The average adult now spends almost 7 hours a day looking at screens, but for younger people and digital nomads, this number may be higher. From morning until night, we hardly take our eyes off our smartphone, laptop, or tablet devices. Although tech is an incredible tool for productivity and living a life of freedom and location independence, the evidence that it is causing harm to our health and wellbeing is clear. You can probably already feel these effects and are looking to find ways to cut down on your screen time. Here are a few simple steps to overcoming the problem of screen time and embracing a digital detox.
How are Screens Affecting Our Health?
There is plenty of research to suggest that screens are making us less healthy, and it’s easy to see why. Time spent looking at a screen is time spent being sedentary - unless you walk and text, but that can lead to even bigger problems. Therefore, there is a correlation between time spent looking at a screen and weight gain and diabetes.
Then there is the issue of eye strain, which causes fatigue, blurred vision, and headaches. Not massive problems in themselves, but will ultimately lower your wellbeing and productive output. The overload of information that arrives onto your smartphone will lower the speed at which your brain can function, while hours spent sitting at a desk causes back, shoulder and neck pain. Then there is the decreased sleep quality experienced when using tech too much, which causes many more health concerns. Basically, too much screen time can be damaging to your health and wellbeing, so find ways to limit your tech use.
The Healing Power of Natural Scenery
The good news is that nature reverses the effects of everything listed above. Firstly, it generally involves being outside, so you will be breathing cleaner air and exercising. Even if it is a gentle walk in the park, you are drastically decreasing your chances of obesity and diabetes.
Secondly, natural scenes are easy on the eye, so there will be less strain and tension. A calming lake is easy for the brain to process and can help you to slip into a relaxing and stress-reducing state of mindfulness. Of course, you probably can’t do a lot of work when alone in a mountain with no technology, but use nature to balance out the harmful side effects of tech overuse. It is also likely to boost productivity and creativity, so will ultimately benefit your earning potential.
Take a Break from Tech Before and After Sleep
80% of smartphone users check their device before they brush their teeth in the morning, while 95% use tech within an hour of bedtime. If you are wanting to cut down on usage, then these two times of the day are a good place to start.
Information overload is a real thing, with the constant notifications on your phone causing mental fatigue and diminished productivity. It is even worse before your brain has properly woken up, so give yourself an hour each morning without screens. Similarly, technology usage before bedtime keeps your brain alert and suppresses melatonin production. Improve sleep quality instantly by going tech-free for at least an hour before bed.
Take a Break from Tech During Work
Of the 58 times the average person checks their phone each day, 30 of these are during working hours. The chances are, you are looking for a distraction from a dull task. However, you are only straining your eyes yet further and slowing down productivity by trying to multitask.
If you need a laptop to work, then don’t further burden yourself by periodically checking your Instagram feed. Focus on the task at hand and cut out all other distracting technology. You can also consider embracing a good old-fashioned phone call, rather than using Skype, email or text message, as a way to communicate with colleagues that don’t involve screens.
Find a Tech-Free Hobby
Most people don’t only use their electronic devices for work. Video games, Netflix, social media, online shopping, cat videos, and browsing memes are all part of the average person’s recreation time. However, if your entire income comes from screen time, then you need to find new hobbies. Consider exercise and sports, reading physical books or listening to audiobooks, playing board games, or writing and drawing by hand. If you use your breaks for tech-free hobbies then your screen time will be hugely reduced.
Tech is usually the first thing you reach for when bored, so try and find a healthier alternative. Mealtimes also form one of your very important breaks from work, so don’t eat in front of the TV. Put on the radio or a podcast if you really need mental stimulation, or just allow yourself to really enjoy the food in front of you.
Embrace Short, Regular Breaks and Digital Detoxes
You’re a busy person, I understand that. You don’t have hours to spend on reading books and hiking mountains each day. However, if you want to boost productivity and lower screen usage, then embrace short and regular breaks. A good rule of thumb is to take a 5-minute break every 20 minutes. You will find yourself returning to the desk feeling refreshed and able to work at a faster pace. It is likely that taking more breaks will decrease the total amount of time spent on a project. During these breaks, try and look at some nature and breathe fresh air. If you can touch type, try looking out the window every now and then while your fingers continue to put words down the page.
When it comes to taking a vacation, consider a full-scale digital detox. This means booking a trip that is focused on nature. A hammock by the ocean will do a lot more good than spending your days in a hotel room, watching Netflix. 1 in 5 consumers are already embracing digital detoxes and it can help you to free yourself from the addictive impulse to check your phone. Just lock it away once in a while and spend some time reconnecting with Mother Nature.
Tech is amazing but, as with anything, you need to use it responsibly. Recognize when it is harmful to your health, happiness, and productivity and consider ways to slowly bring down your screen time. Returning to good old-fashioned, non-tech related hobbies is one way to do this, as is cutting out unnecessary screen time before and after bed. Long breaks in the form of digital detoxes may really help, but try and take short breaks each and every day to allow your eyes and brain to relax, refresh and re-energize ready for a productive workday.