- Technology has been wearing thin on people’s patience.
- Now, more than ever, taking time to be off-screen is important.
- Consider improving your mental clarity and overall health with a digital detox.
Those of us who are privileged enough to spend the majority of our days surrounded by technology, staring into screens, or working in the digital space are experiencing more than just run-of-the-mill burnout, and it’s happening at an extraordinary pace. It’s been said time and time again – and we hate to drive the nail into the coffin on this one – but we all need some space from our technology every once in a while. We may all be familiar with the term “digital detox” at this point, but not everyone has had the privilege of experiencing one. Here are just 3 reasons why it’s time to try it out for yourself. If not as a form of treating yourself, perhaps as a boost for your career?
People are spending markedly more time staring at screens.
Even before the pandemic set in, exposure to screens was increasing at an alarming rate. Many employers had to move to more remote-friendly work models, which increased screen time for many. Zoom meetings, family Facetimes, and digital game nights occurred on top of digital learning opportunities. Screen time was inevitable, and almost unavoidable.
According to findings published in the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, pre-pandemic kids between the ages of 8 and 12 were already averaging 4-6 hours per day using screens, and teenagers about 9 hours. Since COVID-19 became a threat, individuals are spending an average of 13+ hours interacting with screens per day.
Mobile device use is, of course, up as well which indicates social activity is increasing. In the US, adults spent 229 minutes per day on their phones in 2020, up from the 223 minutes the year before, according to Statista. This was to be expected, as we were in the midst of a global pandemic that relegated much of our interactions to digital-facing interfaces. Because of this, in 2020, US merchants saw an increase of 44% in sales, more than $860 billion.
1. Screen exposure is linked to issues with cognitive development.
A study published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics warned that screen time for children under the age of two has more than doubled in a decade. Because of its links to cognitive development, this is a concerning rate. From ages 1.5 to 3, children learn language at a rapid rate. Studies show that they learn best when interacting with people who can engage with them in person. Even if technology has made it easier to put children in front of a screen for extended periods of time, monitoring screen time is key to well-rounded personality and human development at every age.
2. Your eyesight and corneal health may be at risk.
As is one of the first concerns when it comes to screen time, the blue lights that emanate from our digital devices can be very harmful to our eyes. According to research by the University of Alabama at Birmingham, “This level of exposure to digital technology for work, school, entertainment, and everyday activities has created a set of symptoms known as digital eyestrain (DES). Nearly 60% of Americans experience some symptoms of DES.” Common effects of too much screen time include irritated eyes, nearsightedness, and retinal damage.
3. Screen time can drastically affect your health.
Blue light exposure threatens to disrupt your sleeping patterns. According to the National Heart, Blood, and Lung Institute, “Ongoing sleep deficiency is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke.”
Additionally, the activities you engage with when using a screen can be damaging to your mental health. Utilizing technology to inflict harm on others can really damage your mental health, and having it used against you can be especially traumatizing.
Direct engagement and connection with nature can improve health and boost productivity.
Incorporating outdoor activities into your routine can optimize your body’s function with access to fresh air, sunshine, plants, animals, and other environmental factors. In fact, when Bill Gates was the head of Microsoft, he did a full digital detox. He used to spend a “Think Week” entirely by himself in a cabin. His detox time led to massive inspiration, improvements, and innovation within the company and beyond. With that time as an example, tech giants and startup mavens alike have incorporated ways to connect with nature within their continuing educational and networking opportunities.
Even something as simple as having skin-to-soil contact is a great idea as well. “Emerging scientific research supports the concept that the Earth’s electrons induce multiple physiological changes of clinical significance,” notes a study published in the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. Connecting with these electrons is proven to aid sleep, reduce pain, and assist your nervous system. Learn more about incorporating a grounding practice here.
Vitamin D from time in the sun is key to our survival.
Vitamin D is almost impossible to get enough of. This is especially true during winter months and across various regions of the world. The sun is our most obvious and prominent source of vitamin D, and the last year alone has made it highly unlikely that you have received the correct exposure to sun. Early sun exposure in the day can help optimize our circadian rhythm for health benefits and basic functionality. Brighter sun exposure actually leads to the production of more melatonin at night and a 2016 report by Georgetown concluded that the sun rejuvenates T cells, which are known to play a big role in immunity.
Exposure to natural light, as most of us know, also has incredible mental health benefits, and light therapy is actually used to supplement other methods in the treatment of depression and anxiety. Sufferers of depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) have reported fewer symptoms after incorporating a light therapy lamp into their environment.
Many experts suggest adding a vitamin D supplement to aid your body in regulating cells of all types, regardless of how much sun exposure you are truly getting. Consider supplementing your vitamin D intake with one of the high quality products in Thorne’s line, which include a 1000 mg capsule, 5000 mg capsule, Vitamin D Liquid, and Vitamin D/K2 Liquid.
If you are not at a point in your career or social life where you can take a reasonable break to consider a full digital detox, consider incorporating some changes to your routine. Some great ideas that will help reduce your exposure in small increments include:
- Take frequent screen breaks every hour or two during your work day. When you take these breaks, allow for 5-10 minutes without looking at a screen. Feel free to read, snack, engage in conversation, go for a walk, or complete a puzzle.
- If you can, employ the 20/20/20 rule during your breaks. For every 20 minutes that you spend on your computer, look away for 20 seconds and focus on something 20 feet away. This will allow you to exercise your eye muscles as well.
- Sit at least an arm’s length away from your screens at all times. It can be really easy to mess up your eyes – and your posture – by leaning into screens. Be aware of how close you get, and increase the size of the text you are reading if you find yourself leaning in more often than not.
- Use eye drops and EZ Tears to keep your eyes lubricated. This will reduce the necessity to squint, and help keep your body hydrated while you work away. And those experiencing age-related eye issues, consider EyePromise Restore gelcaps for an eye health routine upgrade.
- If you don’t mind having something on your face and haven’t already had corrective surgery for your eyes, consider a fashionable pair of blue light blocking lenses to help ease tension on your eyes.
While time away from screens and certain technology may feel daunting at first, it does get easier. We suggest working up to a full 24-48 hour break from your computer, mobile devices and TV to give yourself a chance to focus on time in nature, exercise, meditation, home cooking, day dreaming for enhanced creativity, in-person social interactions with others, and most likely better sleep. with Some people will choose to continue detoxing in the future, as a form of escapism and to give them time to rest. Starting with a 12-hour detox (excluding time asleep) is a good start and then you could try increasing from there.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.