When was the last time you ate a meal alone without looking at your phone or computer? If you are like the vast majority of people, myself included, electronic devices have crept their way into every aspect of your life. The average American spends close to ten hours a day in front of a screen—TV, phone, or computer. That adds up, and can be detrimental to your physical and mental health. Beyond being a distraction, this tech-heavy lifestyle can affect your health and wellbeing in numerous ways—but it doesn’t have to. Here are some ways to turn off and tune back into real life.
Limit & Be Discerning
When you begin to limit the amount of tech-time throughout your day, it becomes apparent how often we tend to mindlessly indulge. Is it really beneficial to binge watch Law and Order for eight hours straight? Certainly not—I can think of a lot of things to instead that have a better impact on my mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing. Making impactful choices allows you to take control of the technology in your life, rather than becoming the proverbial slave to it. For example, once a week I only watch television I can learn something from—Nature docs, cooking shows, that sort of thing—for only an hour or so rather than all day. This way, I feel good about the content I am watching, and I have time to put what I learn to good use.
Thich Nhat Hanh often tells the tale of savoring a cookie as a child. Sitting in his front yard, he would take his time eating and being present to all his surroundings. In much the same way, we can be present to whatever it is we are doing, be it eating, walking, or even scrolling through Facebook.
First, only do one thing at a time. In our crazy, hectic world, multi-tasking is so encouraged that we tend to forget just how to do one thing at a time. Instead of juggling three things at once, try instead sitting in the present with one. Don’t check your email while scrolling through social media and watching TV in the background. Instead, do one thing with your full attention, and notice all the subtleties of it.
Second, slowwww dowwwnnnn. The average user looks at an Instagram post for one second. What’s the rush? Try this—the next time you are looking at Instagram (or Facebook, or anything online) give each post 10 seconds. Look at all the details, read the captions, give it some thought, and then when you are ready, move on to the next. At first 10 seconds might seem like a lot, but you will retain much more information, and be more mindful in the process.
Check out— even for a little while
Taking breaks from the constant inundation of social media, news, and images can have a great impact on mental and emotional health. Consider designating one weekend a month as a “screen-free” weekend. Take a hike, spend time face-to-face with loved ones, or even schedule a spa day as a way to honor the present moment away from distractions. By engaging in activities in which phone use is either discouraged or impossible, you engage more fully with your surroundings.
Can’t commit to a full weekend? Try enacting a screen curfew for yourself. Studies have shown that the blue light emitted by handheld electronics such as phones and tablets can have a dramatic effect on your sleep cycle. By shutting off all the screens at a certain time in the evening, it can alleviate these effects, and promote deeper and more restful sleep.