January 2, 2018

Best Ways to Combat Digital Addiction


Americans spend more than 12 hours a day consuming media, with over nine hours of that time dedicated to screens. Don’t get us wrong, we know it’s hard, but there may be some serious benefits to stepping away from the screen. Case in point: a new study from San Diego State University showed that teens who spent several hours per day on their phones were more likely to be depressed or exhibit suicidal behaviors. That’s a tough pill to swallow considering that most Americans now report that their phones are something they “can’t live without.”

And the results are equally as daunting for grown-ups. Scientists believe that constant consumption of media prevents the body’s nervous system from properly shutting down, which causes us to feel drained and limits our ability to make meaningful human connections. Stepping away from the smartphone, tablet and TV can mean more health and happiness in your day-to-day life, but how do you do that when technology is such an ingrained and vital part of our culture? Here are a few simple places to start.

1. Set Limits on Screen Time — Reports show that more hours of screen time per day causes a suppression of melatonin, which can disrupt your sleep, and encourages the release of dopamine, which can make it hard for you to focus on off-screen stimuli. But, like everything in life, moderation is key. When you limit your screen time to one or two hours per day (not including the inevitable hours you’ll likely spend staring at a screen for work), your body gets the chance to decompress, which means more happiness.
2. Cut Out Unnecessary Tech — Screens are everywhere: in our hands, in our cars, on our wrists. But is it all actually necessary? One simple way to combat digital addiction is to ditch the tech in certain environments. For example, consider replacing your Fitbit with a wellness band or a sleep bracelet that works with the Earth’s natural frequencies to help you sleep better, focus more and feel less stressed. You can also cut out screens in the bedroom by opting for an old-fashioned alarm clock. Novel, we know.
3. Retreat without TechWith digital addiction on the rise, you’ve probably seen a variety of digital detox programs pop onto the scene. The San Francisco start-up (or a “slow-down,” as it likes to be called) Digital Detox hosts tech-free personal wellness retreats where attendees must relinquish their phones and gadgets for off-the-grid experiences. Adults can take advantage of tech-free weekends at Mendocino’s Camp Grounded — a summer camp for adults — where computers, cell phones, clocks and schedules are off-limits.
4. Leave Your Phone at Home — One of the things that can make it so hard to go almost anywhere without your smartphone is that feeling of vulnerability. What if you get into a scenario where you need your phone? That could mean anything from an emergency situation to touching base at work. Having access to a phone is a safety net, and one that’s indispensable in emergencies. But here’s the thing: when you leave your phone at home, you’re forced head-on into your surroundings, and you feel more aware and in-sync with the world. Start small by leaving your phone in the car while at work, running errands or socializing.
5. Don’t Eat in Front of a Screen — Before the rise of the TV dinner in the 1950s, eating dinner anywhere besides the dining room table was seriously taboo. Now, though, eating alone almost always means the companionship of a screen. But this is a bad habit for those who struggle with digital addiction; it actually might lead to obesity, diabetes and high cholesterol. This is because watching TV while you eat blocks the feeling of satisfaction, since your brain is focused on other things. It also presents some social challenges, and we don’t need to explain why sitting down for dinner with your family away from the screen is good for your health, relationships and daily routine.
6. Create Tech-Free Zones — We’ve already covered the fact that smartphone use can disrupt melatonin production, which leads to poor sleep quality, but there are a few other reasons to create a tech-free bedroom. The National Sleep Foundation warns that the exposure to digital light before bedtime can promote wakefulness and disturb the body’s need to “wind down” before sleep. The bedroom should be an obvious no-tech zone, but you can also carry the same principal throughout other areas of the home where it’s important to unplug and relax, like the study or office.
7. Stay Active — Think of the times in your day when you’re not looking at your screen. Maybe it’s while you walk your dog, take a class at the gym or weed in the garden. Take advantage of these screen-free experiences to totally decompress from tech. It might be tempting to turn on a podcast or a YouTube video in the background, but try to let these moments be entirely tech-free. When your mind is focused on something else, it’s easier to forget that you’re not relying on a digital crutch.
8. See a Therapist — We know it sounds a little bit extreme, but if you feel like you’ve crossed the line from casual techy to digitally addicted, it may be time to seek professional treatment. The medical and mental health communities are finally starting to take digital addiction seriously, and there’s even a push to include internet addiction and internet gaming disorder as diagnosed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

And, naturally, more and more mental health professionals are beginning to offer digital addiction treatments to help those who believe that an addition to technology and the internet has become debilitating. If you’ve already tried making small behavioral changes and have had minimal success, it may be time to seek professional treatment.


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