Smartphones, tablets, and computers are extremely entertaining – and highly addictive. Even when we’re not expecting anyone to contact us, we find ourselves constantly checking our emails, texts, and social media.
Some of our screen time is unavoidable for work, but other times, it’s an unhealthy obsession that eats into other areas of our life, such as relationships, relaxation, and physical fitness.
How Can Less Screen Time Benefit Us?
It’s hard to convince someone to look away from the screen occasionally if there is no evidence it’s harming them. But with the overuse of screens, we do have evidence it’s not optimal for our physical or mental health.
Screen time, especially later at night before bedtime, can affect our sleep. The blue light can mess with our circadian rhythms, making it harder to go to sleep. Plus, the messages and emails can stimulate our minds instead of allowing us to wind down. All the comfy blankets in the world may not be enough to soothe us so we can sleep if our devices are working against our relaxation.
In addition to impacting our sleep, we lose exercise and recreational opportunities when we spend too much time on our screens. Our relationships can suffer as well. Sometimes, we aren’t focusing on the other people in our lives when we’re paying too much attention to screens.
The overuse of screens is contributing to a sedentary, solitary life for some people. But there are things we can do to change that and improve our health and happiness. One of the big things is spending less time on our screens and more time on our actual lives.
How can you start to ween yourself off the screen? Here are some ideas.
Assess the Situation
Here’s an experiment that may help you fully realize how reliant you are on screens. Keep track of every time you check your laptop, phone, or tablet throughout the day. You should also include things like news updates or other notifications. Every time you look at a screen, make a tally mark in a notebook.
By the end of the day, you’ll likely be surprised at how many times you’ve checked your devices. Once you realize how reliant you are upon them, you can start taking steps to change. It all begins with awareness.
Ask Yourself Why
Realizing why you constantly check your phone or laptop is a key factor in stopping it. Are you doing it because you are bored? Are you anxious that you’re not returning messages fast enough for work purposes? Do you have a fear of missing out by not refreshing your favorite news outlet page every 10 minutes?
Your motivation for being reliant on screens can help you pinpoint a workable solution. If you’re bored, for instance, go for a walk to get out of the house and away from your phone for a while.
Stop Your Notifications
If you hear your phone beep or ping, chances are you’re going to look at it. And, if we’re being honest, many of the notifications you receive are likely for emails that you don’t need to see anyway or news alerts that will stress you out.
If your notifications result in you feeling compelled to put in 20 minutes of doomscrolling, you should turn off your news notifications. It’s harming you more than helping you.
Use Your Do Not Disturb Function
It’s okay to turn the world off sometimes so you can relax or focus on your life. In fact, it’s better than okay -- it’s a healthy thing to do.
For a couple of hours a day, set the Do Not Disturb feature on your phone. You’ll enjoy the peace and quiet, even though it may be unsettling at first. And you’ll notice that nothing bad happens because you aren’t accessible to people 24 hours a day, every day.
Make a List of What You Accomplish When You Aren’t Staring at a Screen
Great things can happen when you free up all that screen time. In just 30 minutes, three times a week, you can train to run a full 5k race. It will improve your health and show you the value of your time.
If fitness isn’t your thing, learn a new recipe or read a book that you’ve been meaning to for months but just haven’t found time.
What you do isn’t important. The fact that you’re doing something you haven’t had time for before is what counts. You’ll notice how much more productive you are when you aren’t on screens all day, and you’ll start to love that feeling.
Have Activities Ready to Tackle
If you find boredom is the biggest reason you turn to screens, make sure you have plenty of activities ready to do on days when you aren’t working. Having a list of activities to choose from may prevent you from spending time on your screen.
Line up a hike with friends, begin cleaning your home, go on a bicycle ride, or have a variety of board games to play. The longer your list of alternatives, the easier it will be to resist screen time.
Cut Down on Your “Friends”
If Facebook or other social media constantly steals your time because you feel the need to know everything your friends are doing in their lives, cut back on how many “friends” you have on those sites. Weed out all your frenemies, faraway relatives you’ve never met, or the people you didn’t want to friend in the first place, but felt pressured to accept.
You won’t have as many items coming up in your scroll feed, so that will save you from spending so much time on screens. If you stop obsessing over your friends’ lives, you’ll have more time to spend on your life -- and that life will include less unhealthy screen time.
Take Back Your Life
Screens have invaded our lives, and some of that time spent is extremely useful. They’re a great tool when they are used wisely. But when we spend too much time with them, it’s easy to get obsessive. And that’s when your physical and mental health can be affected.