There are lots of things that people employ to reduce screen time, whether it’s taking intermittent walks around the office while at work or committing to reading before bed rather than watching TV. Doing yoga, going camping in a reception deadzone, giving the old-fashioned FM radio a listen…all these activities have their merits, namely the fact that they don’t require staring at a screen. There’s no shortage of ideas about how to unplug, it’s just a matter of actually doing it.
But why do we talk about unplugging so often? What truly are its benefits? How is our perpetual connectedness really affecting us, and can we undo any damage? Let’s take a closer look.
The Downsides of Never Unplugging
We’re not naïve to the fact that for most of us, being connected for most of the day is a necessary reality. We’ve got kids calling us for rides, we’ve got e-mails coming in from work – people need us. However, there are a few things that we need to consider:
- Staring at the lights of our screens and constantly having visual stimuli will affect your ability to fall asleep because it overstimulates the brain. Artificial light can suppress melatonin production, making your body unable to go into sleep mode.
- Being constantly available is stressful. You’re always vaguely aware that a phone could ring or a message could pop up, and you feel obligated to respond most of the time. This affects sleep as well, and can cause you to feel overwhelmed more easily.
- Spending too much time on computers or heavy devices can cause stiffness in the wrists, neck, and back.
Not only do we need sleep (which, if you’re too connected, you’re not likely getting enough of), we need “rest”, too, which is different. We can rest when awake. We need to be able to relax with family, meditate, enjoy some fresh air. If we’re still focused on our phones when out with friends or answering e-mails when laying out by the pool, we’re not really resting. This can quickly cause mental depletion, causing us to feel drained, irritable, or even depressed.
So When and How do we Unplug?
There’s no black-and-white answer to the question. Some say that a period of screenlessness should be achieved every two hours, if only for a few moments. Others claim you should silence all your devices and put them in another room for a few hours after work, class, or a long period spent online. You’ll feel the benefits immediately – it’s relieving.
Unplugging applies to anything that produces that artificial blue light you get from screens. This means you should unplug from the TV, your phone, your laptop, your tablet – anything with a screen – whenever you decide to do it. Listening to the radio or an audiobook while doing another activity is fine for most people, as long as they don’t pause to answer any messages.
For most people, listening to music is beneficial to health. It can improve your mood and make you more productive, or help you to relax. That’s something to consider during your next unplug session, which should be tonight.