Is social media ruining nature?

I love nature and I really enjoy social media.  This summer, more than ever, I noticed a connection between the two that made me a little uncomfortable.  People are exploiting nature for the sake of a great selfie or lots of “likes”.  And it needs to stop.

Don’t get me wrong, I love sharing my pictures and adventures on social media as much as the next person.  But, I am not driven to take unnecessary risks just to get a great shot.  This summer, there were two types of social media posts that I noticed were extremely prevalent and extremely dangerous.

The first type of social media post was typically on nature-based Facebook pages where amateur photographers shared pictures of animals in their natural habitat.  What made me uncomfortable about some of these pictures is that many were taken a short distance away from the animal and it is likely that the photographer disturbed the natural habitat in some way in order to get the picture.  The more contact, good, bad, or neutral, which an animal has with humans increases the risk of conflict.  Many professional photographers have training, experience, and impeccably high standards when it comes to photographing wildlife and they leave virtually no trace behind.  It is unlikely that the majority of amateur photographers have that same standard of care when they are getting their shots.

The second type of social media post that I saw frequently over the summer was people who were continuing to engage in outdoor recreational activities without regard to the wildlife trying to co-exist in the same area.  I am lucky enough to live near the Rocky Mountains, and there has been a significant amount of bear activity along popular trails this year.  Despite multiple warnings, numerous closures, and attempts to educate the public about outdoor recreation etiquette, I continually saw posts with things like garbage and food left out at unattended campsites, dogs off leash in designated on-leash areas, off-road vehicles being used in sensitive areas, and people trying to get into a picture with wild animals.  I know that being in nature is exciting and of course it is natural to want to share that excitement with the people in your life.  It is not natural to risk the life of another species who really doesn’t have much say in the matter. 

Social media has the power to be such a powerful tool for all of us, but only if we use it appropriately.  Obviously, I want to hear all about your nature adventures!  There are ways that we can continue to have incredible experiences without grossly interfering with what is happening around us.  Here are a few tips:

  • Bring your binoculars and enjoy viewing wildlife from a safe distance.
  • If you know there are closures or warnings in a certain area, stay away. You will have plenty of time in your life to take on those trails but the animals only have the summer months to get enough fat and nutrients to survive the winter.
  • Do some extreme adventuring right where you are. Check out the urban nature exploration opportunities in your own city.
  • Think before you take a picture. Be aware of your surroundings, potential hazards, and animals nearby.  If it isn’t safe to take a picture, find another area so that you will live to selfie another day.

If it doesn’t seem like any fun to be on an adventure during which you can’t capture an extreme selfie to share on social media, it might be time to examine a few things.



Your brain on nature

We all know that being active outside is great for our bodies.  But did you know that the great outdoors also has an incredible impact on your brain?  Various studies have shown that spending time in nature has a positive impact on your brain. 

Specifically, spending time in nature helps

  • Improve attention,
  • Increase feelings of happiness,
  • Increase activity in the areas of the brain responsible for love and empathy,
  • Lower cortisol levels, and
  • Improve feelings of vitality.

I don’t know about you, but these are all effects that are definitely welcomed by my brain!  There is a small catch, though.  Nature is able to have the greatest effect on your brain when you experience it free from electronic devices.  No texting, no checking social media, no listening to music.

For many of us, being plugged in has become part of every day.  Unplugging from our devices, our perceived lifelines to the world, can leave us feeling a bit lost and unsure of what to do!  Once we unplug, we need to learn how to be mindful in nature.  Being mindful is simple and it doesn’t have to look the same for everyone.  Here are some ideas you can try to see which one resonates the most with you:

  • Listen to the sounds around you,
  • Really pay attention to the details of a few different things like the bark of a tree or the center of a flower,
  • Feel the air on your skin,
  • Breathe deeply and see how many smells you can identify, or
  • Watch for different types of animals and insects.

While some of us (cough, me, cough) may wish we could live deep in a forest far from civilization, not everyone feels the same way and that is absolutely okay!  You don’t need to be an extreme adventurer to reap the brain benefits of nature.  You simply need to make time to be out in nature.  Even just a few minutes a day of mindful time in nature can make a difference.

