We Need More Green Time (And Less Screen Time)

When I was young, parents would tell us “go outside and play”. And the grownups would often work outside for a living, and even if not would have a garden and a yard to take care of. And there weren’t computer screens nor smartphones to absorb so much of our time. The first newspaper compositions I composed for publication were completed first by careful longhand writing, then on a manual typewriter by the time I was a high school senior. (And transmitted with envelope and a postage stamp!) Yes, some things have become more convenient, and the explosion of knowledge is everywhere, but mentally and physically the lack of “green time” is taking it’s toll on each of us individually and the world as a whole.

As the days grow longer and warmer, I encourage every reader to step outside more often. Consider your yard or your garden. And if you don’t do those chores, or if you rent or live in an apartment, you can still go for a stroll or find a trail to hike or a public park to experience. For it will benefit you.

There’s not time and space in this column to explain lengthy research on the subject, but it is proven in multiple studies I’ve seen over the years, that exposure to greenery and sounds of nature and certainly waterfalls or ocean waves, have a calming effect on the body. Lower blood pressure, and a more peaceful clearer mind results. In one particular study, a class was divided and one group of students sat inside all day and another group were taken on a nature walk, then the same exam was given to both sets of students. By now I am sure you guessed, the average scores were higher for the group that took the nature walk before test time.

Screen time in excess is harmful. Stress goes up, sleep may be deprived, personalities are affected, interactions in person with others become uncertain, and the eyes may be damaged. Those are just some of the negative affects which result from too much time at the computer, the phone screen or the television screen.

If it’s not hurtful, why would the top computer and software developers in Silicone Valley not even allow their children to own a smartphone or portable computing device? No, they don’t even have computers in some of the private schools they send their own children too. Think on that a minute.

Green time has been demonstrated to have a positive effect on everyone, but all the more on those with mental disorders and the “typical” prisoner (if there is such a thing as an typical inmate). Developmentally challenged students can benefit from a school garden experience. Governments may think they are getting free labor when they put prisoners on a work project, but the real beneficiary of some such projects is actually the prisoner. (Being crammed into a jailhouse with hundreds of other problem people is not the way to “correct” and get such a person prepared for being set free and expecting better behavior than before. Just the opposite…most become repeat offenders.)

Screen time can be wasted time. Playing video games will never get a child to the top of his or her class. Time on the computer researching for an assignment in class or at work, would be an example of profitably spent screen time. Children had chores of some type or another in the past. We may have more “fun” on the phone than raking leaves or dusting furniture, but chores are an important part of living life. If texting and games take up all the time, other skills are not learned.

When an evening on the smartphone or playing video games is the most fun our young people have—it is no wonder the world and it’s occupants are getting more messed up day by day with the passage of time.

Planting some flowers, vegetables, trees, and taking care of them may not be the prescription for everyone’s happiness and mental and physical well-being; but, more green time will do us all some good. Try it; even prove me wrong if you believe you can.

The author is a landscaper, among other things. Contact Max via rockcastles@gmail.com