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How to Make Yourself Unplug and Head Outside (Sonya Mohamed and Sebastian Slovin)

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If you’re anything like me, you have trouble unplugging inside or outside. Even when I head outside I am typically toting my phone, snapping photos and getting sucked into various social media platforms. One time I was so busy texting that I almost walked into a moose.

My struggle is pretty normal, according to today’s guests. Unplugging is really, really hard. But Sebastian Slovin and Sonya Mohamed are unplugging experts, and on this episode they share not just the intel on why unplugging is so hard, but their best tips and tricks for making it happen inside and outside.

Some of the good stuff:

[2:24] Sebastian and Sonya’s favorite outdoor space

[3:29] How they became people who like to go outside

[6:31] Why they focus on unplugging

[8:53] Why screens have so much power over us

[13:18] Is all screen time terrible?

[16:58] What screen time balance looks like

[19:08] What’s the secret to learning to unplug?

[22:31] About their book

[24:36] How to unplug at home

[28:40] About our Unplugging Challenge

[32:46] Is unplugging outside better than unplugging inside?

[35:27] How to be plugged in outside and still not really plugged in.

[38:28] Sonya and Sebastian’s favorite and most essential outdoor gear

[42:34] Their favorite outdoor moment (seriously — it’s adorable)

Connect with this episode:

Register for our newsletter to win a decal: https://humansoutside.com/newsletter

Follow us on Instagram and share your outdoor life with the hashtag #humansoutside365.

Here’s an edited transcript of our conversation on The Humans Outside Podcast.

Listen to the episode on iTunes, Google Podcasts, or wherever you find your favorite podcasts.

AB 0:06

Most of us know this without anyone saying it. Even if we’d rather not admit it, we spend way too much time in front of screens. And no matter how much or little time you spend on the computer or your phone or watching TV or, if you’re like me, sometimes all three at the same time, you might still feel like it’s too much. After all, the whole point of Humans Outside is helping us build an outdoor habit and getting us outside for a measly 20 minutes a day. That 20 minutes seems like it should be easy to do. But sometimes it’s hard because you just can’t peel yourself away from your devices and life. In short, you want to figure out a way to unplug, but you feel like you can’t. Today’s guests, Sebastian Slovin and Sonya Mohamed probably hear this complaint a lot. And it’s why they started Nature Unplugged, a company based in warm and beautiful San Diego designed to help people like you and me figure out a way to set down our devices and build a habit and lifestyle around unplugging. And while they often work specifically with youth, their advice and insight is great for people of all ages. Today, they’re going to take us to unplugging school. Sebastian and Sonya, welcome to the Humans Outside Podcast.

SM 2:05

Thanks. We’re happy to be here.

SS 2:06

Yeah. Thanks for having us. We’re psyched.

AB 2:08

Okay. So we like to start our podcasts imagining ourselves in our guests’ favorite outdoor space. So we’re sitting in front of screens right now to have this conversation, but let’s just pretend that we’re not doing that. If we were going to join you somewhere outside, where would we be with you today?

SS 2:24

This is a tricky question, but I’m gonna go with maybe something a little bit different than you’ve experienced before, but we’re gonna be surfing actually. We’re gonna be at one of my favorite surf spots. We live in North County San Diego and Encinitas has a spot called Swamis, which is a beautiful point of land, and we’re going to be out in the water on our boards. In between when the waves are coming and we’re just hanging out having a conversation.

SM 2:50

Yeah, full disclosure. I’m not a surfer. So I mostly just be floating on the board.

AB 2:55

And though I grew up in Santa Cruz, California, shamefully, I’m not a surfer, either. I will float with you.

SS 3:05

I’ll be distracted with like keeping an eye out for waves. But I’m pretty engaged in the conversation.

AB 3:10

Awesome. And better yet, it is pretty much impossible to have a screen with you when you are surfing or hanging out in the water. Good tip. Okay, so tell us, Sonya, if you don’t mind, tell us first, how did you become a person who likes to go outside?

SM 3:29

Sure. So I spent a lot of time outside when I was young, as I think most of us did. And it wasn’t really until I got older and became an indoor creature, if you will, like in a nine to five job that I realized that I’d totally gotten out of balance and the importance and beauty of being outside just for my physical and emotional well being. And so I think it was maybe like, 10 years ago, I was just sort of sitting in an office, you know, realized I hadn’t gone outside for maybe 10 hours straight and was like — Whoa, I need to really work on this. I started to find ways to get outside during my work day and then eventually found my way to a job that lets me be outside much more.

