Technology has some wonderful benefits: Our digital devices keep us connected, entertained and informed. But they can also overwhelm us with constant sounds, images, texts, calls, notifications, and requests for responses.
In fact, it is becoming increasingly obvious that many are developing an unhealthy attachment to, and experiencing a large amount of stress from, all our gadgets and the social networks they connect us to. If you have a nagging sensation this applies to you, don’t worry, you’re not alone. We have become so addicted to our electronics that we have created new words such as nomophobia, the fear of being out of mobile contact.
The good news? Technology has an “off” button, and we can choose to temporarily turn off, or “unplug,” the TV, the computer, and even our cell phones to give ourselves a refreshing and much-needed break. Unplugging can have many benefits to our health:
- Better sleep – not only do electronic devices stimulate cognitive activity which makes it harder to fall asleep, the blue light from our devices actually interferes with melatonin levels. To counteract these concerns, it is recommended that we stop using devices at least 10-15 minutes before going to bed and sooner if you can. Also consider keeping your bedroom an electronics-free zone.
- There really is such a thing as “text neck” – as you tilt your head forward and down while using devices, the weight on your cervical spine increases from 10-15 pounds to up to 60 pounds. That’s some serious pressure leading to neck, head, and back aches. So, give your neck a break while reducing stress by putting your phone down and enjoying the world around you.
- Relieve stress – aside from the constant pressure of making yourself available 24/7, the overstimulation from electronics increases our stress levels – something none of us needs. Plus, instead of keeping us connected, over-use of technology can actually harm relationships and affect our interpersonal communication skills. Stress Awareness Month in April is a perfect time to practice unplugging for less stress.
Why not carve out one day (per week, per month, per year—whatever you need or are comfortable with) to unwind, relax, reflect, get outside and enjoy some fresh air, read a book, meet a friend for coffee, spend quality time with your family, seek solitude, meditate, or simply go “off-line” and see what happens. If you need help getting started, try these quick exercises to reconnect and unplug.
- Agree with your friends to turn off your phones when you are together. Be brave, turn it off don’t just put it on vibrate. You’ll be able to better enjoy the company and relax – and what really are the chances you’ll miss something extremely important?
- Make a commitment to put your phone away when stepping up to the counter to order or check-out. Not only does it allow you to get a little distance, it’s polite to the person serving you and those in line.
- Choose to “turn-off” one app for the week (or even a day). What’s the app you use that isn’t really adding to your life? A game? A social media app? Take a break. It doesn’t mean you can’t go back but you might be surprised how much time it adds to your day.
- And if you’re feeling brave, take a “technology vacation.” Turn off your phone and other devices (including your TV if you can stand it) and spend a day or a weekend or even a week just being with friends and family and doing offline things you love. You’re sure to feel refreshed after and that little bit of detox may even help you establish some healthy limits when your return to your phone and tablets.
Remember, when you intentionally power-down, you are, in essence, giving yourself the break you may need to successfully power up.