No one can argue with the daily usefulness of screens and electronic gadgets. With each passing year, we have more of them and do more with them. But that means spending more hours with our hands and eyes glued to our devices. Research has shown too much screen time is bad for our health. Cultivating a digital balance is the key to staying mentally and physically healthy in a world full of technology.
The pitfalls of screen addiction
Over time, reliance on screens and interactive devices fractures our attention and can affect our brains and mental state. Engaging in too much of any sedentary activity can lead to obesity. This, in turn, can also lead to a higher risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, and poor heart health. Using your phone or other devices before bed can cause poor sleep and restlessness. Chronic neck and back pain are also side effects of not having a digital balance in your life.
So how much screen time is too much? The right amount will vary based on your age, career, individual preferences or limitations, and how much time you spend socializing or being active.
Tools to help you achieve digital balance
Can we really use technology to cope with our dependence on technology? Yep, there’s an app for that. In fact, when you spend your day in digital spaces, digital tools can be very effective at helping strike a balance. To put it simply, work with tech instead of against it.
The idea behind mindfulness is to foster a conscious connection between your body and your mind. Mindfulness practices can help reduce stress, improve sleep, and counteract the negative effects of constant digital multi-tasking. Some practices that build mindfulness include yoga, physical exercise, journaling, and meditation.
Overall emotional well-being gives you the best shot at maintaining balance and pursuing mindfulness in all areas of your life. The Happiness Lab podcast covers a variety of topics in a relatable way. Try listening to one 45-minute episode a week to increase your mindful consciousness.
Get scientific with time budgeting
One way to become digitally mindful is to monitor time spent on your devices each day. Your smartphone’s screen time tracking feature is a great way to determine how much time you spend on your device, and whether that time is helpful or harmful. You can also use a tool like Toggl to track how much time you spend doing different activities, projects, or on different apps. Because how you spend your time online is just as important as how much time you spend online.
Once you know your starting point and averages, set goals to limit certain activities on certain apps or devices. Create a time budget for the week that includes a balanced plan. Even scheduling personal email time, online shopping time, and social media time will help you be mindful of when you choose to do those activities and try to keep them in check.
Use notifications wisely
Take a hard look at all your device notifications. With notifications constantly popping up on our smartphones, laptops, and even watches, it’s easy to become a victim of digital fatigue. If you get distracted by every message, turn your notifications off and check each app on your own terms. For instance, intentionally carve out one or two time slots each day to peruse social media and ignore those apps the rest of the time. Don’t let random scrolling dominate your time, especially when it hurts your ability to focus on other things.
Low-tech strategies to cultivate balance
Of course, there are also plenty of old-fashioned approaches to digital life balance. Here are a few more ideas:
- If you use a computer all day for work, set a simple digital timer to remind you to take a 5-minute break every hour. Drink water, walk outside, breathe, do 50 jumping jacks, or stare out the window for a few minutes. You can set timers on your devices instead, but a ringing alarm on the other side of the room might be more effective at forcing you to step away from your screens for a few moments. It’s good for your brain (and your eyes) to switch up the view regularly throughout the day. Learn how to stay healthy working from home.
- Create a family media plan. Schedule offline days with the family one to two days per week and commit to finding no-screen activities that are fun for everyone.
- Declare a few offline times, such as meals, one hour before bed, etc. Maybe even try an entire offline day each week. Try to get everyone in the household on board to make it more fun and offer each other support. You could even incentivize and turn it into a game.
- Try to limit screen time to no more than 2 hours per day outside of work/school.
- If you tend to do everything on screens, mix it up. Take meeting notes with pen and paper, subscribe to print magazines and newspapers, or read printed books before bed.
What are you doing to build a digital life balance? Leave us a comment below with what works best for you.