AB 4:11

Awesome. What about you, Sebastian?

SS 4:14

Yeah, no, it’s a great question. I think for me, it goes back to the beach. I grew up in a coastal town of San Diego called La Jolla and my dad was this really great ocean swimmer. And you know, a lot of my early memories are mixing it up on the beach in the water with my dad, and that was my initiation to the natural world. And my dad actually passed away, kind of suddenly when I was six years old, and he actually took his own life and that after he died, you know, that kind of flipped my whole world upside down and really changed my family dynamics and everything. But if I could just get back to the ocean I felt like that was my kind of home base. And, you know, I started to see sort of my dad in every aspect of that environment, and so that was kind of like my time to be back with my dad. And that’s stuck with me, and has inspired me ever since to really, you know, spend a lot of time in nature. And I know it’s a healing place for me. And then I also really wanted to help other folks get outside, not just to the ocean, but you know, wherever that may be for them.

AB 5:27

Yeah, I also grew up on the beach. I lived just a couple blocks away from the ocean in Santa Cruz, which is, of course, one of the reasons it’s a shame that I never surfed. But I just grew up walking on the beach and having, you know, playing pretend and just stuff kids do you know, and it was just a few blocks away. And my mom was like — okay, you know, goodbye. So, I’m down there pretending rock piles are pirate ships and living my best life, you know, in a fog bank, because that’s what Santa Cruz is. There’s that special connection and the way that the ocean is just so steady and also, like somehow also unpredictable. It’s soothing. It soothes your soul. Just to know that that’s consistent. You know? Yeah. Oh, I wish I was back there right now. Okay. But we are surfing right now.

What was the genesis for starting a company around? unplugging?

SS 6:31

Yes. So, you know, kind of continuing on from my backstory, really having this deep connection from a young age and wanting to do some sort of work that was getting people outside. So I started the early vision of Nature Unplugged, which is getting people out on, you know, unique, cool adventures, outdoor adventures around San Diego and Southern California, and started doing that, leading individuals and groups. And what I noticed, especially when working with kids, or young people was how much of a challenge or how much of a pull screens and technology were to getting outside and enjoying the outdoors. So I really started to look at, you know, not just — yeah, it’s awesome to get outside, but what’s going on, on the technology side. And that’s when Sonya and I combined forces. Her background is more in education. And we dug into the research, and really saw that it’s very important from our perspective to kind of tackle both ends of getting people outside. And also, you know how to create healthy boundaries with technology, not anti-tech, but just how to be more intentional with our technology.

SM 7:40

I’ll add that one of the things that became really eye opening to us because I think we talked about this often from the frame of like — well, kids are so overexposed to screens today — it’s just noticing that we felt really overexposed to screens. And it was really a challenge for us to find balance. And so a lot of it stemmed also from our personal journeys on how to have a healthy relationship with technology and then wanting to share what we have learned with others.

SS 8:05

And an important note, I just want to add in that Sonya and I are married. Sowe had a relationship and in a business business partnership and life partnership. And so we saw the impact of tech on our personal relationship as well.

AB 8:19

Yeah, okay. So I was telling my husband about this podcast episode. And I told him, I joked that I felt like I was about to go to confessional and confess all of my, you know, screen-laden, bad habits. Because I really do feel that way. Like, I feel like I’m a slave to this thing. So I want to know, why is unplugging so darn hard? And why do I feel this like gravitational pull from my screens? What is up?

