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Sonya Mohamed and Sebastian Slovin
Nature Unplugged co-founders Sonya Mohamed and Sebastian Slovin offer participants an opportunity to unplug their phones and reconnect with nature. Photo courtesy of Nature Unplugged
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Encinitas duo help others find wellness in digital age

ENCINITAS — With many adults still working from home, children engaged in distance learning and more tech power in their pockets than ever before, a local couple hopes to help residents manage their tech time in their day-to-day lives.

Nearly a decade ago, Sonya Mohamed and Sebastian Slovin started Nature Unplugged, an Encinitas-based wellness company geared toward pulling participants away from their screens and reacquainting them with nature.

The duo developed a program to “reset your relationship” with technology, which can be easier said than done in a world where individuals use their phones for practically everything.

According to various studies, the average person spends between three and five hours on their phone every day, checking their phone about 60 times a day. Kids spend closer to seven hours a day.

Joshua Tree Nature Unplugged
Small group adventures include hikes around Joshua Tree and water-based activities at local beaches. Photo courtesy of Nature Unplugged

“We are over-connected to our devices and disconnected from nature, our aim is not to bail on that and live off the grid in the woods, but to be intentional in our use for these devices and not let them use us,” Slovin said. “We are not anti-technology; we are about setting boundaries with tech and screens and we believe this is an important life skill to teach.”

Before the pandemic, Nature Unplugged did group workshops and outdoor retreats for clients looking to better manage their time spent with their devices. But lately, they have been working with small groups and individuals, Mohamed said.

Like other addictions, pulling away from screens and social media isn’t an easy task, but individuals looking to set healthier boundaries with technology may be able to do so overnight.

Nature Unplugged encourages people to keep cell phones out of the bedroom, or far from the bedside table, to discourage checking the phone before bed and during restless hours of the night.

“There are always baby steps,” Mohamed said. Another place to start is to create a “home for your phone” — a space where you leave your phone when you’re not using it so it’s not readily available all the time.

The Nature Unplugged program has five steps: reframe how we see technology and media; reset and create a new relationship with nature and the world outside of our devices; reconnect with people and shy away from a sedentary lifestyle and isolation; rewire your brain to reflect on personal values and live a life that meets those values; recharge by being intentional with your time and incorporating things you enjoy into your daily life.

“Our reality is evolving, and right now we have to be on our screens more than we want to be, but we can balance that out with more green time and more connection to other people when safe and appropriate,” Slovin said. “The isolation the pandemic has caused and the need to be on our screens has been really challenging for our mental health individually and collectively as a community.”