You may think that you spend too much time in front of a screen. But stop and think, if you can, of the time you are not looking at a computer, phone, or television screen. You may be hard-pressed to think of a time recently! According to The Independent, an average adult will spend 34 years of their life looking at screens1 – that is almost 42% of the average life expectancy of a UK citizen!
Whilst we can never completely remove screen-time from our lives, it is important to be aware of how much time you are spending looking at screens and taking the necessary time away from them. Let’s have a rundown of how you can accomplish a more screen-free spring – it’s easier than you think!
First Steps – Track your screen time, set time limits, and avoid blue light when possible
Make a concerted effort to track how much time you spend on screens (including computer, television and mobile phone) and see how much time you can dedicate to not using any type of screen. It may feel a bit strange at first, but testing how much time you need to look at screens will help you break out of your screen bound habits, especially when you are bored or in the habit of automatically gravitating towards screens.
You can easily track your smartphone screen time with built-in trackers that will send you a notification each week that tells you the average time spent on your phone and can be broken down by each individual app. It also tells you by how much (or less) percentage your screen-time is than the previous week, so tracking and limiting your screen-time has been made so much easier!
You can block apps at certain times of the day or set a daily time limit for apps, so you don’t find the last two hours have vanished when scrolling through Instagram! You can also turn on greyscale so that your mobile phone’s colours are switched out for black and white. Without your phone screen’s bright visual appeal, you may feel less likely to keep checking your phone and falling down the technological rabbit hole.
Another step is to keep your phone out of your bedroom. This is because exposure to the blue light from mobile phone screens can impact your sleep quality and the ability to quickly drift off to sleep. A 2017 study found that social media use in the 30 minutes before bed is associated with disturbed sleep among young adults. We’re all guilty of catching up on social media for the day just before bed, but it can hurt our chances of a restful night’s sleep. You also may be unable to switch off if updates and messages grab your attention as you’re trying to drift off, which can lead to even more time spent on your phone when you need to be sleeping.
Start charging your phone in another room and try to avoid looking at screens at least an hour before bed. Try reading a book, meditating or some crafting like knitting before bed instead to start shutting down your brain for the day – and invest in a physical alarm clock!
If this is a step too far for you, there are ways to reduce the effects of having a screen in your bedroom. There is a feature on smartphones that blocks the blue light on mobile screens that can keep us awake, whilst shifting the display colours on your phone screen to warm tones. There is also the feature of ‘Do Not Disturb’ on many smartphones, which enables you to set certain times where you won’t receive any notifications and give you a window for relaxation and sleep.
Next Steps – Test your tech free barriers
Once you’ve tried out the previous steps of cutting down screen time, see how you can manage without screens for certain times and places. Try leaving your phone behind on evenings and weekends when you’re out with friends or having tech-free areas in your house, such as the bathroom or bedroom so you can truly relax in these rooms.
Another way to test your tech-free boundaries is to schedule more face-to-face meetings. We have all gotten used to using Zoom for business meetings, weekly meetups, and even pub quizzes, but you should always make time for face-to-face meetups. In-person meetings tend to have a sense of intimacy, connection, and empathy which is difficult to replicate on screen. Requests made face to face are also thirty-four times more effective than emailed requests, so you may get more achieved at an in-person meeting. If you and the person or people are meeting are feeling well and comfortable with meeting up without a computer screen in sight, it can be mutually beneficial – as well as being a nice return to normalcy!
Other Steps – Ideas for Mental Spring Cleaning
Becoming more aware of how much time you spend in front of a screen doesn’t mean that you have to switch off screens forever, but it can help free up some time to also look after your mental health.
Screen-free ideas for some mental spring cleaning can include journaling every day, or keeping a gratitude diary. You can offload any worries and ideas at the end of the day, whilst also reminding yourself of the things that are going right at the moment.
If you are trying to cut down on looking at screens in your free time, there are a myriad of ways to keep your mind active and mindful. Gardening is a great hobby to get into, for instance. Not only do you get out into the fresh air and sunshine, but you could be working towards making your outside space more appealing to yourself for the long summer nights and for local wildlife, such as bees and birds. A win for you and the environment!
Going indoors doesn’t mean you have to return to screens either. You can get competitive in the kitchen by challenging your family to a MasterChef-style cook-off – who can make the best weekday meal or the best cupcake? You can start a yearly reading challenge that includes reading a book that is being made into a TV show or a film in 2022, or a book you can read in one sitting. Or you can revive the board games at the back of your cupboard for a monthly meet up with your friends. Who will be the reigning champion of Trivial Pursuit?!
Whilst we are definitely not advocating for all screens to be avoided at all times, it’s healthy to have some time away from screens and to reconnect with mindfulness to the outside world.
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