SM 8:53

Don’t feel bad about it. I think we all are, you know, experiencing the same thing you’re experiencing. So one of the pieces is don’t feel shame and guilt, because it is really hard. And the reason why it’s really hard, ,first off is because technology just isn’t neutral anymore today. And there are so many people behind the scenes like developers, designers, etc, who are studying neuroscience and psychology and they’re learning basically how to undermine our willpower and keep us coming back to our devices frequently, and staying longer. And so some easy to understand examples of this are like anything really, that’s gamifying our experience, like snap streaks. We’re not really into Snapchat, but this is something that we’re aware of where it becomes like almost a game for people to have the longest snap streak they can have, which is just you know, sending a chat back and forth to each other every day for you know, however long the streak is. And so just keep them coming back every day at least once to send a message to their friends. And then things like autoplay when we’re watching Netflix or YouTube. And you know, before the episode would just end and you had to make a really conscious decision to play the next episode, right. And now you get that little countdown timer, it’s like five seconds, and the next episode just begins. And so you have to summon all of this willpower to stop. You know, even if that’s what you sort of wanted to do, it doesn’t really give you time to make conscious decisions around the technology we’re using. And sort of the larger term for what that sits under is this idea of the “attention economy,” that instead of thinking about, just like dollars as a currency in our lives, attention is sort of a new currency. And the longer we spend on any site or platform, the more opportunity advertisers have to advertise to us or sell us something really valuable to these platforms, to keep us engaged as long as possible. And so that’s sort of working in the background too, and has really changed the way we relate to our devices and our screens.

AB 11:02

I’m sort of chuckling because I’m remembering back when, you know, before video streaming was the thing, maybe I’m showing my age here a little bit, but that my friend had a five disc DVD player, and I was like — That’s insane. Can’t you just get up and change the DVD? And now I’m like — if the video is not gonna start on its own on the Netflix, then probably not gonna watch it.

SM 11:36

Even just going into a video store and like picking out a movie, and then you have that movie. You can’t like, then just go back to the store.

AB 11:48

Right. So, um, the intentionality of the choice to get up, go outside, or to just to simply unplug – I mean, you don’t even have to go outside to unplug – is completely counter to that attention economy factor we’re talking about, where I don’t have to do anything. It’s just passive, that things just start for me. And now I don’t have to summon anything whatsoever to continue to participate.

SM 12:23

Yeah, that’s absolutely it. Yeah.

SS 12:26

And I’ll just add, you know, you may have seen this, or maybe some of your listeners. If you want to do a deeper dive into this, there’s a documentary on Netflix called the Social Dilemma. Which,

AB 12:37

Ironically.

SS 12:41

Yeah, check out this on Netflix. But it does a really good job. It goes pretty deep. So it gets kind of extreme, but it does a really good job of detailing, you know, really how many resources and how much money goes into pulling, you know, plotting how to keep us on our devices for as long as possible.

AB 13:00

Yeah, yeah. You said earlier, you’re not totally anti-screens. So I know that maybe this is a bit of a dramatic question, but is all screentime the great Satan? And should we be drastic and ruthless in our elimination of it?

SS 13:18

That’s a really good question. And, you know, our perspective on this is that no, it’s not, it’s not all bad, you know. And, again, you know, we’re not anti-tech. We don’t live on a mountaintop in the middle of nowhere completely unplugged. We love aspects of technology and aspects of Netflix and, and I think even from like an adventure perspective, things like GPS, and All Trails are different apps that can enhance nature time, are really wonderful. And, you know, just goes back to really being intentional, and, you know, finding what works for you. I think the other thing is that if you happen to have, you know, a specific day or time that you are on a ton, you have a lot of screen time, that needs to be counterbalanced with a similar amount of nature time, in our opinion.

SM 14:12

Yeah, I feel like one one thing that’s also helpful, or another way to think about it, is in terms of like food and nutrition, where you wouldn’t just sit around eating candy bars all day or having just constant sugar, and you’d want to balance that with something more nutritious. And the idea that you know, screen time as it is often a treat. And so just being aware of like how you’re spending your screen time and the value it’s bringing and then like Sebastian said, countering it with something that’s more meaningful for you or producing something more valuable for you. So it’s like trying to avoid this cyber stalking, if you will.

AB 14:47

Yeah, I like that analogy. I’m envisioning my kid. I have an 11 year old son and we really, really babysit how much screentime they’re allowed to have. We use it as a reward tool. If you do all of your schoolwork and have, you know, great feedback from your teachers today, your reward is 20 minutes, and I will let you look over your brother’s shoulder for his 20 minutes. You know, so that’s, I mean, that’s a cap of 40 minutes of screen time a day plus whatever they’re doing at school, right. But we’re not sitting around watching TV or whatever. But the way that these kids are motivated by that 40 minutes. It’s almost like watching somebody try to figure out a way to get the thing that they’re addicted to, or how I feel about coffee. And when I withhold that from him, he will do pretty much anything to get it back. And, you know, so this isn’t somebody who’s like working on some sort of mega Minecraft world for hours and hours and hours on end and super invested in that. I mean, we’re talking about however many games you can play in 20 minutes, that’s what you get. It’s just like, that’s fascinating to me that it has that kind of a hold over his brain. And I see it in myself too, right? You know, I’m here mindlessly scrolling, whatever it is, I’m scrolling.

