The average American adult spends more than 12 hours a day consuming media. If you sleep for seven hours a night, that means half your waking hours are spent connected to electronic devices. While the benefits of technology can be huge, our constant attachment to gadgets can have serious negative effects on our health. By unplugging for at least one full hour a day (tenant number five of My 5 Plan), you can reduce or even potentially avoid some of these issues and positively impact your health.
Below, a few simple and effective ways you can take a mini break from the digital world and give yourself a chance to decompress.
1. Embrace Quiet Time
Studies show that higher screen time and mobile phone use are associated with a greater risk of mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. With constant stimulation from technology and our tendency to “media multitask”—use more than one electronic device at a time—it’s no surprise that our brains can become stressed and overwhelmed and have trouble concentrating on even simple tasks.
Tip: Turn of all alerts and notifications or, better yet, put your phone on silent. Give your brain the downtime it deserves. Try starting your morning with mindfulness meditation or (Fitbit guided) breathing exercises so you feel calm and focused instead of rushed and distracted. Or, treat yourself to a nice, warm bubble bath or indulge in a good book. Whatever you prefer. As long as it’s soothing and tech-free, you’re on the right track.
2. Lace Up and Get Moving
Think about the hours you spend plugged in; more often than not, they’re probably spent sitting (often for hours on end). Not only is screen time itself sedentary, but it can also promote mindless eating and poor food choices, all of which can contribute to obesity and a shorter lifespan.
Tip: If you’re not already crushing your daily step goal or resistance training at some other point in the day (two of the top five behaviors I recommend), unplugged time is the perfect chance to ditch your phone and get moving. Whether you go for a power walk or leisurely stroll, lift weights or play your favorite sport, “fit time” in lieu of tech-driven “sit time” is exactly what your mind and body need.
3. Sleep Tech-Free
Most of us wind down after a long day by watching TV in bed or scrolling through social-media feeds on our phone. But what we think of as downtime is one of the worst things we can do for our sleep. In addition to these devices cutting into your precious Zzz’s, the blue light they emit is a major suppressor of melatonin, a sleep hormone. This can greatly interfere with your sleep and, by extension, your weight and health.
Tip: Another one of My 5 main points is to protect your sleep. That means turning off your smartphone, tablet, computer, and TV at least one hour before bed and removing these devices from your bedroom. If you must have your phone on in case of an emergency, dim the screen light, use a blue light filter (through an app or setting on your phone), place your phone far away from your bedside, or—at minimum—turn the screen face down. You may also want to try using a traditional clock instead of your phone as an alarm. Not only will these strategies fend off the sleep enemy (blue light), they will also help you to avoid the temptation of tuning in when you should be totally zonked out.
4. Reconnect With Friends and Family
While technology is supposed to make us feel more connected through texts and social media, many of us have become more connected to our devices than our relationships. “Phubbing” (snubbing someone you’re talking to by looking at your phone) is a prime example of this, and conversations and relationships can majorly suffer as a result.
Tip: Set specific times to check emails and social media (instead of instantly attending to every notification). If you just can’t resist, you may need a little extra help. Trying websites or apps that block the internet or social media can come in handy for making your family dinner table a “no phone zone” and helping you engage in meaningful conversation.
This article is not intended to substitute for informed medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.