Why life indoors defies our human nature

Life inside is comfortable…. but maybe a little too much.

Mankind evolved from a life outdoors, originating from hominoids (part of the primate family) over 20 million years ago. From bipedalism (walking on two feet to conserve energy) to encephalization (developing larger brains) and ulnar opposition (the contact between thumb and tip of the finger) we transformed into an advanced species - more mobile, intelligent and tactile than any prior. [1]  

These advancements alongside our discovery and ability to harness fire extended us beyond our animal counterparts and primed us to create our own world of shelter. And over the past 25,000 years, we’ve resurfaced our planet to a world of our own wonders. [2]  

Until more recently, we’ve had an ok relationship with shelter - utilizing it as our safe place, but still needing to go outside to experience most of life. But on the dawn of a digital age – we are undergoing a shift. Americans now experience more of life inside, through the convenience of smartphones, computers, and televisions.

Studies show that Americans average over 90% of life inside [3] - spending more time in front of our their screens in a day than we do in a week outside (10 hours) [4]. A massive influx of content creation and sharing has shifted our lives indoors, by simulating life experiences through devices. This has transformed us into the world’s first indoor species. 

But this comes at a cost ... our health. Our civilized world makes it easy to forget - like every other living being on the planet, we evolved under the care of Mother Nature. So returning to it is good for us in ways we can't fully explain. According to Dr. Miles Richardson (Head of Psychology at the University of Derby) and his numerous nature studies, he has found research evidence that exposure to nature correlates with life satisfaction, vitality, meaningfulness, happiness, mindfulness, and lower cognitive anxiety. But more than its also been shown to - reduce hypertension (abnormally high blood pressure), respiratory tract and cardiovascular illnesses; improve vitality and mood; benefit issues of mental well-being such as anxiety; and restore attention capacity and mental fatigue.[5] 

But connecting with nature is not only good for us, it is also good for nature. The more people intrinsically care for it and their local environment, the more they will want to protect it from destruction - which is imminent with the number of environmental issues we currently face ( climate change, deforestation, biodiversity loss, overpopulation...etc.) We all play a part and can help impact change.

How is your relationship with nature?




1. “Human Evolution.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 30 Oct. 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_evolution.  

2. Origins: The Journey of Humankind. National Geographic, 16 Mar. 2017.

3. Klepeis, Neil E., et al. The National Human Activity Pattern Survey. 1998, The National Human Activity Pattern Survey, indoor.lbl.gov/sites/all/files/lbnl-47713.pdf.

4. Howard, Jacqueline. “Americans at More than 10 Hours a Day on Screens.” CNN, Cable News Network, 29 July 2016, www.cnn.com/2016/06/30/health/americans-screen-time-nielsen/index.html.

5. Coles, Jeremy. “Earth - How Nature Is Good for Our Health and Happiness.” BBC, BBC, 20 Apr. 2016, www.bbc.com/earth/story/20160420-how-nature-is-good-for-our-health-and-happiness. 

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