Calculate how many hours each day you spend in front of a screen.
Now calculate how many minutes you spend thinking about your social networks, emails, and text messages even when you’re not looking at a screen.
Regardless of what your final number is, I think it’s fair to say that most of us spend a great deal of time in the clutches of technology. If you’re one of the few people who has managed to break away from its spell – good for you. For the rest of you, here’s a quick look at five reasons why unplugging, even for short periods of time every day, will add years to your life.
1. Your relationships will thank you. Regardless of why you’re staring at your phone, the people around you are bound to become frustrated after a while. In fact, studies have shown that being too absorbed by technology can cause relationships – romantic and platonic – to suffer. So the next time you’re hanging out with a human being, skip the Netflix and just chill. Focus on every face-to-face interaction you have by putting the phone down and devoting your undivided attention to conversation, not gadgets.
2. Your sleep will thank you. Just in case you haven’t heard it before – staring at a screen in the hours leading up to your bedtime negatively affects your slumber, whether you notice it or not. The light that emits from laptops, phones and TVs inhibits melatonin, the chemical in our brains responsible for controlling sleep. So, on a very real and chemical level, scrolling through Pinterest or checking your emails before bed can significantly disturb your beauty sleep. Plan to unplug at least half an hour before bed and, if at all possible, don’t keep your phone next to you on the nightstand. It’s a small effort that will have a tremendous impact.
“Scrolling through Pinterest or checking your emails before bed can significantly disturb your beauty sleep.”
3. Your body will thank you. The next time you’re sending a text message, bring your awareness to your posture. Chances are you’re neck and back are slightly hunched. While this might not seem so bad right now, your upper body will eventually start to suffer from constantly being rounded… not to mention what all those screens are doing to your eyes. Give your body a break by dedicating at least one technology-free hour each day. If your work involves typing or staring at a computer screen, take frequent breaks to roll out your shoulders and wrists. Go on short walks, inside or out, to avoid headaches and back pain. And don’t forget to blink!
4. Your brain will thank you. Constantly being absorbed in technology results in mental fragmentation. In other words, it results in less of a capacity to focus, a decreased ability to hold onto memories, and a weakened aptitude to compartmentalize. Why? Because our gadgets do all the work for us. Our brains have become lazy. We’re losing our ability to pay attention, to notice detail, and to remember even the simplest bits of information. We’re so accustomed to allowing our devices to do all the work for us that we Google the weather forecast rather than glancing out the window. Many of us don’t even know our significant others’ phone number! Reverse these cognitive effects by putting down your iPad and practicing the timeworn act of observing. What do you smell? What do you hear? It doesn’t matter. Just notice it.
5. Your soul will thank you. Perpetual disconnection from the real world can negatively impact your emotional well-being. In a world of multi-tasking and distractions, we often forget the importance of awareness and engagement in the present moment. Constantly being fixated on our phone or laptop means constantly existing in a time and place that isn’t now. Eventually, this lack of mindfulness, AKA the act of experiencing the moment, will cause stress to accumulate, decrease self-esteem, intensify the need to binge eat and, ultimately, minimize happiness. So look up from your technology and look around. It’s that simple.
Technology is amazing – there’s no doubt about it. It enables us to do things quickly and efficiently and saves us a lot of time. But all that extra time is useless if we’re not using it to connect with the beauty an unplugged life has to offer. Recharge your phone’s battery and your own by setting it aside for a few hours. Schedule chunks of time every single day to completely free yourself of technology’s tight hold and bask in the splendor of the unpixelated world that surrounds you.
Your life will thank you.