Written by Katie Brenneman, Guest Writer
If you are like many people, then your daily routine likely involves a lot of screen time. Your day may start by waking up and leaning over to pick up your phone, then using your tablet to find something to listen to on your ride to work, then staring at a computer screen all day before you come home and turn on the television until it is time for bed, where you again stare at your cell phone until you drift off to sleep.
That routine will be familiar to many, and if it rings a bell for you, then you may be doing your eyes, body, and mental health more harm than good. It may be time for a digital detox. The idea of ditching all electronics may seem daunting at first, but once you learn to get a handle on your screen-viewing habits, you can create a healthier life. Let’s talk about the importance of a digital detox and how you can get started.
Why You Need To Avoid Screens
There are many reasons why using tech and staring at screens for long periods can be harmful, and the most obvious issue is the damage we do to our eyes. According to the American Optometric Association, looking at screens for too long without a break can result in blurred vision, trouble focusing our eyes, farsightedness, and even astigmatism. If you don’t take these issues seriously, then future treatment may require the use of eye glasses or vision therapy.
Another major issue that you could begin to experience is dry eye. This condition often impacts people who work in remote positions because they are always expected to be there in front of the screen. Dry eye occurs because you cease blinking for a long period of time, and if the condition is not treated, then it could turn to inflammation or even damage to the surface of the eyes.
Eye problems are only one of the issues associated with prolonged screen time. When we sit in front of the television and lack the physical activity that our bodies need, then we face the risk of gaining weight. The lack of exercise can lead to a loss of muscle mass and bone issues, and you could also be at risk of even more serious health conditions, including high blood pressure or heart disease.
Then there is the mental health aspect. There have been studies that show that increased screen time could lead to issues of anxiety and depression. When we don’t get out in the real world, we lose those valuable connections, and in addition to the loneliness, we also lose track of our emotions. Needless to say, it is important to moderate your screen time, and if you can’t seem to peel yourself away, then it may be time for a full digital detox.
How to Perform A Digital Detox
A digital detox is exactly what it sounds like. It is when you set several days or weeks where you vow to cease the use of your phone, television, and other electronics. You may still have to look at screens for your job, but before and after work, you avoid unnecessary technology and do something else. The point here is that you want to break the cycle of your tech and screen addiction, and the best way to break any addiction is to try to cut it out completely.
Consider setting a goal of 30 days where you eliminate unnecessary cell phone use. That goal could include keeping your phone away from your bed, so you interrupt the routine of looking at it first thing in the morning. Also, if you typically stare at your phone and go through social media as you lay in bed at night, consider reading a book instead. Put all of your detox plans and adjustments in motion now, so you don’t forget something and fall short of your goals.
Don’t forget that the point is to heal your body and mind, not to torture yourself. So, if after a week or so, you start to get worried that you are losing touch with people or you feel isolated from the world, then it is okay to slowly reintroduce your phone or tablet. That might mean allowing 15 minutes a day during your lunch break. You can also set app limits on your phone that will shut down the program, so you know it is time to move on.
If you are ever feeling particularly restless during your detox, instead of giving in and reaching for the phone, consider getting up and moving around. Take a walk through the park or around the neighborhood. You’ll get great exercise, and the fresh air will allow you to clear your mind and return home feeling refreshed.
Continuing Forward In Moderation
Some people choose to cut screens out of their lives only to return to their old habits once the detox is over, but that is not a smart solution. In this tech-driven world, it is necessary to have a cell phone or computer, so it is tough to eliminate them, but you need to set boundaries for your screen viewing activities. If you want to spend some time pursuing social media during your lunch break, then do so, but limit your time and spend the rest of the lunch taking a walk or reading a magazine to keep up on the hot trends.
Staring at screens before bedtime and as you lay down actually hurts your chances of falling asleep and getting the quality rest that your body needs. Doctors recommend ceasing screen usage at least 30 minutes before you go to bed, so adjust your routine accordingly. Instead, start a different bedtime ritual that might include meditation, writing your thoughts from the day into a journal, or taking a warm bath so you can relax.
Parents can share their wisdom and help the family to manage their screen time as well. That means ensuring that kids finish their homework before turning on the television and having restrictions on how much TV they can watch every day. Also, make sure to block any unnecessary or inappropriate channels or websites that could create additional problems. Teach your kids the right habits now, and they will be healthier as they grow into adulthood.
As you can see, there is a lot of merit to the idea of trying a digital detox. Consider shutting down the TV, cell phone, and video games and managing your time wisely. Your body and mind will thank you for it.
About the Author
Katie Brenneman is a passionate writer specializing in lifestyle, mental health, education, and fitness-related content. When she isn’t writing, you can find her nose buried in a book or hiking with her dog, Charlie. To connect with Katie, you can follow her on Twitter.