I went to Aspen this week for the Aspen Ideas Festival. I was super excited because it’s been one of my dreams. I applied last year and the year before that and got denied both times. This time I was there for work and got to see everything! I arrived on-the afternoon of the 21st and checked in. We saw people paragliding and went up to Maroon Bells, one of the most beautiful places in the world. We talked a lot about health and the brain and one of my favorite sessions was in the Maroon Bell’s amphitheater. Yes, a session in the mountains; people were wearing suits and all. I thought we were there to hike but when we arrived, we immediately marched up the mountain and sat in for a session on the brain.
At first I was a bit bummed that we weren’t hiking but after a while I understood why we weren’t. We took a 2 minute jog and were out of breath! The panel talked about nature and it’s affect on the brain and how important it is to get outside, for everyone, regardless of your income or location. Things we all know but sometimes can forget.
There is research and studies that have been done about the importance of nature on brain development and its ability to heal. One of the speakers mentioned that if you spend at least 5 hours a month in nature, you will rid yourself of the part of the brain that generates negative thoughts. Her organization conducted a study where they sent people into the city and others into the forest. Those who came out of the forest were less anxious and their depression levels lowered. The session ended by emphasizing the importance of nature to heal the brain. One speaker mentioned, ‘we are taught as a culture that Netflix and ice cream is the way we heal, when in fact, it’s getting outside that can really help heal us. Our bodies need sunlight, and our minds need nature.’
Another study that was brought up was on the epidemic of myopia, or nearsightedness among students in East Asia. For years we assumed the reason why many students were short sighted (or myopic) and often needed glasses was because of the amount of reading, studying and starting at screens, stating that young people spent too much time glued on their screens. However, it’s been proven that it doesn’t matter how much studying students do, if students get outside enough, they did not become myopic, or short sided because their retina got the appropriate amount of Vitamins needed. (Source: Ian Morgan, researcher at Australian National University, as seen on CNN)
When you get outside more and have exposure to the sun and nature, you will be a healthier human being. Staying indoors and staying on your phone is highly addictive. Social media and scrolling is addictive. But if you balance it with nature, you will be okay- for the most part. Others mentioned how manufacturers and engineers have made technology addictive by default and how people are now speaking up about it.
It is important to get off our devices. There were lots of other sessions that talked about mental health, access to care and health across income levels. This trip was exciting, amazing, informative, educational and amazing. If there was one session that really stuck with me, it was this one. So I wanted to share, even if you don’t read this, look at the amazing pictures! So pretty! Aspen is one of the most beautiful places in the world.
Even if you don’t make it here Aspen, it’s important to get out and heal, wherever you are..
Get outside, go play, and find your way.
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