SM 16:14

Yeah, I mean, it goes back to this idea of the attention economy, and basically, we’re getting hits of dopamine by playing these games, etc. And so it’s creating this reward system that, you know, our whole day is geared towards — How can we get that dopamine hit again?

AB 16:31

That’s interesting. So I want to get really, really practical here in a few minutes and talk about how I can – I’m gonna be really selfish today, guys, like,help me unplug. So first, talk to us about what do you consider an acceptable balance? You know, I’m, like I said, I’m giving my kids 20 minutes at a time. Is that a balance? What does balance look like?

SM 16:58

Sure. It’s, it’s a challenging question to answer because it’s not really a one size fits. All right, there’s so many variables that come into play. Age is one of them for sure. Basically, your development, have you developed impulse control, etc. But also, right, there’s this idea of, you know, some people, especially right now have to be totally working remotely and sort of on their computers all day for a nine to five, either for work or for school. And so, really, the way we look at it, and we try not to be too prescriptive is just the more screentime you have in your life and your day because of, you know, whatever reason, the more green time, you really should try to insert in your day to balance it out.

AB 18:13

I joked with you when we were chatting over email that my only unplugging tips are really like how we’re surfing, quote, unquote, together right now to be somewhere that you cannot have your screen. So with no cell signal, or it’s too cold, or I’m afraid of dropping it because I’m in a ski lift. I mean, all of those things sound great, right? Like, let’s do this all the time. But alas, we cannot do that. I cannot just spend my life doing those things. And then I create excuses for myself, like — Oh, I’m going to go outside and I’m not going to use my phone. But I am going to take all these pictures. Oh, Oh, snap, my phone is my camera. You know, now I’m like suddenly in some sort of vortex where I’m posting them on Instagram. And now I’m not just taking pictures, and so on and so forth. So what is the secret to learning some unplugging self control? Because that’s really what we’re talking about here -self control.

SS 19:08

No, that’s a super good question. And, again, I don’t think there’s really a particular secret or like hack to like — here’s the one thing you got to do to change your world with, you know, technology. But it really comes down to like intentionality and persistence, and holding those boundaries. You know, and I want to get into more specifics of what we mean by that in a little, but I also want to share that we’ve been doing this since 2012. When we do coaching work with one on one clients, we do workshops, and we’ve worked with a lot of people, a lot of young people and adults as well. Over the course of that time, we have developed a bit of a method and that’s kind of a five part method that we work with people on. I won’t go into too much detail on this, but we really start with, you know, reframing how we think about technology and digital media. And that comes with, like, some basic education of what if that technology isn’t neutral and understanding the attention economy, because without knowing what’s going on in the back end, it’s really kind of hard to deal with it and to counterbalance it. And then I think, I want to get into this further. But we, you know, the real first step is what we call reset. And that’s, you know, how to create a new relationship with technology and with nature. And we have a few steps of that, that I’ll share in a few minutes. We also, you know, step three would be all around reconnecting. So that’s like how to connect with our bodies, their movement, and how to connect with others through relationship building. And then we do you know, deeper work through our fourth step, which is all that rewiring, that’s kind of like, doing the inner work of getting in touch with our values, and aligning with our values. And then really harnessing the power of playing creativity and kind of like, because it’s not just about creating the boundaries, but it’s about, in our opinion, how to, you know, engage in life in a new way, in a different way. Because if you’re creating these boundaries around tech, and then don’t have a plan for what to do, chances are, you’re gonna slide back into, you know, whatever patterns you were in before. So it’s like, you know, what do you really love. And that, you know, that could be outdoor time, or it could be something different, but having something to engage in is key.

