When you planned out your resolutions for the year, the odds are you never imagined a pandemic was on the way. But your health and wellness are still worth investing time and effort into making improvements! This month, why not take a close look at your screen time?
Each month since January, we’ve been offering you one bite-sized suggestion for improving your health. And believe it or not, we planned long ago to focus on reducing screen time.
But now that we’ve arrived at this blog, our messaging is a little different. We’re all facing new and different realities than we were even a month ago. So, while reducing your screen time is still a worthwhile endeavor, we want to encourage you to give yourself grace.
Keep an eye on your screen time and do what you can to limit it, but also be realistic with yourself about what’s possible right now and what isn’t.
Let’s take a deeper dive into the topic.
Screen Time & Your Health
First, let’s talk about the effect that time spent on electronic devices has for your health. Screen time can actually have a negative impact on both your physical and mental health.
When you spend a lot of time focused on a screen, you spend less time being physically active, and a sedentary lifestyle is associated with a higher risk of many chronic medical conditions.
But it’s the mental and psychological effects that are perhaps most impactful. Spending a lot of time with a screen can have a significantly negative effect on your mental health.
Those who spend a lot of time on their smartphones or tablets, for example, engaging on social media, are more likely to experience both anxiety and depression. They’re also more likely to be stressed, and stress has its own set of negative effects on our health.
Excess electronic device use is also linked with low self-esteem, thanks to effects like FOMO.
How to Reduce Your Screen Time
The first step toward reducing the amount of time you spend using your devices is to examine exactly how much time you’re spending. This week, pay attention to how much you pick up your phone or tablet—and how long you use it.
From there, you can take conscious steps to reduce your use:
Make it less appealing. Turn the color scheme on your phone from color to grayscale, and you’ll likely find yourself losing interest in apps like Instagram and Facebook more quickly. Without the bright color scheme and aesthetics, there’s less to draw your eye.
Turn off notifications. You don’t necessarily have to turn off all your notifications, but disable all but the most essential ones. When you receive a notification, you are quite likely to pick up your phone or tablet and look at it, increasing your use of the screen. But the odds are, whatever the notification is telling you could wait until later.
Keep your phone out of the bathroom. Yes, we said that! It’s a known fact that many of us take our phones with us into the restroom, reading the news and perusing social media. But focusing on your business in the bathroom rather than on your phone can trim your screen time and keep you from spending tons of time hanging out in there.
Consider which apps are least important. There are some apps on our phones that are essential or at least more important, such as the email app or a book reader. Don’t worry with the time you’re spending looking at those apps. Instead, focus your energy on cutting down on your use of other apps. You may even want to remove certain apps from your devices, making it necessary for you to visit them from an actual computer.
Don’t take your tech to bed with you. This is along the same lines as the bathroom recommendation, but with an additional health caveat—looking at an electronic device before bedtime can actually disrupt your sleep! Turn your technology off in the hour or two before bedtime, or even consider leaving it somewhere outside the bedroom entirely.
Why It’s OK to Give Yourself Grace About Screen Time
We just spent a good amount of time sharing tips for reducing your screen time. But it’s important to note that it’s totally OK not to worry about your time spent with electronic devices right now.
While reducing your screen time is always going to be beneficial, we have bigger-picture worries on our minds these days—and different priorities. So, we’d encourage you to be kind to yourself. When you can, focus on activities away from the screen and be more intentional about the time you do spend with a screen.
In fact, that’s exactly what the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends right now: “The first step: take a deep breath. Know that we are all in this together. And together we will get through it.”
Specifically, they recommend using social media for good and using media for social connection, using it as a way to connect with others rather than isolating yourself.
That’s good advice for the youngest among us, and good advice for adults, too.
Wondering where your health stands? A checkup is a great way to learn your current health status and ways to improve it. FIND A PROVIDER.