Study: Obsessive Web Surfers Are More Depressed

http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,2008234,00.html

That’s the recent title for an article in last week’s TIME Magazine.  It’s funny because the day I read this, I had been thinking/feeling that all week!  I think it’s a ubiquitous problem in this day and age, with technology engulfing ever crevice of our being.  After a while, you feel like a zombie in front of a screen.  How many people (including myself) do you know that check their email or Facebook every 5 minutes, in search of something new being added?  9 times out of 10, it’s the SAME lame stuff it was 10 minutes ago!!  When I say it out loud, makes me a little embarrassed that I spend any part of my day doing that.  But there I am, pressing the refresh button 🙂  There is this anticipation, and lack of patience, and hope for the next “exciting message” (which never really is all that exciting), to grace our screens.  We do it out of boredom or addiction, or both, but a lot of times, it does more to add to the problem than alleviate it.

Add web surfing to the above, and you have a full-blown addiction on your hands. Searching for clothes, for remedies, for information, for people, and you find a good part of your day…a good part of your life is spent being a slave to the screen.  It’s addictive.  I’m addicted. and over time when this becomes a large part of life, when you start looking and reading about things rather than experiencing them – when you spend more time with your computer than quality time with other people, I have no doubt that people would become depressed.

So supposedly the solution is – get outside more.  Simple.  Straight forward.  Too the point.  But does it REALLY work?  Can it be that easy?  Honestly – I think it is!!!  Reminds me of another article I read a few weeks back about “eco-therapy”.  Basically, it’s a back to basics, getting people outside and into nature way of dealing with mild to moderate depression.  I can’t remember the exact article, but I remember something being said with regards to even looking at various scenes within nature (trees, open water, etc), and the soothing/calming effect it had, and how even a little of that each day had a positive effect on a person’s overall well-being.  I totally believe it!!  After a crappy day, a half hour in my back yard enjoying the trees, and I actually feel better!  Doesn’t erase the problems, but there is something rhythmic about the waves of the open water, or branches in the wind, or clouds inching their way across the sky – it surrounds you, it engulfs you, and you find yourself getting lost in that rhythm.  It’s sort of like nature letting your mind and body go on cruise control and taking over for a bit.  It’s healing and certainly much better than if I plopped myself down in front of a computer.

My pediatrician, Dr. Lawrence Rosen, writes articles for an online magazine geared at natural, healthy, family life.  His latest article was entitled “The Whole Child: Prescription for Play” ( http://kiwimagonline.com/kiwilog/the-whole-child/the-whole-child-prescription-for-play ) where he discusses nature as therapy, and lauds the importance of free, unstructured time and play, particularly in a natural, outdoor setting, for a child’s well-being.  I’m sure the same holds true for adults.  A study recently published in the American Journal for Public Health addresses how outdoor play has a positive effect on children with ADHD.  (Kuo FE, Taylor AF: A potential natural treatment for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: evidence from a national study. Am J Public Health 94:1580-6).  Other studies by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine highlight the importance of free play and unscheduled, unstructured time – particularly outdoors as well.   It’s funny have we have industry authorities doing studies and citing examples of things our mothers and grandmothers used to tell us.  ” It’s a beautiful day – go play outside!”.  But there was much wisdom in that, whether it was done consciously or not. 

So I guess the lesson learned here is, less computer time, more time outdoors.  Common sense but it’s really taking a toll on our lives, our mental and emotional well-being in the long run.  It SOUNDS easy, but tearing yourself away from that screen takes more effort than most of us would like to admit.  But if we raise our children with these same tendencies, I think we’re setting ourselves up for a lot of problems.  Even I’ve noticed (my own little experiment) that if I let Maalik play on the computer too long, he becomes more irritable.  And all he does is play games on sesamestreet.org! (No Street Fighter or Grand Theft Auto here).  I’ve since tried to cut it down.  I know he loves it, and a little doesn’t seem to do too much with regard to his mood/behavior, but he’s generally happier after an afternoon running through the sprinklers, playing outdoors, than he is if he’s inside.  It’s more work for me, and at times, I just don’t have the energy to be the main source of entertainment 🙂 but I’m hoping for greater dividends in the long run.

So, as one of my Ramadan resolutions, I am hoping to spend less time online, and spend more time outdoors.  Hope I can stick with it.  When you’re tired, it’s easier to resort to the option that requires less effort, but I think we’ll be better off for it insha Allah.

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