Introducing the Nature Response: Unplug. Reconnect. Reset

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I just finished writing my free email course called Phone-Jacked: 7 Days to Retake Control of Your Phone.

It turned out to be a valuable forcing-mechanism: It forced me to clarify my thinking and approach to helping people through The Unplugged Club. That approach is The Nature Response.

Below is Lesson 3 from Phone-Jacked, starting with a few definitions so you better understand the lesson.

Directed attention fatigue: The brain has limited capacity to focus on a specific task. It becomes fatigued concentrating on one task because it is simultaneously inhibiting other distractions.

Attention Restoration Theory: Attention Restoration Theory (ART) (Kaplan, 1989, 1995) says that mental fatigue and concentration can be improved by time spent in or looking at Nature with specific criteria.

Hard fascination: Your attention is held by a highly stimulating activity that doesn’t offer the opportunity for reflection and introspection because you are completely absorbed.

Soft fascination: Your attention is held by a less active or stimulating activity that offers the opportunity for reflection and introspection.

Nature120 Baseline: Based on a study at the University of Oxford ( 2019), two hours or 120 minutes is the suggested amount of time people should spend in nature weekly to significantly boost health, well-being and life satisfaction.

So if both my phone and my attention have been hacked and it’s not my fault, how do I recover from these hacks?

The answer is simple but not always easy.

You have to fiercely protect and replenish your depleted attention.

How? In psychological terms: soft fascination.

In common language: letting your mind wander in Nature.

Intentional wandering is healthy

Numerous studies have focused on the components of Attention Restoration Theory since it was introduced. Soft fascination in a natural environment is considered the most important element to reducing mental fatigue and restoring attention.

I hate to break it to you, but watching YouTube or Netflix videos doesn’t do the job after a stressful day on screens. In fact, that continues siphoning away your attention.

You may relax but your attention is still being drained by the hard fascination of one focus, especially a screen. The same for listening to podcasts or reading, unfortunately.

What’s the answer?

The Nature Response is intuitive

Here’s my evidence-based solution: The Nature Response.

Since environmental psychologists Stephen and Rachel Kaplan published the Attention Restoration Theory in 1985 and Richard Louv named nature deficit disorder in his ground-breaking 2008 book, hundreds of studies worldwide have documented the profound restorative effect of time in Nature on all levels: physical, mental, emotional, psychological, sleep, stress, anxiety, cancer recovery, dementia and on and on.

It’s no exaggeration to say Nature can help treat and alleviate many modern maladies besides restoring our attention.

The Oxford study listed above was the first to quantify the amount of time – 2 hours per week – to get a significant overall boost from Nature.

Unplug. Reconnect. Reset.

When we put them together we get The Nature Response: Unplug. Reconnect. Reset.

Here’s the quick breakdown of how it works:

Unplug: Don’t default. Decide.

Simply put, we need a plan to manage our Personal Tech Stack, the Supportive AND Addictive Tech that are part of our lives ON OUR TERMS. You decide what supports your personal goals, values and interests. You decide how, when and where you use specific tech tools. You decide to designate devices and set limits.

If you understand starting out that you’ll need to test and refine your plan, you won’t be surprised when some things don’t work as expected and you backslide.

Give yourself the permission, grace and space to make mistakes and changes.

Reconnect: Learn to say “Hello” again.

It may feel weird and awkward at first to rekindle an active relationship with Nature, the most powerful, global force on Earth.

Relax. This is not about forcing you to take up outdoor sports you’re not interested in or garden if you hate getting dirty.

We’re talking about spending 17 intentional minutes in Nature a day with soft fascination, 7 days a week, (17/7) or a minimum of 120 minutes (2 hours) a week to significantly boost your health, well-being and life satisfaction.

You can sit on your porch, deck or a park bench. You can gaze at your neighbor’s garden or a tree. This is not about “doing” things outside. It’s about “being” outdoors with gentle intention.

This is how you start to fill the void with something greater and more meaningful than the superficial social media or email time you’re cutting back to get your 17/7 time. “But I’ll get bored,” you say. We’ll talk about that.

And yes, for the mathematically inclined, 17 x 7 = 119. There’s a fudge factor involved. 😉

The studies recommend between 20-30 minutes outside daily, but I opted for 17 because it sticks in your brain.

Reset: Nature is always ready to reset your NaturalOS.

Our NaturalOS is coded into our DNA.

We’re wired to Nature, whether we’re consciously aware of it or not.

It’s no surprise to anyone that our original programming has been overridden by modern indoor lifestyles and device addiction. That’s why the 2-hour minimum from the Oxford study is so ground-breaking: It sets the baseline to reset your NaturalOS.

When we start to rely on Nature again, to lean into the natural support systems that surround us, we reset our NaturalOS to a healthier, calmer, slower state.

This first reset opens the door to resetting other out-of-balance cycles in our lives.

Here’s the Nature Response formula:

  • Unplug: Reduce screen and device time by at least 17 minutes a day.
  • Reconnect: Spend 17 minutes of intentional time in Nature every day to start.
  • Reset: Re-establish your Nature120 Baseline with Nature as your partner.

I hope you enjoyed this sneak peek! I’ll let you know when it’s ready.

Go wander outside!



P.S. New to The Unplugged Club? Join us.

3 Resources for You

Playing to the Beat of the Birds | Sierra Club These composers and musicians transcribe the natural melodies of birds to be played on human instruments.

Birdhoven: Music Composed by Birds and Arranged by a Human Here’s a playlist!

The Earth Speaks in Myth: In Conversation with Dr. Martin Shaw Shaw is a mythologist, teacher of the mythic imagination and award-winning author of numerous books.

2 Questions for You

Reflections, questions and ideas to break the digital spell.

1st Q: Where in your day can you get outside for 17 minutes?

2nd Q: How does rekindling a relationship with Nature feel to you?

Hit reply and let me know what you discovered this week. I’ll use some of your feedback in next week’s newsletter (first name only.)

1 Action for You

One small step to start the change.

Schedule a 17-minute slot with Nature for one day on your calendar this week. You can do it – only one day.

Hit reply, let me know how it goes and I’ll include feedback in next week’s newsletter.

Nature View

“Nature is not a place to visit. It is home.” – Gary Snyder

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