Recently, I spent a full month immersed in nature. Think towering pine trees, lush ferns, crystal lake waters, unhindered sunsets, a little log cabin and silence. Oh, the silence. The raw energy of a world without the electric buzz of daily life - it is something that must be experienced as its impact can't really be imagined.
Don't get me wrong. I am a city girl who loves mod-cons and we weren't actually 'off the grid'. But we were 'out of range' and while that took some adjustment, I'm not exaggerating when I say it calmed my soul. And, more extraordinarily, the souls of my three boys under 5, who normally have enough energy between them to power a small city on their own...
So when I returned, I learned. That is, I began to research this concept of life out of range. While not a digital native, like most I am connected most of the time - subconciously if not actually. It felt silly having to 'research' what was actually the norm even in my own childhood, but studies now abound to remind us of the importance of spending time in wilderness. The Japanese even coined the term 'shinrin-yoku' (forest bathing) which is based around their science on the physiological impact of spending time among the trees.
But, as a teacher of teens, it is clear to me that it's our adolescents who can't be reminded of this. They have no memory of it. And since late primary school, they have built personal connection through their internet connection. Studies also abound on the clear correlation between the rise in tech and the rise in anxiety levels. Sleep issues, body image, self-worth, anxiety, trends, likes, posts, filters - one goes with another these days.
So what to do?
Retreat. Yes, that's right. Remove teens from this digital life and (gently) step them back in to an analogue world. Give the memories and experiences of what it feels like to live without tech. It doesn't actually have to take that long. Even within the 'slow movement' today's teens move fast. 48 hours in nature, without tech, but in a gorgeous environment that caters to other comforts (good food, good company, good sleep, good air) and they will know there is another way.
They will know how to tune out in order to tune in.
The words of the very insightful Einstein are relevant more now than when they were first said, but still ring as true as ever:
"Look deep in to nature and you will understand everything better."
Give your teen the gift of retreat - find out more here.