Updated: Sep 24, 2019
This is a tough one due to our addictive relationship with our digital devices. Despite the fact that technology can offer us many benefits and make life easier, it also comes with a less glamorous side. It affects our physical health, quality of our relationships, mental clarity and mood.
Use of these devices stimulates the part of the brain that is involved in reward processing which is called the Dopamine response. It is the same response as in cocaine, nicotine or gambling addiction. Screens works very much like a drug and become difficult to resist the more we use them. With our smart phones and tablets right at our fingertips, nothing is separating us from our next hit of dopamine. Overuse of lighted screens has been linked to hormonal imbalance, mood disorders such as depression and anxiety, trouble sleeping, chronic fatigue, autoimmune conditions, increased risk of obesity and poor stress regulation. Our biology was just not set up to handle the frequent use of screens.
When we begin to create a buffer between real life and the use of our digital devices, we reap significant benefits: • Better stress regulation • Improved vision • More time for real connection to ourselves and others • Reduced radiation exposure • Restored circadian rhythms, especially around wake and sleep times
Here is our challenge for this coming week: Abstaining from media can take many forms. Here are a few suggestions. Pick what resonates most with you.
• Periodic Digital Detox Set aside parts of your day during which you are free of technology. For example, avoid all screens for the first 30 minutes after waking. Instead try to go outside and let your eyes adjust to natural sunlight instead of artificial blue light of the screen. There is something soothing and calming about spending the first few minutes after waking outside in nature.
• Take a Digital Detox trip. Whether you specifically plan a getaway to help you disconnect from technology (e.g. a trip to remote places ) or you use a family vacation as a means to disconnect, the point is to separate yourself from your usual obligations which makes it easier to break the habit of checking your phone.
• Avoid all screens for the last 30 minutes before bedtime. The blue light disrupts our natural circadian rhythm and can lead to insomnia. Instead of checking your screen, try reading a book, or practice meditation.
• Don’t keep your cell phone on your body.
Keep your cell phone away from your body when not in use. Practice leaving your phone at home when you are on a walk, meeting a friend for lunch or when you spend time with your kids. This will help us connect with our friends, our food and ourselves with the added benefit of decreased radiation.
• Keep your digital devices away from your bed. Even better, keep them in another room or leave them in airplane mode and use an old fashioned alarm clock.
• Turn off Wi-Fi at night.
• Track how much time you spend on your smartphone with apps like Screen Time for iOS, Digital Wellbeing for Android, or Moment to get an accurate assessment.
Instant gratification, stress and distraction around the clock has become a normal part of our lives. But our physiology and brain are not built for this nor have they adapted to this rapid rise in technology. So, if you struggle with insomnia, depression, anxiety or low energy, too much exposure to devices may be a major contributing factor. This challenge will help you determine if it is affecting your health. Start with just this 30 min to one-hour buffer zone around sleep. Notice how this affects your mood and sleep.
Share your experiences with this challenge in our community. Does it feel empowering, liberating, are you more productive or was it just plain old impossible? What, if anything, did you find difficult? Was it easy or rewarding in ways that surprised you? What tools or techniques did you use to make this challenge easier?
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Author: Elke Cooke MD https://www.instagram.com/elkecookemd/
Copyright (c) 2019 by HealthyLifers 2019