The Internet has brought the world closer together and gives you the ability to do things that were inconceivable just 10 years ago. For those of us who are a bit older we can remember a time before text messages, Facebook updates, Twitter, and online shopping. Back in those dark ages I feel that I had more interactions with people in person and spent more time outside, doing things, and reading real books on real paper.
Those days may be long gone, but it doesn’t hurt to take a time-out from your digital connected life and unplug for a bit. Psychologists have been reporting that more people are spending significant amounts of time on their computers, smartphones, and tablets and are foregoing actual human interaction. Take a look around the next time you go to a restaurant or café and you can be sure to see a few couples there on a date who are both staring into their smartphones instead of talking to each other. Choosing to reduce the amount of time you spend on your connected devices can be helpful for your stress levels so consider the following tips for ways to give you a break from the online world.
- Unplug an hour before bed. Yes, it’s really that easy to get a start on choosing to consciously turn off from the digital world. The screens from your smartphone or tablet emit a wavelength of light that can trick your brain into thinking it’s daytime out which will throw off your natural sleep patterns. By turning off your screens an hour before bed you will find yourself sleeping better in no time
- When you’re at a café or restaurant don’t put your smartphone on the table. Having your phone that close can be tempting to pick it up during a lull in conversation which takes your full attention away from the person you are with. The digital world can wait until after you’re done spending time with your friends and loved ones so leave your phone in your purse or pocket until you’re ready to leave.
- Take breaks from your computer while at work. I’ve developed a habit where I spend 1 hour working at my computer, then 5 minutes doing something else like working on paperwork or getting a coffee. Taking short breaks from your screens can keep your eyes from getting fatigued and can help keep you fresh throughout your day.
- Spend a few hours, or even a day, cleaning up your digital life. Get out a pen and paper and make a list of all the different accounts you have online and decide which ones actually matter to you and delete the rest. You can do the same thing on your smartphone by looking at all the apps you have and deleting those that you don’t use or which are too distracting.
- Set boundaries for your kids on how they use their connected devices and then serve as a role model by following those rules yourself. Use the gadgets, video games, and smartphones as a reward for doing other tasks like homework or work around the home. It can be easy to get sucked into playing a video game for hours on end or mindlessly scrolling through social media so set expectations that using the internet is a privilege.
- The next time you pull out your phone to snap a selfie or a picture of something around you, pause for a moment and then put that phone away. Many times we can get caught up in taking photos and videos of things happening around us instead of being there in the moment and truly experiencing the events as they occur.
- Unsubscribe from many of your unnecessary email lists. You might have signed up for a list to get a discount on an online purchase, or maybe you receive 4 or 5 lifestyle newsletters in your inbox each day. Simplify your life by unsubscribing from these lists and when you feel you have time go seek out blogs that have this information on your own.
- Set aside a few hours each week for family time where you do not use any screens. Whether you go to a museum, go to a park, head out for a play or a bite to eat, spending time with your friends and family where there are no distractions will help you to build stronger bonds with your loved ones and reconnect you to each other.
- Create spaces that are conducive to unplugging from your digital life. This might sounds a little odd, but by creating spaces in your home or office where you are less inclined to user your devices you will end up using them less. Set up a space in your home or office for a chair away from televisions and near a window where you can sit and read, write, or think and look out at the world for a brief distraction rather than at a screen.
- If you’ve got a problem turning off social media, it might be time to seriously consider taking an extended break from Facebook and Twitter. Last year I was studying for an important licensing exam and found myself having difficulty avoiding Facebook and once I picked my phone up I was lost in social media for long enough to break up my studying. I decided to disable my Facebook account until after my exam but after I had taken the test I found that I didn’t miss it much. I did re-enable my account much later but now find I look at it less often and only post things that are truly important to me.