Have you ever stopped to think about the side effects of our high tech lives? How staring at a screen nearly all day impacts our physical health, mental health, and our most precious relationships?
It’s no secret how far technology has come since the first computer or even the first cell phone! Today, everything can be done in the palm of your hand – work, school, navigation, even a quick search on what to make for dinner! It’s insane how plugged-in we are and how difficult it is to disconnect. Our dependencies are at an all-time high!
With our reliance on technology, it’s becoming harder and harder to unplug – for a day, an hour, or even just for a few minutes. Our very dependence on technology makes it all that more important for us to unplug and disconnect.
Here are all of the reasons unplugging from your devices is key to plugging into a healthier lifestyle.
How Technology Affects Your Body:
Let’s first explore the impact electronics have on your health! The first, and most obvious, is the strain it puts on your eyes.
Most Americans have fully adopted a habit of diving into their mobile devices right at bedtime. However, having direct exposure to the blue light that is transmitted by our mobile devices not only keeps you from a good night’s rest but can also end up damaging the retina.
The blue light from digital screens reaches deeper into our eyes than UV light, which can result in retina damage. Staring at certain wavelengths of blue light — especially at night — can be involved in the development of age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, and can damage your central vision, which can affect the ability to see objects that are right in front of you.
Another problem that can come from extended or constant exposure to screens is Computer Vision Syndrome. The term, CVS, was initially used in the context of those who worked in offices and spent most of their day in front of a computer. Now, the symptoms that are associated with CVS have increased, affecting millions of people, regardless of whether or not they have an office job. Symptoms of CVS can include:
- > Headaches
- > Dry eye
- > Blurred vision
- > Light sensitivity
- > Eye strain
- > Itchy or watery eyes
Technology & Mental Health:
So, what about our mental health? Between a spike in aggression to an increase in depression, our mental health can definitely be negatively impacted by excessive use of the devices we come to rely on. Whether it’s from reading too much negative news or researching your symptoms online, too much computer time can increase your anxiety.
Generally, it’s not a good idea to research your health symptoms online because the final outcome is a lot of unnecessary anxiety and worry. Our overall advice is not to research your symptoms, but to see a Medical Provider first.
The link between technology usage and our mental health runs deeper than just staring at a screen. Social media allows us to become passive engagers. To see, scroll, watch, and like the things we see others doing on social media, but never fully engage. Therefore, missing out on that social interaction and connection. Some social media use can be a good thing because it helps us keep up with family and friends, but we need to be careful about how it affects our psyche. By going on Social Media to look for affirmation, consciously or not, we are comparing our life to the lives of others and that’s never a healthy thing.
Rather than get wrapped up in comparison, try this: Each day, write down five things for which you are grateful. Focusing on the good in your life helps you combat feelings of low self-esteem and envy.
Illustrations depicting the disconnect we have with each other due to electronics is spreading more and more. Intimacy takes a huge hit from excessive and compulsive usage of our digital devices. Whether you are a “strictly texting” kind of couple who skips the physical, human interactions, or you’re replacing time spent with your significant other to scroll through Instagram, your relationship will take a huge negative hit. Any loss of intimacy and connection always leads to resentment, aggression and, with that, comes more arguments. This can be with anyone in your life. And with more and more arguments and disagreements arising, some through text or email, it’s hard to really show or say how you feel, and something is bound to be misinterpreted. Imagine how quickly arguments could be resolved face to face.
It’s Time For A Digital Detox!
How would you feel if you couldn’t use the Internet for one whole day? Weird? Sad? The same? In a recent study, 53 percent of people said they felt upset and 40 percent felt lonely when they couldn’t go online for even a short period.
If you feel like these apply to you, We suggest you give a “Digital Detox” a try:
- > You spend hours a day watching TV or movies, playing video games, or on the Internet.
- > There are multiple TVs in the house, and they’re all usually on.
- > Family members often ignore each other when tuned in to a digital device.
- > You would feel lost without your cell phones.
- > When you aren’t using a specific media device, you’re thinking or talking about it.
While going “off the grid” and living totally without technology isn’t a viable option for most of us, we can learn to cut down on our tech habits and still be functioning members of society. It’s perfectly OK to switch off sometimes without damaging your social life, or reducing your impact at work. Unplugging does not mean disconnecting. Here are realistic and doable ways to unplug:
1. Instead of reaching for your phone as soon as you wake up, concentrate on you. Spend some time meditating, or boost your brain with meditation alternatives, before answering a single email. You’ll have a more productive and relaxed day.
2. Schedule an hour before bed as your time away from your devices. Switch everything to do-no-disturb, grab yourself a glass of wine and a good book and enjoy. Try this out for a couple of nights and see how much more quality sleep you get.
3. Turn off notifications for your social media applications. Notifications from your social feeds is a huge mental trigger and, studies show, directly impacts the chemical make-up of the brain.
3. Schedule specific times for email and social media – and stick to it. A few weeks of this approach will rewire your brain and reduce FOMO anxiety.
4. Spend more time outside without your devices. Take a walk or a job and enjoy the world around you. A bicycle ride is a great option because, except for the truly talented, it forces you to occupy both hands at all times.
Our digital devices, no matter what you say, they are a permanent fixture in our lives; they are how we get work done, how we communicate, and how we stay connected today. However, I hope we’ve shown, they can also cause a very real disconnect between you and your health and the relationships around you. While setting your phone down for the day may sound almost impossible, we’re here to tell you that it is not. So unplug your phones, and get plugged in with the things that are truly important to you.