Here’s a question: how many hours today have you been more than a metre away from your mobile phone?
For most people, the answer will be a few hours or less. For others, it may even be no time at all. In today’s technology-driven world, the smartphone has almost become an extension of the human hand. An accessory so essential that you feel naked without it. It’s often the last thing we look at before going to sleep, and the first thing we look at when we wake up. Research from Deloitte’s annual Mobile Consumer Survey report shows that 44 per cent of people in Australia think their phone use is a problem and are trying to reduce how much time they spend on it.
And, when you’re not looking at your phone, there’s a strong chance you’re looking at a computer or watching TV – home entertainment streaming services like Netflix have such a large range that, let’s be honest, one episode is rarely enough. Then there's your work life. So many jobs today involve staring at a computer screen for large portions of the day. When you take a step back and look at your daily lifestyle, it can feel like there’s no escaping the screen. But the benefits of cutting back are well worth the effort.
It's worth noting that for the last year, the implications of the coronavirus pandemic have meant many people are consuming a significant amount of on-screen content. One common example is watching and digitally consuming the news for updates on COVID-19, which was particularly relevant during the early stages of the virus. Another is the increased use of streaming services like Netflix in a bid to fight boredom, especially during periods where restrictions were at their toughest.
You don’t have to completely cut yourself off from the world like Tom Hanks in Castaway. However, doing a digital detox every now and then will have some great benefits on your wellbeing. Here are five key ones:
- A more content and calmer you. There have been thousands of social experiments where people have taken a break from technology and the participants are almost always surprised to find themselves less stressed because of it. When you’re on your phone or absorbed in your emails, you’re not living in the present. It’s only when you open your eyes to the here and now that you realise how easy it is to miss out on the good things around you.
- You’ll be more productive. Let’s be honest – a lot of the time you’re checking your social media channels and scrolling through your friend’s travel pics, rather than responding to messages or connecting with others. Taking a break from technology will show just how much time you waste on it!
- Healthier relationships. If you’re stuck in cyber world too long, your social connections in real life can take a back seat. Take this – 43 per cent of people in Australia who are in a relationship believe their partner uses their phone too much and 70 per cent admit to using their phone during mealtimes with family or friends. We all know that person who doesn’t get off their phone at dinner. Don’t be that person!
- Your physical health will improve. If your eyes are glued to the screen, you’re probably sitting or lying down. A growing obesity problem in Australia is partly because of a lifestyle tied to the couch staring at a screen. It’s not only terrible for your lower back and neck, it’s also bad on your waist line. Unplug, go outside and get the blood moving. You’ll be amazed how much better you feel.
- Improved sleep. When your body knows it’s time to sleep, your brain releases a chemical called melatonin, which helps the body relax and prepare for some shut-eye. Science has shown that when you look at a screen before bedtime, your brain is tricked into thinking it must remain alert and awake, preventing melatonin from being released. So, if you’re one of the 46 per cent of people in Australia who use their phone immediately before going to bed, now you know why you might be tossing and turning in bed wondering why you can’t get to sleep.
Technology is incredible and the benefits are huge in so many aspects of everyday life. However, being able to unplug and have some time away from the screen will leave you re-energised and more in touch with the world around you. Here’s a quote to inspire you from author Anne Lammott: “Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.”
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