If you want your children to start enjoying more mindful time in nature, check out our tips on how to rewild with your child!

Share in the comments below some of your favourite ways to spend time in nature!

dog_icon– Adriane

10 easy ways to change your brain with kindness

Studies have shown that being kind can change your brain!

People who practice kindness on a regular basis strengthen areas of their brain that are responsible for compassion, empathy, and rewarding emotions. 

Imagine the impact if we all worked on improving these areas of our brains?  Here are 10 easy ways you can start to change your brain with kindness!

  1. Smile
  1. Laugh
  1. Say thank you
  1. Notice and acknowledge when someone does something right
  1. Say you’re welcome
  1. Hug
  1. Give compliments
  1. Look for ways to be helpful
  1. Be compassionate
  1. Say nice things

dog_icon– Adriane

Punishment is too much work

Punishment is a big pain in the butt.  Remember, punishment, in scientific terms, is a word that describes a consequence that suppresses, reduces the frequency, or stops a behaviour from occurring again in the future It is future behaviour that determines if a consequence is punishing.  Does the behavior stop happening or reduce the frequency of occurring as a result of a consequence?  Yes – then the consequence has been punishing.  No – then the consequence may have been aversive but it was not punishing.

Based on the definition of punishment, here is why we think it is a huge pain in the butt.

  • Punishment must be repeated frequently to remind the learner to avoid his mistake and you have to be there to punish every single occurrence.
  • Punishment doesn’t teach the learner anything; learners with little confidence will wither.
  • With punishment, you can’t control what the learner learns.
  • Punishment can damage the relationship between punisher and the learner.
  • Punishment can accelerate aggression by suppressing all warning signs. For example it can teach a dog to forgo looking away, moving away or growling and teaching the dog to go right for the bite.

Punishment is actually a whole lot of work and has so much potential for going sideways.

Fortunately, Kindred Connection offers you an alternative; it’s called reinforcement of behaviours.  Combining management of the environment with reinforcement of good choices always equals a healthy, happy learner who is willing to work with you out of choice. 

And the best part, there is no negative fall-out from using reinforcement to teach your happy learner.  Oh, and did we mention it is way more fun for you, too?


Parenting out of the fog


One topic that is heavily affected by cultural fog is parenting.  Man oh man.  I would be filthy rich if I had a dollar for every time I was given advice based solely in cultural fog.  Here are some I have heard quite often:

  • Breast fed newborn can’t sleep? It is only because of something you ate!
  • You will spoil your baby if you cuddle him too much.
  • If you bribe your child even ONCE, they will grow up to be disobedient and spoiled.

And here is my absolute LEAST FAVORITE piece of culturally fogged up parenting advice:

  • Ignore your child when they are upset. If you give them any attention, you will reinforce their tears or tantrum and they will become uncontrollable, emotionally manipulative creatures.

Ummmm.  No.  Actually, leaving a child alone with big, overwhelming feelings can cause a host of problems.  There are tons of articles published on this very topic that consistently report that helping a child through their feelings actually makes them calm down more quickly, helps them to learn how to regulate their emotions thus preventing some future tantrums, and creates a much closer connection between the parent and the child.

Think about a time you were really upset.  Did you calm down more quickly when your spouse held you quietly and comforted you?  Or did you calm down when your spouse impatiently told you to suck it up and then stalked out of the room.  If I were a betting woman, I’d bet the second scenario did not help you to calm down and I’d place another bet that you later snapped at your spouse over a seemingly mild infraction.  In the second scenario, you didn’t calm down.  You merely stuffed your feelings down.

I currently have a 4 year old and he has tons of big feelings.  When he has a meltdown, we try our best to stay right there with him and let him feel all those big and overwhelming feelings.  We never leave him alone in those moments.  Sometimes he wants a bit of space, so we just let him know that we are going to stay nearby and we are ready with a big hug when he feels like it.  We talk about whatever has upset him and try to describe the things he is feeling.  We learned this from Dr. Laura Markham (, who we pretty much obsess over!  Since we started really trying to stay with him, we’ve noticed that he is a much happier kid when the moment is over and he doesn’t have as many meltdowns.  He also tries to talk a bit about his feelings as he is experiencing them and afterward.  By staying with him and talking about what is happening, we are helping him learn to recognize those feelings and give him tools to work through them.  This is all part of helping him to learn emotional regulation.

