As I write, I’m sitting in front of a computer with two email accounts open, three social media tabs open, headphones in, listening to music and – of course – my smartphone readily available next to me. Sound familiar?
While it may seem beneficial to always be available, being at everyone’s beck and call or being aware of everyone else’s life can take a toll on your happiness. People are beginning to see and feel the negative effects of always being connected and they are starting to take a more balanced approach to screen time. Here are some reasons why you might want to consider the same – your mental health will thank you!
Reconnect with the little things around you – In real life!
Constantly looking down at a screen means missing out on what’s going on in front of you. Next time you’re walking to a store or sitting in a waiting room, put your phone away. Be aware of your surroundings; find happiness in the little things. You may be surprised to realize how wonderful the world really is.
Many people believe that monitoring work emails, even at home, makes you more productive, but the opposite may be true. Unplugging after work allows the brain to relax and recover from a busy day. It helps to take a step back and rest up. When it’s time to go home, resist the temptation to check email. There may be special projects/situations that require your attention after normal hours, but it shouldn’t be habitual.
Be Present for loved ones
It may be easy to think staying connected helps to stay in touch with people, but in fact, the opposite is true. With faces constantly looking down, we are missing out on connecting to our loved ones right in front of us. While my two-year-old cries, “Look, momma, look!” to show me how she jumps, do I really need to be checking Instagram? Wouldn’t it be better (for both of us), if I was actually paying attention and was playing with her? Isn’t that what makes me happy?
Changing these behaviors can help us be better friends and family members by truly being there for our loved ones; be better employees by giving us the opportunity to let our mind (and eyes) rest, refocus and refresh; and be better individuals as we are more in touch with what is happening around us, often bringing a sense of calm.
Here are a few tips to help you unplug:
- Turn your phone off at a certain time every night – ideally at least an hour before you go to sleep. (Or put it in airplane mode if you need the alarm in the morning.)
- Take off intrusive and time-wasting apps on your phone (looking at you, Facebook). If that’s too much, turn off the push notifications in your settings.
- Leave your phone at home when you go to dinner or lunch with friends. (Sounds scary, right? I tried it; it’s actually pretty great.)
- Read something tangible. Pick up a real book with real pages instead of opting for the onscreen version.
Unplugging can bring improvements to your mental health. It can make you more focused, calmer and even happier. And in today’s fast-paced world, who couldn’t afford to feel a little more like that?
Shannon Gwash is the Director of Wellness Services for Jefferson Center and is also a Certified Mayo Clinic Wellness Coach. She earned her MS from the University of Denver in Strategic Health Communications/Behavior Change. She has nearly 10 years of experience in the communication world and nearly three in parenting … which clearly makes her an expert there. To stay sane, she runs around Sloan’s Lake, hikes with her daughter, enjoys outdoor concerts and reads nerdy books.