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New Year, New Healthy Habits: Unplugged Living

The start of a new year brings about new resolutions, new goals and new habits... Personally, I believe that one of the best ways to create lasting progress is to create and maintain healthy habits that help you achieve your goals. With that, I have decided to dedicate January to New Healthy Habits!

Every Sunday I am posting a New Healthy Habit with some of the tips and tricks that I live by... This week's new healthy habit is Unplugged Living.

In the age of social media, we spend A LOT of time connected to our devices. Forming and maintaining interpersonal connections is healthy, but there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. I also believe that we use connection as an excuse to spend an extreme amount of time on our devices.

For those of you that are Apple users, it's quite easy to figure out just how much time you spend staring at your phone screen each day. Just head to your phone's settings, find "Screen Time" and you can look at your average and per day usage.

Mine used to be well over 4 hours per day. FOUR HOURS. Maybe that doesn't seem like much, but add in the 8-10 hours I spend staring at my computer screen and you have an average of 12-14 hours per day that I spent looking at a screen that was no more than 2 feet from my face. Let's factor in a few other things... I sleep on average 7 hours per day. Sleep + Screen Time = 19-21 hours. Now factor in a 1.5 hour workout and that leaves 1.5-3.5 hours per day where I wasn't either looking at a screen, sleeping or working out.

That's 1.5-3.5 hours a day that I might spend getting ready, taking a shower, driving, or just relaxing. That's really not a lot of time and the negative effects were beginning to show...

3 Reasons Too Much Screen Time Can Be Detrimental:

  1. Increased levels of anxiety. Not only might you be consuming negative and troublesome content but just the act of looking at your screen can increase adrenaline levels and cause extra stress and anxiety.

  2. Decreased vision. Looking at screens close to your face is REALLY bad for your eyes. One way to combat this is to look away from your screen every 10-15 minutes for about 1 minute. I find a photo on the wall and blink. This helps take care of your eye muscles.

  3. Poor sleep. The blue light that comes from screens can be harmful to your eyes and can inhibit sleep. It's usually best to put the screens away 2-3 hours before bed and use blue light blockers whenever possible.

3 Tips for Reducing Screen Time:

  1. Set Screen Time limits on your phone. You can set a window of time when you can use your phone. I have mine set for 7:30am - 8:30pm. This alone reduced my average daily screen time by about 30 minutes.

  2. Set App Time Limits. Are there particular apps that you use for more than 30 minutes per day? Set a max time limit and your phone will warn you when you are 5 minutes from reaching that.

  3. Put your phone away. 1-2 days per week I leave my phone in my office. I might touch it to check an email or respond to a message, but otherwise I stay off of it completely. This has reduced my daily average by over an hour.

Where Should YOU Start with Setting Screen Time Goals? That completely depends on you and your needs. I'd consider your current average and cut that by about 10-20% to start. As time goes on you can continue cutting it down. Your needs may differ by your work, too. If you spend more time on phone calls, you might need a higher daily allowance.

What Goals Have I Set? Toward the end of 2020, my screen time average was around 4-4.5 hours per day. This year I am striving to keep it under 2.5 hours. So far it's been fairly easy just by following the three tips I've listed above. After about a week, I didn't even really enjoy spending time on my phone. Now I usually don't have it next to me, but instead on the other side of the room. I keep it close enough to answer a call, but far enough that I don't mindlessly find myself of Instagram or Facebook.

Won't I Lose Touch with Friends? No. Simply put, you won't. If you want to make sure you're staying in touch with friends, carve out a time window each day where you respond to friends and have that be the primary task during that 15-45 minute time block. Also consider setting up video Zoom calls instead of messaging them on apps. It'll be more personal and seeing your friends face to face will be a bigger serotonin boost than sending them a DM.

Ultimately, you'll know best what you need, these are just some great tips and tricks for how I started and WHY I started striving to live a more unplugged life. By practicing this, you should find that you reduce your stress and anxiety, are in a better mood most days and get better sleep. Keep in mind that some of these things may take time to start noticing, but they are great benefits that most people do experience from unplugged living.

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