Technology today has made us more plugged into what is happening on a global scale than ever before. From staying in touch with your friends’ latest adventure on social media and hopping on a Zoom call with clients around the world to having all of the news, research and information imaginable just one Google search away, the digital age has changed the way we live and work.
While this technology has given us some clear advantages and opportunities, have some of the negative side effects become worrisome for our mental and physical health? How can we be more mindful of these effects and find a healthier digital wellness balance?
Growing Screen Times
Adults spend an average of 11-12 hours a day on screens and teens spend an average of over 7 hours a day on screens (not including time spent using screens for school or homework), which has grown even more since the pandemic began. While many working adults rely on computers for their livelihood, these staggering numbers come as quite a shock to some people.
The percentage of this total time spent on social media specifically has also been a hot topic. The average time spent daily on these social platforms ranges from the following times and ages:
- 16-24 – 3 hours
- 25-34 – 2.5 hours
- 35-44 – 2 hours
- 45-54 – 1.75 hours
In tandem with statistics of this nature, conversations around their effect on humans have also been a hot topic featured in countless articles, TED Talks, podcasts and popular documentaries, such as ‘The Social Dilemma’.
All of this information presents the questions – how much is too much? And how can we find a healthy balance between staying connected and our logging off?
5 Moves Toward a Healthier Digital Balance
1. Limiting Screen Time – for Kids and Yourself
Some time spent on devices is unavoidable if you work on a computer in an office or have children doing online learning. However, there are times throughout the day that we often spend on our screens that could be redirected to something healthier.
A great example to try is getting everyone around a dinner table for some cellphone- and tablet-free quality time. Commit to carving out this time on a daily basis to regroup, whether by yourself or with a family.
2. Putting Away (or Shutting Off) Screens 1-Hour Before Bed
Many of us – including up to 95% of adults – are in the habit of relaxing and drifting off to sleep while looking at a screen. Studies show this can be detrimental to getting quality rest. Artificial blue light emitted from screens causes an increase in alertness and a decrease in the production of melatonin (the body’s naturally occurring hormone that regulates sleep-wake cycles), which leads to poor sleep and even insomnia.
Putting away or shutting off devices at least one hour prior to sleep can greatly enhance the amount and quality of sleep that you get, which is a vital part of overall health and wellness.
3. Limiting Time and Taking Regular Breaks from Your Social Apps
While social media can be great for connecting with friends, seeing the latest from your favorite brands, and creative inspiration, excessive use can have negative effects on our mental health. Social apps can trigger addictive tendencies and contribute to a habit of seeking external approval, which can lead to increased levels of depression, low-self-esteem, isolation and anxiety – especially in young people.
Being more mindful of how much time we’re spending on these apps, and allotting a smaller window out of our day to connect with them, allows us to still get all of the social interaction we’re looking for without falling prey to the scrolling rabbit hole that is so easy to fall down.
For an even greater impact, opt for what is called a ‘social detox’, where you delete all social apps from your devices for a week or more. This can greatly help to offset negative habits developed from excess social media use.
4. Finding Daily Non-Screen Activities
It’s important to do things on a daily basis that bring us joy – aside from our screens. Spend some time on the things that bring you joy and challenge yourself to try a few new things, too!
Here are some device-free ideas for you or your whole family:
Arts & crafts
Build a fort
Create a vision board
Do a face mask with eye cucumbers
Draw or color
Learn how to play a new game
Make a card for someone
Nature scavenger hunt
Play an instrument
Play board games
Read a book
Take a walk
Write a short story
5. Daily Stretching and Exercising
Lack of physical activity is a huge contributor to some of the leading health problems in our country, from obesity and diabetes to heart disease. Moving your body is one of the most important components of a healthy lifestyle. Even 20 to 30 minutes of gentle activity a few days a week can do wonders for your body, not to mention your mood and mental health.
Spending a lot of time on a computer at work can cause neck, shoulder and back pain, as well as eye strain and headaches. Take care of your body by incorporating some simple chair yoga, eye breaks and quick walks throughout your day to keep your muscles loose. And when you and your family are at home, make an effort to do fun physical activities whenever possible to encourage a healthy balance of exercise throughout your week.
A Balancing Act
The key takeaway from this topic is to find a healthy balance. Technology is a great tool that provides opportunities in learning, connection, business growth and more. But as with everything in life, too much of a good thing can quickly have negative effects on us. Replacing some of your normal screen time with some of these healthy device-free practices can greatly improve your daily health, happiness and overall wellbeing.