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Posts Tagged ‘digital detoxing’

A person using a laptop with a smart phone within reach

If there has ever been a time when we have realized the communication opportunities and flexibility that online platforms can provide, it is now. Many of us who are working from home are now using technology in ways we would never have dreamed of just a few short weeks ago. For some, telehealth visits have replaced traveling to see doctors and specialists in their offices. And many have been keeping in touch with friends and family using mobile phones or tablets. 

But even with all the productivity while staying at home, you have most likely experienced technology overload as well. Each year during the first week of May, the Campaign for Commercial Free Childhood promotes “Screen Free Week.” In response to our current situation, this year they have instead changed to “Screen Free Saturdays,” encouraging families to rest their eyes and minds from the screens of televisions, tablets, laptops and phones. 

Some call it unplugging. Some refer to it as digital detoxing. Whatever the name, it is a purposeful act of refraining from or limiting our exposure to digital technology for a specified time. Dr. Scott Becker is the director of the Michigan State University Counseling Center and specializes in researching the impact of digital technology on mental health. His research has found that the overuse of digital technology can impact sleep, memory, attention span, capacity to learn, stress, identity and relationships.

The overuse of digital technology can impact sleep, memory, attention span, capacity to learn, identity, intimacy and empathy.

Here are some practical ways to be intentional and mindful about your use of electronic devices this season:

  • Take some time to reflect on the ways you use technology in your daily life. What kinds of habits do you have now that you didn’t three months ago?
  • If you are on a screen often during your workday, follow the 20-20-20 rule from the American Optometric Association. Every 20 minutes look at something at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds to prevent eye strain. You could set a timer or there are apps like “Break Time” on Google Chrome that will pop up on your screen to remind you take a break. 
  • When you are indoors, mimic natural outdoor conditions by exposing yourself to bright light during the day, dim light in the evening and darkness at night. Our bodies are designed to respond to light in this way. Studies show you could improve your sleep by staying off electronic devices close to bedtime. And check out the settings on your phone or tablet to automatically adjust to a warmer color at night.
  • Increase productivity and focus by managing your phone use and email response. While at work, turn off email notifications and establish certain times to check and respond to email rather than immediately responding to that urgent ding. Designate times to check your phone, especially while working on important projects.
  • Set times in the evening or on the weekend that you could designate as screen-free, choosing to spend time outside, with family, or engaged in a hobby instead of a screen.

Here’s wishing you Digital Wellness this coming week!

Written by: Emily Marrison, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Coshocton County

Reviewed by: Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Franklin County

Sources:

Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood https://commercialfreechildhood.org/

Stateside Podcast (2017). Just about everyone is addicted to screens. What can we do about it? https://www.michiganradio.org/post/just-about-everyone-addicted-screens-what-can-we-do-about-it

American Optometric Association (2016) Save your vision month: Counsel patients about digital eye strain in the workplace. https://www.aoa.org/news/clinical-eye-care/save-your-vision-month-counsel-patients-about-digital-eye-strain-in-the-workplace-

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (2012). Light from self-luminous tablet computers can affect evening melatonin, delaying sleep. https://news.rpi.edu/luwakkey/3074

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The Live Healthy Live Well team is getting ready to kick off the Time Out 4 Health Wellness Challenge. Individuals who sign up for this challenge will receive email messages two times a week with encouraging tips and strategies to find time for health and wellness this fall. While taking a break from technology is not directly addressed through the challenge, doing so may free up time to improve mental, physical and emotional health.

Technology has many positive uses, but the overconsumption of technology can have a negative effect on health. In a webinar titled This is Your Brain Online: The Impact of Digital Technology on Mental Health, Dr. Scott Becker, director of the Michigan State University Counseling Center, discusses how the overuse of digital technology can impact sleep, memory, attention span, capacity to learn, stress, identity and relationships. Additionally, research suggests a direct association between screen time and obesity in both children and adults.

capture In a world where technology is everywhere all the time, deeply ingrained in all aspects of culture and society, how does one reduce technology consumption? A good place to begin is by taking time to consider how you use technology in your daily life. What aspects of technology could you minimize or live without? Maybe there are times in the evening or on the weekend that you could designate as screen-free, choosing to spend time outside, with family, or engaged in a hobby instead of a screen. In the workplace, try turning off email notifications or designating set times to check your phone, especially while working on important projects, to increase productivity and focus. Be deliberate about how and when you use technology to reap its benefits without suffering health consequences.

You may also want to try “digital detoxing”, the act of refraining from electronic devices such as smartphones, tablets and computers for a specified period of time. Join others in a digital detox by pledging to participate in Screen Free Week, held annually in May, or the National Day of Unplugging, held on the first Friday in March. In the meantime, unplug and spend time outdoors, and don’t let any vacation time that you may have go to waste. Take time to refresh and recharge!

Author: Jenny Lobb, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Franklin County, lobb.3@osu.edu

Reviewer: Tammy Jones, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Pike County, jones.5640@osu.edu

Sources:

Michigan State University Extension (2015). This is Your Brain Online: The Impact of Digital Technology on Mental Health. https://mediaspace.msu.edu/media/t/1_77c64xn4

USDA Nutrition Evidence Library (2010). What is the relationship between screen time and body weight? http://www.nel.gov/conclusion.cfm?conclusion_statement_id=250317&full_review=true

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