April 07, 2021

We’re told if something’s not working, unplug it and plug it back in again. That advice can work for people, as well. Spending too much time in front of a screen could be causing eye strain, headaches, and extra stress.

Two mountain bikers on Moab Brand Trails in Utah
Moab Brand Trails offer a wide variety of trails for the beginner, intermediate, and advanced rider. - P.C. Leslie Kehmeier

We simply aren’t meant to stay indoors, tethered to a device; we’re built to explore the outdoors. There’s even a name for it. Biophilia is a perceived human tendency to interact with nature. So make time to unplug and head outside into Utah’s spectacular scenery. Your mind and body will benefit.

You’ll Sleep Better

Tossing and turning for no clear reason could mean you’re spending too much time online, especially at night. Research shows that exposure to artificial light may confuse our internal clocks. Whether it’s your phone, tablet, or laptop, staring at a screen can disrupt sleep.

Night sky showing Milky Way galaxy with glowing red tent
Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument offers nearly 1.9 million acres to starwatch and explore. - P.C. Bob Wick

Try putting down the device and head out for some stargazing. Utah boasts several Certified Dark Sky Parks where you can spend an evening, or several, meditating under the stars. Stargazing promotes positive emotions by relieving stress and helping you relax. You can turn it into a social experience with friends or head out by yourself for some alone time.

You’ll See Physical Improvements

Work out without “working out” when you unplug and hit the trails in Utah. Scenic places to visit in the Salt Lake City area include the hiking trail at Fifth Water Hot Springs where you can work your legs and your core as you climb up (and back down). You’ll also hike past a waterfall and hot springs pools, including some shallow spots where you can submerge your aching muscles.

Hikers on Devils Garden Trail
Devil's Garden Trail in Arches National Park offers 7 miles of adventure.

As we head toward the summer months, don’t use hot weather as an excuse to stay inside. The The high mountains of Southern Utah offer cooler temps and sweeping views. Spending time at higher altitudes also speeds up your metabolism, helping keep your weight under control.

If hiking is too strenuous for you, walking works as well. Just get out there! Sunlight provides your body with the vitamin D you can’t get from screen light! This vitamin is crucial for your blood, bones, and immune system. It also helps your body absorb minerals, like calcium and phosphorus. It only takes about 15 minutes, a couple of times a week, to see benefits, but once you’re out in Utah nature, you’ll likely stay longer.

You’ll See Mental Improvements

Simply breaking free from screens and being in nature improves mental health, as well. Looking at trees, lakes, and other natural elements helps you relax, calms the nervous system, and lowers stress hormone levels. This, in turn, boosts your mood and offers a counterpart to immersion in technology.

Capitol Reef overlook
Breath-taking view of Capital Reef National Park. - P.C. Wolfgang Staudt

The effects of viewing a brilliant sunset, listening to a babbling brook, or hearing the rush of the wind through the trees can bring a sense of wonder or appreciation and leave you with a calmer, more focused mind.

You’ll Gain Perspective

Changing your environment and doing it with family or friends gives you time to talk and really reconnect with them. You may decide weekly outings together are more fulfilling than one more hour online.

Looking through an arch-top aperature in Bryce Canyon National Park
At higher elevation, Bryce Canyon National Park is good for the warmer months. - P.C. Lucas G.

Or, if you decide to head out on your own, you’ll have the time and space for self-reflection. It may be helpful when making big life-decisions or simply examining the need to change your own behaviors and attitudes.

No matter how you do it, unplugging and spending time in the open-air results in better sleep, health, and perspective. And if you’re lucky, you might even find some scenic locales with no cell service!

Kate Newberry writes about camping and hiking for several publications. She and her family have hiked everything from the Wild Horse Canyon in Utah to Pikes Peak in Colorado and the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee (although her kids claim the “Smokey Mountains” are just "small hills.")

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