SM 21:23

Yeah, but the replacement activity, right, that’s, it’s important to know what you’re going to do, potentially, if you have this void, after you stop doing XYZ with your screen or device. So sometimes it does really take a bit of time to like, explore things, or reconnect to the things that really bring you joy, so that you can look forward to the non screen time moments in your day.

AB 21:48

Right. So I think it’s interesting, because what you’re talking about is, like in that replacement is just a fundamental of good habit building, right. And the first episode of this season three of Humans Outside Podcast, we heard from a habit expert who talked a little bit about this, and about the idea that if you’re going to remove something, you need to replace it with something. And that goes for unplugging that goes for, you know, changing your habits. So talk us through those things. And I want to note, I think you guys are working on a workbook on this that people can access at some point.

SS 22:31

Yes, actually, we have a book book, it’s a book that overviews, this kind of our methodology and the research behind it in detail, which we’re very excited about, which is called Experience Nature Unplugged and it’s a guide to wellness in the digital age, and that comes out March 1, 2021. So we will definitely keep you posted. And there’s going to be a complimentary workbook that goes along with that.

AB 22:54

All right. Well, that is just about the time that people will be hearing this. So that’s perfect timing. There we go. So we will include a link to that book book and complimentary workbook in the show notes, as well. But walk us through what you’re going to detail there, so people get a little taste of it and talk us through these steps that you just described a few minutes ago.

SS 23:20

Totally. Yeah, yeah.

SM 23:23

So basically, the method more or less that Sebastian outlined earlier, is the skeleton for the book. And so it gives a good blend of sort of research context of what’s happening with screen time. And then it goes into what the benefits of nature are, like, why we should care about getting outside and all the great things it does for us. But what we really tried to do with the book is create sort of a practical system, some tangible steps and tips. So as much as we say, like, you know, there’s no silver bullet, or there’s no hack, we do like to provide, you know, a bunch of things that people can try that help them reset or help them, you know, get moving in the right direction. And then it’s a sort of a trial and error process. And so in particular, and maybe it would be useful to share some of the like, steps to reset technology and some of our favorite ones there.

AB 24:17

Yeah, that’d be great. And of course, we don’t want you to give away the farm in a short little podcast, but I mean, I think we’re all eager to hear some tips. I know I am again, sorry, guys – selfish questions today. Help me. Yeah.

SS 24:36

Great question. So I want to share four of our just favorite, you know, pretty practical and simple tips to get this going with reset. This is all about resetting your tech habits. So step one is finding a home for your phone. And I’ll explain what all these things are, but that one is sort of self explanatory, but just you know, take what works for you. Leave What doesn’t work. But basically, this is a place like a charging station, a basket, when you come in your living room, someplace where your phone basically lives while you’re at home. And the idea here, this may sound a little extreme is to kind of treat your smartphone as if it was a landline or use it like in very intentionally in one area. So it’s not just with you 24 seven, so not with you in the bathroom, with you in the bedroom or wherever, you know, wherever you may find yourself. But having a place where your phone lives, and then when you need to use it, let’s say you need to go call or text or, you know, check out social media, you intentionally go to that area and use it. So that’s one.

Second one is getting your tech out of the bedroom. And, again, I totally understand that not everyone can do this completely. But this has huge, huge, hugely benefited us in our relationship, where we kind of fell into this habit of, you know, our phones were our alarm clocks. And we didn’t intentionally make this, but you know, every night before bed, we just, you know, I would be on social media or reading news on our phones or whatever. And that was kind of how we ended our day, and then the alarm would go off in the morning, we’d have notifications, then all of a sudden, that was the unintentional beginning of our day, just spending time on devices. So basically for us, we created a charging station in our living room. And that’s where our phones now mainly live at night. That’s where they go. And then we have kind of a tech free space in the bedroom.

SM 26:34

And we got a really cool analog alarm clock. It’s like a sunrise one. So it brightens up the room like the sun, because we also have blackout curtains so we don’t get the actual sun waking us up. But that actually tends to be one of the biggest obstacles when people think about getting technology out of the bedroom is — well I use, you know, my smartphone as my alarm. And the simple solution, right, is to just go back to an analog alarm clock. And fortunately, alarm clocks are really cool now.

