Do you feel like you're spending too much time in front of screens? You're not alone. According to a recent study, the average person spends nearly 7 hours a day looking at screens. As we'll discuss below, this is detrimental to our mental health and productivity. Today we'll share how screen time is harming us and offer 10 creative ways to spend your time offline, so you can feel less anxious and more joy.
Does reducing screen time reduce anxiety?
Yes! According to the Mayo Clinic, reducing screen time lowers anxiety by helping us:
- Improve our physical health
- Free up time to explore and play
- Make social connections where we feel supported and encouraged in real time
- Calm our nervous systems and boost our moods by staying present
- Build community with people around us, rather than people digitally present in our lives
By getting offline, we also save ourselves from media fatigue when we're exposed to too much information, especially bad news, all at once.
10 creative ways to reduce screen time
#1 Take notes in a notebook rather than on your laptop
Studies show that you're more likely to remember information you write by hand. It's associated with stronger brain activity because it creates more activity in the sensorimotor parts of your brain.
Plus, you're giving your eyes a break from screen time, your hands a break from digital typing (which can lead to repetitive stress injuries and nerve damage), and it's a chance to practice your handwriting.
Taking notes the old-fashioned way can help you focus and pay attention in meetings or lectures. It also helps you unplug from technology and clear your mind. If you're worried about losing your notes, you can always take a picture of them with your phone or scan them into the cloud for digital storage.
#2 Ask for walking meetings with video off
Researchers at Stanford explained why Zoom is so tiring. For one, we move less during a Zoom meeting than we would during an in-person meeting. We're less likely to take a sip of our water or fidget. We're also paying more attention to ourselves in our camera.
Rather than staring at a screen during a meeting, take the meeting outdoors! More and more companies are implementing walking meetings so you can still discuss important matters but with your video off. We actually implemented walking meetings here at Touchy Feely!
Walking and getting sunlight boosts productivity, so when you get back to your desk after the meeting, you'll be ready to get to work.
#3 Delete unneeded apps from your phone
You likely have a few apps on your phone that you don't use very often. Could you delete them to reduce clutter and screen time? How about the apps you're on frequently? Could you benefit from deleting certain apps, like Instagram? You can always put a date in your calendar when you'll re-download an app that you’ve deleted. Perhaps by then you won’t be missing it anymore.
#4 Set app limits and screen time limits on your phone
Most cell phones have a way to track your screen time, set limits, and even place limits on apps by themselves. If you have an iPhone, head to your Settings → Screen Time→ App Limits. You can also check out these Android and iPhone compatible apps:
- AirDroid Screen Time App
- Qustodio Screen Time Control App (for kids, but adults can use it for themselves too)
#5 Leave your phone at home while you exercise or go for a walk
Practice non-attachment with your phone. Can you leave it at home while you go for a walk with a friend? Can you keep it tucked away while eating dinner with someone you love? If you’re worried about missing an emergency, you can create a setting so that Do Not Disturb mode on your phone will be bypassed if someone in particular calls (like a family member or your child’s daycare). You can also let your family know what restaurant you’re at. If it’s an emergency, family members can call the restaurant to reach you.
#6 Practice tech-free hobbies
Cooking, reading, playing sports, and playing board games are all lovely ways to spend time. If you're going to cook, we recommend using an old-fashioned cookbook or printing a recipe. Reading is also a wonderful hobby that’s good for the mind and provides a sense of rest. You can make reading more of an experience by visiting your local library, picking out a book, then taking yourself out to a cafe or restaurant. If you don’t feel like being around people, you can get cozy with a blanket—we recommend these weighted ones which apply a bit of cooling pressure to help soothe your nervous system.
#7 Spend time with family and friends
Perhaps one of the easiest ways to be tech-free is to spend time with other people. Grab coffee with a friend or sit down for a nice meal with your family and enjoy the conversation. If you can’t meet in person, a phone call or asynchronous communication via voice memo is also nice!
#8 Spend time with pets
If you have a dog, you can teach them a new trick, take them for a walk, or do a fun sniff challenge around the house. If you have a cat, you can get cozy with them under a blanket and watch a show.
Volunteering is a powerful way to spend your time away from screens. You can connect with people or animals and be of service to those who need it.
#10 Set work hours and avoid tech when you’re not working
This one can be a challenge, especially for those of us who work from home. If possible, set working hours and stick to them. If you're not "at work," put your tech devices out of sight to help you unplug. You can put them in a drawer, or if you have a home office, you can practice a close-down routine that involves closing the door behind you at the end of the work day.
#11 Create tech-free rituals for bedtime
Once the lights are off and you're ready for bed, it's easy to get lost scrolling on our phones. The blue light deters us from getting sleepy, and the fast stream of information tends to excite our brains and keep us awake. Instead, we recommend reading before bed with the lights off. You can use this red reading clip light to see your book without any blue light from your lamps or devices.
Check your screen time for this week and aim to gradually lower it over the next 7 days. Reducing screen time is scientifically proven to reduce your anxiety and help you feel better. By reducing it slowly, you’re more able to make the change stick.
Do you notice a correlation between your screen time and anxiety? What's helped you reduce your screen time?
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Touchy Feely does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Any information published on this website or by this company is not intended as medical advice. Always consult a qualified health or mental health professional with any questions or concerns about your physical or mental health.
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