technology may be the next big thing but not necessarily the next big way to move humanity forward. People already think they are “communicating” with social media when they are really missing the nuances of true human interaction. They are completely distracted in their cars, causing horrific carnage on our roads.
I have worked in technology industries all my life and certainly see the benefits of technological advances, but is there not a place as well for quiet reflection and for disconnecting from machines and connecting with each other and the natural beauty around us?Certainly here, we have a great opportunity to do just that.
Della Lowe is chair of the Washington County Democratic Party.