A Natural Prescription
Posted on January 17, 2020
It’s no groundbreaking observation that technology is dominating our lives more and more. But what we may not realize is how voracious tech habits encroach on our ability to unplug and enjoy a connection with the outdoors — a tough thing to swallow especially in Southern California, a literal outdoor playground of surf, sun, and even snow. While a quick logon to the web might be the first strike for some to determine what ails them, perhaps the readiest cure might just lie in a simple walk outside.
Sebastian Slovin realized the restorative link between nature and his own well-being after a personal tragedy. Following the loss of his father, he sought comfort in the ocean, a connection forged by memories growing up in the water near his La Jolla home; his father had been a world-class ocean swimmer. As an adult, Slovin recognized the growing disconnect between people and nature amidst an increasing addiction to tech in every aspect of life, and wanted to do something about it.
Together with his wife, Sonya Mohamed, they founded Nature Unplugged with a mission to facilitate healthy relationships between technology and nature. Though both admit they’re still pro-technology, their goal is to help people rediscover the benefits of being outside and establish healthy digital boundaries. Offering personal coaching, consulting, workshops, and other resources including a podcast and blog, the pair provides deeper insight and suggest individualized solutions for both children and adults. Speaking engagements at both school and corporate levels dive into tech use-related side effects and encourage unplugged antidotes like unstructured play and downtime.
“There is mounting evidence that [overuse] is a contributing factor to all sorts of mental health issues,” explains Slovin. “Nature is the perfect counterbalance to the negative impacts of technology.” New research agrees. As a result of findings around nature’s positive impact to our emotional wellness, Western medicine is taking notice, with some doctors going as far as prescribing time outside for people dealing with stress, anxiety, and depression.
Though commonly assumed to be more prevalent with kids, Mohamed says, “The trends are pretty universal across age. What’s been really interesting is you’re seeing it transcend all demographics, not just age but race, socioeconomic status, etcetera, so it’s really pervasive.” As with anything that involves some sacrifice, there isn’t always an eagerness to forsake short-term gratification for long-term benefit. “I think our approach is that we’re guides and have to ask the right questions, but it’s going to be up to you as an individual and as a family to come up with the plan that works best for you,” says Slovin.
They’re quick to clarify that a tech break doesn’t necessarily mean a weeklong retreat into the mountains; that respite can come in the form of five minutes in your own backyard. A favorite local escape? Solana Beach’s San Dieguito County Park. Admires Mohamed, “You could go many, many times and see new things each time.” natureunplugged.com Deanna Murphy
Photography by Susan Farese