Sometimes it’s hard to recognize just how much time we spend “plugged in” on a day-to-day basis. Many of our workplaces have us sitting in front of screens all day, only for us to get home and use a different screen to relax for another few hours before repeating the cycle. This over-use of tech can leave you feeling mentally and physically drained. Many platforms are also purposefully designed to be hypnotic in order to increase engagement, so it’s important to have a few tricks up your sleeve to help you break the spell. Below, we’ve compiled a few of our favorite techniques for disconnecting and limiting how much of your free time you spend staring at a screen.
Blinded by the Light
I know it sounds cliché, but you need to go outside every once in a while. Getting fresh air, and especially some light exercise, can help reset your circadian rhythm, which excessive screen time tends to disrupt. It’s also much harder to stay connected while being active, so it necessitates putting your phone away to concentrate on what you’re doing. Socializing is another great way to help draw you out of the Netflix cave—so long as you’re not the friend who’s always on their phone at dinner. If you find yourself a bit too attached to your devices, try finding an exercise routine that works for you, or go out of your way to make plans with friends and family.
“Hold up, you’ve been scrolling for WAY too long”
Many applications and devices come with optional use limitations built in, allowing you to set alerts or hard limits on the amount of time you spend using them over a 24-hour period. This is especially helpful in the case of “endless scroll” apps like Twitter, Instagram, and Tiktok, but can also be useful for dedicated users on Facebook and LinkedIn. If you’re not careful, you could spend an hour or more mindlessly scrolling without any memory of the content you consumed. If you seem to have trouble catching yourself in the act, try setting a timer or weekly limit on your most used app to avoid getting drawn down the rabbit hole.
Podcasts, audiobooks, and other purely audio-focused content is great for those that are having trouble with eyestrain and headaches, two of the most common issues experienced by people who are a bit too attached to their devices. These forms of content generally have long runtimes, making them great options while cleaning, cooking, exercising, and driving, as they allow you to keep your eyes on what’s important. However, it may take some searching to find a narrator or host whose voice doesn’t make you want to tear your hair out. Most podcasts are updated on a weekly basis, and nobody could ever make it through all the books they should read, so start saving a favorite series and watch your screen time fall dramatically!
Location, Location, Location
An often-overlooked way of limiting screen time is to limit where you use your devices. Particularly while eating and before bed, users often catch themselves on their phones or laptops, when they should be concentrating on their food or just going to sleep. Keeping screens away from the dinner table and out of the bedroom can keep you from diving in during your most vulnerable stages, when you’re hungry and when you’re sleepy. This also has the secondary effect of preventing you from making impulse purchases in either of those states (looking at you, Indian restaurant down the street that’s open ‘til midnight).
Just Delete the App
This may sound a bit dramatic, but try deleting social media for a “cleanse” every once in a while. Lots of content is purposefully crafted to be controversial and upsetting to drive engagement, and social media can skew our perception of others, encouraging unhealthy comparisons between our lives and the lives of celebrities and influencers. This can be incredibly damaging to your mental health, and makes disconnecting even harder in the future as the FOMO sets in. Deleting social media temporarily can help you reorient your thinking, feel more at peace, and most importantly stay off your devices for extended periods of time.
Free at Last
Managing your screen time can seem like a daunting task at first. It may feel like you’re unjustly robbing yourself of the chance to unwind after a long day of work, or that you’ll be out of the loop by the water cooler next Monday. But finding a healthier balance between your online and offline hours can be a game changer for your mental and physical well-being.
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Let us know how you cut back on screen time at home, and how it’s positively impacted your health. What’s your secret for disconnecting? What encouraged you to start monitoring your online activity? We’d love to hear your stories.