It’s no exaggeration to say that many of us have become dependent on technology. These days, most of us have a smartphone, which travels everywhere with us and without which we feel frantic and vulnerable.
And our screen fixation doesn’t end there. At the office, many of us stare at a PC or laptop all day, then stream videos on our tablets on the train ride home, view several hours of tv in the evening and end the day by checking in with our social media before going to sleep.
But while technology is a wonderful thing, providing instant information and communication, all this screen time can have a downside as well. So we thought we’d take a look at the potential problems associated with too much technology and how taking a break from our screens can benefit our mental wellbeing.
What this guide covers
- The extent of the problem – the amount of time Australians are spending staring at their screens.
- Impact on mental wellbeing – what effect this may be having on our mental state.
- Benefits of taking a break – how less screen time can help get us back on track.
- How to have a break from technology – tips on how to reduce our daily technology consumption.
Time Australians spend on their screens
According to the latest Australian Video Viewing Report by Regional TAM, OzTAM and Nielsen, the average Australian home contains 6.6 screens including TVs, tablets and smartphones.
And a recent ‘Screen Time’ report by Lonergan Research found that Australians spend more time watching these electronic devices than we do eating, commuting, working and exercising combined.
The report also found that over three quarters of millennials surveyed were concerned about their wellbeing from spending too much time on their screens, citing sore eyes, lack of sleep and feeling unproductive.
And this is backed up by findings in Deloitte’s annual Mobile Consumer Survey report, which reveals that 44% of Australians think their smartphone use is a problem and are trying to reduce their screen time.
Impact on mental wellbeing
‘Nomophobia: fear of being without access to a working cell phone.’ (Merriam-Webster)
So what are the problems associated with overuse of technology? According to a number of studies, too much screen time can lead to;
- The inability to process emotion and to feel deeply, due to the emotional anaesthesia our technology produces.
- The inability to think creatively because the glut of data we consume leads to us filtering rather than retaining or analysing information.
- The exacerbation of anxiety and depression from too much screen time instead of participating in positive activities such as exercising and socialising.
- Lack of sleep due to exposure to blue light (which suppresses the release of sleep-inducing melatonin), leading to an increase in feelings of worry and stress.
Benefits of a digital detox
A digital detox is a break from technology, which can mean going cold turkey or simply reducing the amount of screen time we’re exposed to in our daily lives. The benefits of doing so can include;
- Less stress and more time to stop and smell the roses.
- Greater creativity and ‘mindfulness’ due to less time being spent on trivial distractions.
- Healthier relationships from actually talking to friends and loved ones face to face.
- Improved physical health by unplugging, getting up and getting moving.
- Improved sleep due to less blue light exposure and more melatonin exposure.
- Less anxiety when FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) is no longer an issue.
How to take a break from technology
So, presuming there is a case for taking a break from technology, the question then becomes what is the best way to go about it? If you don’t think you can handle giving up your devices altogether for any length of time, there are a number of smaller sacrifices you can make that will reduce your screen time without causing you to have withdrawals. These might include;
- Only answer work calls and emails during working hours.
- Send your calls to voicemail and only check them at certain intervals throughout the day.
- Delete redundant apps and unsubscribe from all but essential blogs and mailing lists.
- Limit the time you spend on distractions such as social media and gaming to once a day.
- Ban devices such as phones and tablets from certain areas of your home such as the bedroom and the dinner table.
- Try reading a good old fashioned book for a change instead of your Kindle.
- If you can’t bear to be without your smartphone, try putting it in Aeroplane Mode for a while.
- Do an activity where you can’t have your phone with you such as swimming, an exercise class or going to the cinema.
Being able to spend time away from the screen will help to improve your mental wellbeing and put you in touch with the real world again. And if you’re serious about disconnecting from your phone and connecting with yourself, you might like to consider a retreat with Palladium Private. Whether you’ve been suffering from anxiety, depression, dependency or trauma, our health retreat programs can provide you with a new lease on life.