For over a year, we have been cooped up, restricted, and locked down, leaving many of us in an unfamiliar and uncertain place. A place even further from nature than we already were. The obsession of submerging ourselves in entertainment and technology over nature was bad enough before the pandemic, but being forced indoors was a catalyst in a whole new type of pandemic. One that is not caused by a virus, even though it spreads like one. We helped feed a pandemic of an artificial world taking over our own. From the way social media has a stranglehold on our relationships and interactions with others to the recent trend in at-home fitness, technology has crept its way into most aspects of our lives. Luckily, advances in treatments and preventative measures for COVID-19 have allowed us to break free and return to nature, which provides us with a plethora of health benefits.

Being out in nature provides us with a sense that we are a small piece of a bigger picture. Contemplating this idea can be a humbling feeling, leading us to new perspectives and a better outlook on life. A perspective on life not possible from the confines of the concrete jungle known as the modern world. When we see the vast diversity of an ecosystem is necessary for the prosperity of the earth, our own issues then seem much smaller and the burdens they carry lighter. A study from Glasgow University put this theory to the test and found that people who walked, biked, or ran in nature had a lower risk of poor mental health than people who worked out indoors.

For many of us, life is overwhelming at times. The technological advances in communication and connectivity via the internet and social media allow us to interact with one another like never before. This unprecedented level of connection can be great for staying in contact with friends and family, but it has also lead to a stressful level of information bombarding us daily. The pandemic increased this level of information bombardment exponentially. With so many thoughts and ideas constantly being pushed on us, it can be hard to form our own. No wonder many of us have a hard time focusing and staying attentive with all the information in the world in the palm of our hands. The good news is, according to a study published in Psychological Science, interacting with nature gives our brains a break from everyday overstimulation, which can have a revitalizing effect on our focus and attention levels.

It seems that the deeper we dig into the effects that advances in technology have on us, the more it appears to be a double-edged sword. Technological advances have been monumental at making our lives easier by eliminating many of our mundane tasks while driving us even further from nature and a better understanding of ourselves. It can be easy to find solace in technology when we want to mask the issues we face in our own lives. The way we present ourselves online and in a technological setting is a fine-tuned and refined version of ourselves portraying the person we wish to be. This presentation of ourselves provides a temporary sense of satisfaction that masks our issues, allowing them to fester and spread like an infection against self-care.

Researchers found evidence concluding a sudden increase in anxiety, depression, and suicide rates among teens when smartphones became popular. Furthermore, another study concluded that constant exposure to artificial light, even low-level light from computers and TV screens, can throw off our circadian rhythms, causing depression and mood disorders. The evidence is uncanny that technology poses some harmful effects on our lives, and once more, nature seems to provide the cure. According to a study from the University of Michigan, group nature walks enhanced mental health and positivity, lowered levels of depression and feelings of stress.

I've always been an optimist. I try to look at the glass half-full, even in the case of this pandemic. It's caused a lot of pain and destruction, but it's also lead to a break from society, leaving many of us with the desire for something more. An understanding of something greater than ourselves. A feeling of something calling us home and leading us on our return to nature!