Technology is an important and useful part of our lives. But how does it affect our health? How to find happiness and good health by stepping away from your iPhone.
Remember when we used to leave home without a phone? Needing to make a call while out and about meant searching for the nearest pay phone or begging a store owner for one quick call.
Those days are well behind us. Now, not only do we have the convenience of communication on the go, but we can barely be without it. Highly useful, yes. But how does this constant tech access affect our health and happiness?
Last week we talked about how to find happiness by taming monkey mind, that incessant chatter in our heads, and the feeling of calm and focus it brings. One tip we covered was unplugging and the benefits found via the Bored and Brilliant campaign. Participants were given daily challenges over the course of one week to prompt phone detachment and enhance creativity.
So, through the campaign, Manoush Zomorodi (who also hosts Well and Good NYC’s New Tech City podcast) discovered that less tech in our daily lives leads to better concentration and peace of mind. The data shows that “boredom is crucial to the creative process.” I’m not so sure single-tasking equals boredom, but I get where they are going with this.
The data from the campaign showed that the average person spends approximately 64 minutes on their phone daily. Easily, right? That means checking the device 2 to 3 times every hour. We’ve all had those days or weekends where we spend inordinate amounts of time checking an app or messages, only to be left with tech hangover. You know, that wide eyed, bewildered, slightly manic feeling? Sure you do.
Interestingly, many participants of the campaign have a creative project or dream they’d love to complete but feel they don’t have enough time to work on it. Of the 16 percent who feel they spend “just the right amount of time” on their phones, only one percent said their phone is usually in their hand. So those not feeling like partakers of the phone time-suck are stowing them away in their bags or somewhere else out of sight.
Added time, greater creativity, and increased productivity account for the happiness boost from unplugging. But how about what tech overload is doing to our health?
There are the less serious, but still annoying, physical signs of device overuse, like tech neck and text thumb. But more serious health issues need to be taken into consideration before it’s too late.
Vision problems from looking at a tiny screen are a real problem, especially for kids. Some children tend to lock into screen time with uber focus. Spending prolonged periods staring at a screen can lead to blurry vision, eye irritation, and headaches. Set time limits on viewing and remind your kids when time is up. They are unlikely to come up for air on their own.
Most of us have experienced some level of increased health anxiety due to the Internet. I recently saw an image on Instagram that said something like “I have a stomach ache, WebMD says I’m dying.” Been there? Me too. The side effects of over-Googling every last physical symptom you have, and the fear it instills, may seem like an emotional issue. But we know stress is linked to many real health problems. Take all information you find online with a grain of salt. Remember, it’s pretty much impossible to diagnosis someone over the Internet. If you are truly concerned about your health, get yourself to your doctor for a check.
A study done by Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina in Columbia found a link between tech and an increase in obesity. And those most affected are women. Compared to women of earlier (pre smart phone) decades, who spent much of their time doing housework, today’s women are far less active, due in large part to tech viewing. Leaders of the study are quick to point out that they are not suggesting women need to do more housework, but that they may need to set limits on computer time and get more active.
If you’ve been having a hard time falling or staying asleep, this could also be due to screen overload. It is harder to sleep when the mind is wired from scrolling through Facebook or checking email one last time. Set a tech cutoff time each day. Put your devices away and pick up a good old-fashioned book.
Computers and other devices are not bad. They keep us informed and connected. Hey, many of us even need them to make a living. Like most good things, moderation is key. Don’t let tech rob you of family time, happiness, or your health. Set yourself some limits.
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Image of woman looking at phone via Shutterstock