SS 27:03

Yeah, lots of options. Yeah. And then, okay, so that’s two. So finding a home for your phone, getting tech out of the bedroom. And then we have, this is one of my favorites, creating a digital curfew. So this is, you know, I think a time where your device or devices, they go to bed. And ideally, this is an hour, at least an hour, maybe two hours before you go to bed. So say you go to bed at 10, maybe digital curfew is 8pm or 8:30, something like that. And then also, I think that’s kind of a common practice. But we really love having a morning sort of wake up time where we have like, bookended our day with some unplugged time. So there’s an evening routine that’s more analog and unplugged. And then a morning routine. Maybe that’s making coffee or doing some stretches or reading a book or whatever, going for a walk. That is unplugged time at the beginning of the day as well. And then I think this is just a huge one to create some, like a habit of unplugging daily, we really recommend 60 minutes of unplugged time every day. And that can be time in nature that can be time you know, learning to play the guitar doing having a time to practice your new sort of activity that you’re going to do.

AB 28:25

Is that consecutive or cumulative?

SM 28:28

Just cumulative. It can be you know, 10 minutes at different points in the day, but just finding 60 minutes total within the day to get outside. We know that you’ve got a good routine right of 20 minutes every day. That’s great.

AB 28:40

But I take my phone with me outside. So when I first started doing my 20 minutes a day, I like rules, I’m sure you could tell and because I just asked like — tell me the rules. And I decided that it would not be practical for me to go without my phone. I also decided that I wanted to log my daily time somehow and that I would never in a million years get around to journaling it, because once I walked through the door I’d move on. So instead I would take a picture every day and so that results in, like I confessed earlier my phone coming with me. In the wintertime I will say that I do not look at my phone outside, because I take my picture and my hands are cold and I put that sucker away. Mittens prohibit screen use, people that say you can use your mittens and your phone at the same time but that’s all butterflies. Okay, so that’s never worked for me. So, in the summertime though, I inevitably spiral into some sort of a screen time and some of our listeners may remember me talking in the past about looking at my phone while walking and almost walking into a moose. I mean, those are Alaska problems, but real life guys. So I am going to challenge our listeners to join me actually on a, because I’m a baby steps kind of person, to just a seven day challenge in conjunction with this podcast. I’ve got a printable on my website, humansoutside.com, for folks who sign up for the newsletter, you’ll be emailed a link to that and we’ll include the link in the show notes for this. But if you already sign up for the newsletter, take a look at your most recent one, there will be a link in it to the printable, but join me in a little challenge. Seven days going outside for your 20 minutes or whatever it is you’re doing, leave that phone and your screens behind. And if you’d like to take a photo during the event, take a photo at the end instead, when you’re done. So those are going to be seven days of very boring photos of me just being like — I’m done now. But that’s, you know, that’s what it is. And we’re gonna see if I can do it. Well, I know I can do it. Right? Anyone can do that. But what will be even more interesting is what I notice or the impacts of that. And to see how my experience for those 20 minutes changes as a result of not being distracted at all, by my technology, because it is not with me at all.

SS 31:39

Yeah, I love that. I love all the things, the challenge. And I’m really interested to hear how it goes for you. So definitely keep us posted. And I think it’s a huge thing. And it’s challenging, certainly, but I do think that when you can do it, you know when it makes sense, and when it’s safe to leave your phone behind, it definitely, at least for me personally, it changed. It completely changes my attention,my ability to stay present and all those things. And it’s a completely different experience. And it’s quite amazing.

AB 32:13

When you outlined your steps, we talked a lot about things that can be done both inside and outside. But a lot of what you described are really habits for your everyday life indoors, in a lot of ways. So I’m really wondering if there’s some secret magic to unplugging outside versus inside, that you get a benefit to doing that in nature in a way that you wouldn’t, to developing that habit just in your everyday indoor life, learning the guitar or whatever it is you do with that time.

