Did you know that the average American spends 444 minutes looking at screens every single day? That's about 7.4 hours of screen time daily. Daily!
It makes sense if you think about it: we wake up in the morning and check our social media and work emails. We get on public transport (some of us) and scroll through news media on our commutes. We get to work and turn on our PCs, and sit there most of the day staring at them. We do the same phone scroll commute back home, and when we get there we plop down in front of the TV. Before bed we do one last social media check before lights out. And in our in-between lives when we're running errands, getting coffee, or sitting in the waiting room at the dentist's office, any time we have more than about 30 seconds to kill, we instinctively pull out our phones to stave off boredom.
Can all this screen time be good for us? It's definitely not good for our postures, since we now spend hours craning our necks to look at our phone screens and tablets. It's probably not good for our eyes. It may be interfering with our mental health as well, since all this screen time is blocking out time we might spend engaging with people or being physically active.
So what are we to do? One might argue that to be a participant in modern society, you need to have, use, and spend a fair amount of time with your smart phone. If you're a blogger like me, you depend on it to keep you connected to your audience. But can we carve out a little bit of time each day to get away from our phone screens and do things we used to do before we had smart phones?
Here are a few ways you can disconnect for short blocks of time each day, and tune back in to the world around you:
1. Break the habit of looking at your phone first thing in the morning. Do you journal? Try doing some morning pages with your coffee first thing in the day, instead of catching up on Instagram as soon as you open your eyes.
2. Talk instead of emailing. At the office, try walking over to a colleague's desk to discuss an issue, instead of sending her an email. Face-to-face conversations are usually more productive than emails anyway, and you'll get a chance to stretch your legs.
3. Call instead of text. Instead of texting your parents, why not pick up the phone and call them? Hearing their voices rather than reading their texts can help keep your relationship healthy.
4. Take a vacation without posting every moment on Instagram. We are addicted to documenting everything, but what would happen if you went on vacation and took no photos at all? Would you absorb more of the sights you're seeing? Give it a try. You'll find that your mental pictures are every bit as dear as the ones on your phone.
5. Have a phone-less hour after work. Most of us look at computer screens all day at the office. When you get home, try to spend one hour without your phone. Cook dinner, listen to music, or sit outside with a glass of wine and watch the daylight fade. Spending a little screen-less time at the end of the day can be a much needed recharge.
6. Leave your phone in your pocket or purse while you're at dinner. Going to dinner with friends? Why not try engaging in meaningful conversation, rather than half paying attention while checking your Twitter feed. Leave your phone in your bag during the meal so you can focus on the people at the table.
7. Move your body. In the habit of collapsing on the couch in front of the TV after dinner? Try going for an after-dinner walk instead, and leave your phone at home.
8. Look around. We know everything about every movie star in this age of celebrity news, but how much to do we know about what's right outside our door? Can you identify the trees, flowers, and birds in your neighborhood? Pick up a book about local wildlife and spend a Saturday afternoon getting to know your surroundings. Birds may not be a sexy as Kim Kardashian, but bird spotting is more exciting than you think (I promise).
9. Read before bed. Studies have shown that looking at a screen before going to sleep can make it hard for your brain to wind down. Try reading a book before bed instead of scrolling Facebook. You'll engage your brain in a healthier way, and chances are you'll sleep more soundly.
What are some ways you escape from the digital world? Would love to hear your thoughts!