One person is this household (I’m not going to name any names but he is the guy standing next to me in my wedding photos) has a REALLY hard time dealing with an upset kid.  Crying makes him incredibly uncomfortable.  I wonder how many other people experience that and perhaps it is the adult’s discomfort with emotional outbursts that has led to people wanting to believe that leaving their kids alone to deal with their feelings is the best course of action.  To help “he who shall not be named” deal with his own discomfort we had to

  • Identify that discomfort so that he is aware of it, and
  • Give him tools to use in situations he finds uncomfortable.

We came up with a little script that helps him to be present and available during episodes of crying.  He says “It’s okay to have big feelings.  Just let them out!”  To be 100% honest, he doesn’t really feel like it is okay to have big feelings (the whole time, he’s thinking “dude, just shove those feelings down like I do!”) and that is fine.  It helps him to ride out the situation and be present for his kid.

The next time you want to leave your child alone when they are feeling sad, scared, overwhelmed, angry, or upset, take a moment to think about who you are really helping with that choice.  Do you truly believe that leaving your kid alone will help them to feel happier and more content?  Or are you getting away just because you don’t want to deal with the emotional upset?  If you are leaving because of the latter reason, maybe try staying and see what happens.  We are all human.  We all have feelings.  It’s time to stop trying to control people’s feelings and asking them to shut out their feelings.  Let’s experience them, release them, and move on without worrying that really being there for another human is going to spoil them.

dog_icon– Adriane


Seeing through the Cultural Fog

Why do certain ways of doing things prevail despite the fact that science has repeatedly proven them ineffective?  Dr. Susan Friedman, a psychology professor at the Utah State University, calls this phenomenon a “cultural fog”.  She makes a sound argument that behavioural science is not immune to the cultural fog that envelops us.

The application and use of punishment is prevalent in our society.  We see it daily and often we take delight in seeing others punished.  Yep, you do too!  Remember the guy who whipped passed you on the highway and half an hour later you saw he had been pulled over by the police?  You delighted in that a bit.

A few years ago, a local example of cultural fog really struck home for me.  An employee in a small business was found to be using some techniques in the course of her work that were completely unacceptable by most of society and could result in her being criminally charged and fined.  The world of social media went wild with posts from people threatening harm and even death.  It was indeed the Internet at its finest, perfectly illustrating the norm for what people feel needs to be done when a person does wrong.  Beneath our thick layer of cultural fog, we seek to punish.

I am not condoning this person’s behaviour or anyone’s bad behaviour.  There was a lot of information in her behaviour.  When someone acts out, hurts others, or breaks the law, they are telling us that they are in pain, scared, or confused.   I find it highly unlikely that punishment will fix these situations.  In fact, I suspect it will make it far worse.

Why do we live beneath this fog?  One of the biggest and most powerful reasons is conventional wisdom.  Wikipedia explains conventional wisdom like this:  “despite new information to the contrary, conventional wisdom has a property analogous to inertia that opposes the introduction of contrary belief, sometimes to the point of absurd denial of the new information by persons strongly holding onto an outdated view”.

It’s time that we took a closer look at some of these outdated views and considered where they are coming from and why we keep them near and dear to us.  Then, we need to let them go.

Here’s how to identify that you might be subscribing to conventional wisdom and being affected by a cultural fog.  Do any of these phrases sound like something you have said?

  • It has been that way my entire life.
  • Everybody thinks this!
  • Everybody does it.
  • It does make sense. . sort of. . . well maybe. . . pretty much.
  • I read it on the internet.
  • A new study said so.
  • This is the way we’ve always done it.
  • It’s convenient and familiar this way.

We’ve all said or thought those things.  But now that you are more aware of cultural fog and conventional wisdom, take another look at those sentences.  Do any of those phrases give you a solid, clear, and objective reason to do something a particular way?

Spend a few days with this information and see what you notice.  Has being aware of cultural fog and conventional wisdom changed the way you do certain things or any part of your belief system?  We want to hear about it!

dog_icon– Kirsten