SM 32:46

Yeah, it’s sort of a good, better, best model. Because unplugging just in general is great. And then if you can unplug and be outside, that’s even better. And mostly because, as Sebastian mentioned before, it totally engages our senses in a different way. And there’s so much research now on the benefits of spending time outside. And so basically, even if it’s an activity you can do inside, if you can do it outside, you get all these great benefits, like increased cognitive functioning, focusing creativity, it boosts your mood and your positive emotions, like that’s just five minutes outside does that – reduces our stress and our anger and often, you know, aggressive sort of behaviors. And that can happen after just 15 minutes outside. And then there’s all the great physical benefits of promoting healthy eye development, reducing risk of things like obesity, diabetes, hypertension, things that come from more sedentary lifestyles, which, you know, we tend to sit more when we’re engaged with our devices and indoors, and then just being outside also really promotes moving around. Like, I noticed that it’s harder to just sit still when I’m outside. And so then you get benefits like stability, posture, blood circulation, that sort of stuff, too. And one of the things that we have found so fascinating in doing some of the research for our book was that a lot of these studies are now really aimed to like doses of nature, like how much time do you need to spend outside to get some of these benefits? And it’s really cool to see, and it’s really practical to see because I think it feels sort of abstract or unattainable. But then when you start seeing that five minutes does this and 15 minutes does this. It’s like — Oh, I can do that. That’s not too bad. Which is really cool. And, again, sort of this natural counterbalance or antidote, it’s just being outside tends to promote being off screens, and in ways minimizes like the temptation for getting on a device or screen are sort of the unconscious habits that we have indoors and allows us the space to sort of find our replacement activities. And we said before, those are the key.

AB 35:02

Right and because what we also said before, it disrupts that just, you know, habitual restarting of the video, if you will, right, because you have a new perspective. And if you’re on your device, you might walk into a moose, who can say?

SM 35:24

That’s very true. I love that example.

AB 35:30

Well, and moose don’t like it when you run into them, by the way.

SM 35:33

They’re so big, it’s actually very impressive, you almost ran into a moose.

AB 35:37

So we talked about unplugging inside, we’ve talked about the value of unplugging outside, can you marry those two things? Give us some actionable tips for unplugging outside? And if other people are still thinking — but what about taking pictures? Do you have any advice for having the self control to both capture your adorable child or pet, but not then spiral into the zone?

SM 36:05

Yeah, it’s challenging. I mean, we feel the phone piece a lot for your camera as well. Because right now, I mean, gosh, phones have just such the best cameras on them. And I think there are some basic ways to do that like, putting on Do Not Disturb when you go for your walk so that you’re not, you know, pulled in or seeing a bunch of notifications. You can clear your icons off of your, what we call the desktop of your phone, so that they’re all sort of out of sight. So that again, when you pull it up to use your camera, you don’t get, you know, sidetracked into a vortex of notifications. I think one of the ways we talk about spending more time outside and unplugging is this idea of bringing the inside outside. So really identifying the things that you know we do inside that we could very easily do outside, you know, whether that’s reading or listening to a podcast even I mean, I guess that’s plugged in, but it’s like journaling, drawing, like just anything you can do inside and finding a way to do it outside.

AB 37:15

Those are such good tips. How has that never occurred to me to like, put my phone on Do Not Disturb or hide my icons. So simple. It’s like, my mind is blown. Thank you for that. I love it. I’m gonna try those things literally today and see how it goes. And then of course, when we do our little seven days, I will report back — did I die?

SS 37:44

And if you want to be a little bit more hardcore, airplane mode is also good.

AB 37:50

I don’t know if I can handle it. All right, but we’ll try it. We’ll try it all. And, man, such good advice. I really appreciate you taking the time to do this. We’ve gotten to be part of our show where we just do some leftovers, just stuff I like to know from everybody. So you know, I’m really curious to hear your favorites. Can you guys tell me your favorite outdoor gear and your most essential outdoor gear? Which by the way are sometimes the same things, but other times not so much?

SM 38:28

That’s a fun question. And I would say they’re definitely not the same thing for me and my favorite outdoor gear item is the Aero Press. Have you heard of that? It’s like a little tiny French press. Sometimes after we go camping and we haven’t fully put it away, we just use that to make our coffee because it’s so fun and novel and easy to clean which is a big deal when it comes to coffee and outdoor time. I would say my most essential outdoor gear item is actually a bandana and I don’t know why, but I haven’t quite gotten on the buff train. I like buffs, they’re very functional, but I just feel like the versatility of a bandana is so epic that I tend to just always have those and use it instead of a buff. It can cover your nose and mouth, it can be a paper towel, it can be toilet paper, and it sanitizes itself really well. In a bind I think you can use it to make some coffee if you forgot a filter.

AB 39:30

Probably not after you’ve also used it for the other things you just mentioned.

