Tech

Connecting with nature is good, but can apps help us do it better?

Time spent in nature has huge benefits for our mental and physical health, and few of us get enough of it. A range of apps aim to help us do it better – but do they work?



Technology



25 August 2021

Fabrizio Lenci

I AM not an appy person. Technology generally makes me glum. I was the last person I know to get a smartphone. I shop in real shops, and like to read on thinly sliced tree. I was on social media for all of six months before I found the angst, bile and FOMO outweighed the LOLZ.

Call me a stick-in-the-mud. In fact do, because instead of head stuck in screen, I would far rather be out getting my legs dirty somewhere glorious and green. And pardon me if you disagree, but I’m right and you’re wrong. We can leave the debate about whether screen time is of itself good, bad or indifferent for our psyches to another time. We do know that time spent outdoors in natural spaces is phenomenally beneficial, not just for our physical health, but for our mental well-being, too – and that our modern, indoor, sedentary, tech-led lives are increasingly lacking it.

Tech itself seems to be trying to ride to the rescue. Countless smartphone apps now aim to increase our appreciation of the great outdoors, from route planners and fitness apps to plant identifiers and birdsong recorders, via any manner of mindfulness widgets.

To my mind, that’s like fighting fire with fire. But hey, we like evidence around here. So I fired up my phone, loaded it with apps and headed for the great green yonder to find out whether tech could increase my connection with nature – and through that, perhaps understand a little more about why it’s so darn good for us.

1 May 5.20am @51.270:0.532

A waning supermoon is visible as I peer …

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