If you are interested in being more productive at work, having better relationships, sleeping soundly, and having a slimmer waistline, it might be time to unplug.
Research now confirms what many of us suspected—the convenience of our mobile devices comes with an energy-draining price. The good news is we can reclaim our energy by unplugging, whether it be for a few hours before bed, the whole weekend, or longer.
It's called a "digital detox," or going "screen-free," and it means you turn off your smartphones, tablets, laptops, TVs, and computers for a set amount of time.
Here's why you might want to try it.
The Double-Edged Sword
While users indicate the number one advantage of using a mobile phone or smartphone is the convenience to be connected to people and information whenever and wherever, they also cite this constant connection as the number one annoyance, according to a report released by the Pew Research Center.
In a classic case of FOMO (fear of missing out), about 67% of users check their phone regularly (in case they missed something), even though it didn’t ring, while 18% check it "frequently," according to the Pew report.
Other research shows that 73% of people felt "panicked" when they lost their phone, while 14% said they felt "desperate."
Is being constantly connected worth all that anxiety?
"We become kind of zombies,” NewYorker.com editor Nicholas Thompson told CBS News. “A lot of people, at the end of the day, think gosh I should have been a little more present with the humans in my life not with my phone.”
You can begin to unplug by literally moving your devices away from areas where you want to stay screen free. For example, keep screens out of the kitchen during mealtimes.
But equally important, you can move yourself a little more. Research shows that 86% of American workers sit all day, and many sit at a computer. A European study found that lack of physical activity increased the risk of early death more than obesity.
All this screen time is also increases waistlines. Studies have shown that spending too much time watching TV can increase both men and women's waistlines and also increase women's blood pressure, even in those who exercise. And 56% of workers say they use getting food as an excuse to stand up and take a break.
Some experts have started to refer to these collective problems as "sitting disease."
The human body is designed for movement, not inactivity, according to fitness expert Geralyn Coopersmith. Electronics keep us stationary, typically for long periods of time.
“Prolonged sitting is the cause of a lot of posture problems and can even contribute to diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease," Coopersmith told Fitness magazine.
Get your blood flowing by taking regular breaks to walk, stretch, or shake out your limbs. Get outside and get a breath of fresh air, and leave all your devices inside.
Set Some Limits
YoungAh Park, assistant professor of psychology at Kansas State University, recommends focusing on work-life balance to recover from job stress and the requirement to be “plugged in” all day. Otherwise, after-hours job stress can overflow into family time.
“Research has shown that employees who unwind from work stress during off-work times are better at showing proactive behaviors to solve problems and are more engaged in their work," Park said. She recommends setting personal boundaries for use of communication technology during non-work time.
You might also want to unplug before going to bed. Screen time can be especially disruptive to sleep, as it emits a blue light that mimics daylight and suppresses melatonin production, which is essential for maintaining the body’s sleep rhythms. Two hours of exposure in an evening proved enough to effect melatonin levels in a study from the Lighting Research Center. Make powering down part of your bedtime routine, and the earlier the better.
Unplugging opens up more time and space for self-care. In the time you might have been busy emailing or scrolling social media, focus on yourself instead.
Get some rest. Go for the walk you keep meaning to take. Sit down for a quiet meditation. Make yourself a healthy meal. Play outside. Or, get some actual face time with family and friends.
© 2015 Omega Institute for Holistic Studies