On your to-do list this summer: Getting outdoors & unplugged

Last summer, I went on a bike ride with a close friend on a trail near my house. We rode past swamplands brimming with vegetation, past nesting birds, lakes active with people, and finally rested on a bridge overlooking a calm river. I got off my bike and admired the cool breeze against my face and began searching for frogs along the edge of the river.

I looked back at my friend to see that he was engrossed with his smart phone, too busy to look up and take in the sights around him. He didn’t see the miniature white flowers blooming around the base of the bridge, or the frogs resting on sun-warm stones. I had to wonder how much more he was missing out on simply because he couldn’t take his eyes off his phone.

Many of us are guilty of ignoring our surroundings in order to respond to text messages, update our social media profiles, and see what our friends are up to on Instagram. Sometimes we’re so engrossed in the digital world that we literally forget to look up and enjoy the sunshine.

This summer, let’s make an effort to spend less time on our phones, and more time enjoying all the activities that come with the warm weather and longer days of summer. Getting outside and unplugging are just plain good for us.

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1. Take a walk or stroll during the work day. 

It’s simple, effective, and requires no money to do. Prevention.com recommends walking during the lunch hour, stating, “Physical activity increases happy brain chemicals that perk up your mood, and going for a walk gives you a sense of accomplishment—if you can tackle that, you can tackle anything your boss throws your way.”

If you can, try ignoring your phone during the lunch hour too. Sometimes just getting away from the constant influx of email can be a great way to refresh and mentally prepare for the rest of the day.

2. Take up an outdoor hobby. 

Despite our best intentions, we all know how easy it is to fall into the trap of Netflix in the evenings after work. Instead of spending hours online, make a weekly plan to go outside. Try planning an outdoor activity, and invite coworkers or friends if you need the extra motivation.

Have a nice trail nearby? Take out your bike or start jogging in the evenings. Have a university or park nearby? Take up tennis or volleyball.  Live near a lake? Try stand up paddle boarding, swimming, or kayaking. If you want a more relaxing outdoor activity, try reading, sketching, or simply observing from a park bench, patio, or balcony.

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3. Go for weekend camping trips. 

Want to really get away from technology? Try taking short camping or hiking trips on the weekends. Whether you prefer an RV, tent, or even the luxury of a cabin, try to leave most of your devices at home, or at least limit your usage. Camping (and hiking!) is the perfect opportunity to try out more rustic activities like cards, dominos, charades, or simply sharing stories around the campfire. A return to the simpler things in life can be surprisingly refreshing.

Or consider about visiting a National Park near you. These beautiful places are often overlooked in favor of more exotic and chaotic locations around the globe, but offer a remote beauty and sense of calm you won’t find in other places.

Technology plays a crucial role in the way that most of us communicate and interact with the surrounding world, and the constant influx of new information can become addicting. But ultimately, much of the time that most of us spend online amounts to very little productivity.

We scroll through Instagram when we could be enjoying a meaningful conversation. We scan our Facebook feed when we should be doing homework. We accomplish very little when we could be accomplishing a lot. This summer, it’s time to take our eyes off the iPhone and enjoy the sunshine.

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