Raise your hand if you’re constantly on your phone or computer. (My hand is raised.) Since you’re reading this post, I’m gonna assume that you use a phone, tablet, or computer a lot. If not, kudos for you! Most of us however, spend a majority our days glued to a screen. Should we unplug?
Screen-time and Our Brains
How does all this screen-time affect our mood and well-being? Scientists find that excessive screen-time impairs brain structure and function. Much of the damage occurs in the brain’s frontal lobe whose development impacts many areas of life, from well-being and happiness to career success and relationship building. To clarify, these studies were conducted on teens with severe gaming addictions. Still, I think the science shows that too much screen-time isn’t super great for our squishy brains.
The Center for Internet Addiction has a checklist to help you determine if you spend too much time on the internet. They define an internet addiction as constantly checking email, spending more time on social media than planned, or thinking about social media or internet-related issues when away from the screen. Umm…. according to that, I think most of us could be classified as internet addicted. Personally I’m not comfortable with that classification, seems a little extreme for the majority of us. Alternatively, it’s a good motivator to unplug once in a while.
OK, So What Now?
Most of our lives revolve around a screen in some way. Either we’re crunching numbers, writing, reading, selling online, or doing social or business related internet activity. Most 21st century jobs require screen-time. So what do you do? You can’t just tune-out and avoid screens all-together.
This is where a No Media day comes in. Basically we’re just going to unplug everything. No phone, tablet, ipad, television, game system, computer, or anything else with a screen. Some people go all out on their no media days and cut out radio, music players, magazines and newspapers. Do what feels right for you. Personally I think reading newspapers or listening to music or NPR is different from staring at a screen. If you intention is to shut off all external media voices however, the cold turkey route may be the way to go.
Research conducted by ICMPA and students at the Phillip Merrill College of Journalism, University of Maryland asked 200 students to abstain from using all media for 24 hours. After the 24 hours, many student reported a sense of isolation because they couldn’t connect with friends via social media. Essentially they were forced to talk to people face to face. They also reported positive benefits of increased productivity, more focus on course work, and a sense of relief in not having to “keep up” with everything on the internet.
Can You Unplug?
Do you think you need a recharge day? A day where you unplug and step away from all of your screen?
Can you go a full 24 hours without a screen? What benefits do you think you’d achieve if you did?
Try to plan an “unplug” day on a day where you have few commitments. Try to spend that day with family and friends. Be present and mindful of how you feel and how those around you feel about your no screen-time day.
Try an Unplugged Vacation
New data in a 2019 Alamo Family Travel Survey shows that many Americans are “unplugging” when they take their family vacations. Turn off the pressures of work and social media and spend some quality time with your family and friends.
Get Out Those Old Board Games
Nothing screams old school like a good ol’ fashioned board game. Not only will you have fun, you will build lasting memories with your family and friends.
Make a night of it. Pop some popcorn, make some cookies, drink some wine – whatever will bring everyone to the table.
Explore a New Park or Neighborhood
Get out, on foot, and WALK. Have you ever noticed how a neighborhood can look completely different from the sidewalk as from your car? Put the dog on a leash and start exploring all the places near your house that you’ve never paid much attention to.
Spend some Quality Time with Your Pet
Get the kids to join in. Spend an hour washing, brushing, and loving on your furry friend. The pet will love it and you’ll feel good spending some quality time with everyone in your family.
This can go two ways. Either paint that room you’ve been threatening to paint for the past five years OR get a canvas and paint a picture. Even if you don’t have art skills, this can feel very therapeutic.
Try These Other Ways to Unplug
Filling the Jars has six steps to a successful digital detox.
Layered Indulgence shows you how to do a digital detox completely cut out anything digital/tech from your life for a weekend.
Simple Life Frugal Wife can show you how unplugging from technology can provide a well needed rest from the busy pace of life.