SM 39:33

You would have multiple bandanas, probably. Coffee first.

AB 39:39

Yeah. What about you, Sebastian?

SS 39:45

Oh, yeah, it’s a great question. I love the question. I’m gonna go with, since we’re out surfing right now, this is probably not an Alaska thing but more of a Southern California thing. I actually have like a surf hat. It’s like a sun hat that I can wear while I’m surfing that I love, that I wear all the time when I’m surfing in San Diego and I also just wear it when I’m hiking and stuff too. So it’s got like pretty good coverage. It’s got a little like buckle on the bottom and a little like back flap for my neck. I kind of bring it everywhere I go. My essential outdoor gear item is probably my Nalgene. I just love water. Hydration is huge. I’m looking at my Nalgene right now and I have a sticker from Joshua Tree National Park that says — don’t die today. Water is key you know, especially in Southern California and desert environments. And then there’s all sorts of cool things you can do with it. You know like, let’s say you don’t have a campfire, you can strap your headlamp to the Nalgene with water in it and it becomes this sort of like cool camp, you know, campfire light type thing. You could put hot water in it before you go to bed on a cold night and it’s your little like warm buddy in the sleeping bag. So super versatile. And I like water.

AB 41:09

Yeah, I love my water bottles. I use a Hydroflask but am a big fan of the Nalgene as well. I like to put my bragging stickers on it. My things that I’ve done that I’m proud of or enjoyed or just want to remember. And then I have a separate one for just her running because I’m a runner. So I hear that and we’ll be sending you – we send our our guests as a thank you a Humans Outside decal. So you’ll be getting those in the mail. But maybe consider slapping one of those bad boys on a water bottle. We have a rocket box in my car. That’s where I apparently have a lot of stickers, now that I’m talking about it. I don’t know.

SM 42:02

I haven’t met a sticker I didn’t like so I’m excited to get it.

AB 42:06

So at the end of our show, we love to hear our guests’ favorite outdoor moment just to walk us out and leave us with an awesome visualization. So I don’t know if you each have one and you want to give us two. But describe to us your favorite outdoor moment, just like that happy place you close your eyes and picture the best thing ever. Where are you? And what are you doing?

SM 42:34

We’ll share sort of a joint one. And it may be a little cheesy, so forgive us. But um, there is a park near where we live called Santa Dieguito County Park. And it’s a really incredible park because it has this lower park space that’s got beautiful green grass and these huge lovely trees, lots that are great to climb on. And all of these little sort of nooks that you can go get some privacy and space in. And, and the grass and sort of really leafy trees is a treat in San Diego, because we’re sort of in a desert area. But the upper park has like some great trail systems and fun play stuff, etc. But one of these little inlets on the lower part of the park has like a whole bunch of clovers. And I noticed them before and this is a park that Sebastian really loved growing up. And so he took me there. And you know, it was about the time we were starting to talk about getting married. And he was like — You know what, like, why don’t we sit in this clover field and look for a four leaf clover. And if we find one, and let’s just decide to get married. I was like — that’s sweet, great. Let’s go look for it. I didn’t really think much about it. We sat down and really within, I would say five minutes ended up finding multiple four leaf clovers. And the cool part about it was I guess Sebastian had known that this little patch existed in the grassy area. So it was a little bit of a plan but it was very sweet. And it is this really just beautiful nature, woodsy feeling space in the middle of San Diego. And we were just sitting there smiling, taking, you know, some time with each other about finding this four leaf clover and it was a special moment in a special park and every time we go we love it.

AB 44:10

Sebastian, did you know you were gonna find a four leaf clover that day?

SS 44:13

Yeah, I had kind of a four leaf clover scouting mission prior to this park mission. But yeah, it was weird. It was this, I don’t know if it’s still going on. But there’s this one area where there was, I don’t know, a bunch of four leaf clovers.

SM 44:29

It’s still there. Yeah, I feel that it’s a fun place to take kids because they never think they’re gonna find them and more often we do. That’s great.

AB 44:35

I love it. Great story, guys. Thank you for joining us on Humans Outside today. I appreciate it.

SM 44:41

Yeah, our pleasure. Thanks for having us.

SS 44:43

Yeah. Thank you so much, Amy. Thanks for having us on.

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