The Benefits of Unplugging

We may occasionally fuss at our children when they overdo it on the screen time, but did you know the average adult spends as much as 10 hours a day in front of TV and computer screens, too? Sure, we need to pay our bills, video chat with our family members, choose from among nearly-infinite entertainment options, and shop for whatever we need delivered by tomorrow. While the Internet is a wonderful tool, it is not exactly a healthy extension of our identity. 

Modern technology adds great value to our lives and our lifestyles, but it is also prudent to take occasional, or regular breaks from screens to renew our physical, mental, and emotional health. 

Some things to consider when we log back in…

  • Productivity. Being accessible by our employers sometimes means being available, which means less time for ourselves. Losing that balance can lead to fatigue, frustration, and lower motivation. Try setting a schedule, and notify your boss, for an hour or more of silent time on nights and weekends. 
  •  Insomnia. Experts have been warning us for years that the flickering blue light of digital screens keep the brain activated, and disrupted sleep prevents the brain from cleaning itself. During deep sleep, the brain discards waste products accumulated from a day’s activity; but too much time looking at a digital screen, absorbing artificial light waves, can disrupt circadian rhythms. It is recommended we turn off screens at least 60 minutes before bedtime. 
  • Vision Troubles. Staring at screens for too long each day can trigger vision issues. Studies show our blink rates slow, which results in dry eyes. For older adults, there are concerns that blue light penetrates to the retina. Too much exposure to blue light can damage light-sensitive cells on the retina, which causes changes that resemble macular degeneration.* The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends the 20-20-20 rule; every 20 minutes, look at an object at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds.

The Good News

  • Taking a day or a weekend, or longer, to give yourself a break from screens, or even just social media, can improve your outlook. 
  •  Reduces Stress and Anxiety. Focus on Appreciation & Gratitude. Social media helps us stay up-to-date on what people are doing but can also lead to FOMO (fear of missing out), unnecessary comparisons, jealousy, and envy. Powering down from time to time allows us to reset, and be grateful for what we have. Experts advise we start by assigning a short part of the day to catch up and log out, or limit ourselves to just one platform per day. 
  • Connect with the Natural World. Experts say we experience a natural urge to go outside when we disconnect from technology. Being outside gives us much-needed vitamin D and full-spectrum light waves that contribute to emotional well-being and help regulate sleep cycles. 
  • Be Productive. When you realize the natural impulse is to look at your screen in a few moments of down time, decide ahead of time that, next time you feel the urge, you will grab a crossword, cook, or walk the dog. Physical and productive activities also help increase our attention spans.