Choose Mental Health over Screens
Recently, I saw a meme (I still love these because I’m a millennial) that said, “Rewarding myself for spending all day on the medium screen (computer) by watching something on the big screen (tv) while scrolling through the little screen (phone). Although funny, there’s so much truth in this. Some of us (Me…it’s me), are locked into their screens and can’t recall any substantial time where they weren’t chained to a device. I submit my screen-schedule as
6:30 am- Wake up, check the time, temperature, and daily devotional on my phone
7:00 am- Check my phone as I take my dog for his morning walk
7:30 am- Log onto my work computer and stare at it for a full 8 hours. Somewhere in there, I check my phone/social media, or (if working from home) play a movie on the tv while I work.
5:00 pm- Stream something while I cook, do laundry, clean, walk the dog, etc.
8:00 pm- Stare at the screen, trying to learn a second language
9:00 pm- Stare at the screen reading devotionals, prayers, and otherwise Bible-ing
10:00 pm- Doom scroll
11:00 pm- Realize I’ve been doom scrolling for an hour and need to go to bed
Now, screens are like most things: fine in moderation. The problem is, we tend not to use them in moderation at this point. Some of it is not entirely in our control (i.e, working jobs or volunteering in positions that are mainly screen-based tasks). But there are a lot of moments throughout the day where we can put the screens down and change what we’re doing. Screens impact our mental health, increasing stress and anxiety (Nakshine et al., 2022). This can impact our physical health, too (lack of movement, hypertension, sleep disruption, etc.).
And after 2 years of entirely remote work? I find myself burnt out on screens and can feel myself becoming exhausted throughout the day because of the screens. Ya’ll, it’s getting so bad that we are coining terms related to social media and screen use that deeply impact our overall wellness. Passive social media use (Aalbers et al, 2019), such as scrolling through social media, has been connected with loss of interest, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, and loneliness. We even have screen dependency disorders where excessive screen time impacts the neurological development of children (Sigman, 2014). We even see addictive behavior start to arise.
Let’s lessen our screen time and spend more time in the present! Here’s how I’m working on it:
Screen-time limits: I’m the person who needs a reminder to stay off screens. I make use of the screen time function on my phone. Once I realized I was spending an average of 4 hours per day looking at my phone, I set a cap in my phone. Once I have been on the phone for 2 hours, I get a message about it.
9:00 pm marks the end of all screens: At 9:00 pm, I’m not allowed to use any screens; no computer, no phone, no tv, NOTHING. I can read, listen to relaxing music, journal, stretch, water plants, literally ANYTHING but look at a screen.
Take an actual lunch break: This one has been a challenge. I have a tendency to work through lunch which means I’m still staring at a screen. Now, I have to take a lunch break and I have to fill that time with eating, exercising, hydrating, or reading.
Replace screens with other entertainment: You can’t stop one habit unless you replace it with a healthier one. I have opted out of watching tv by listening to audiobooks while taking a walk. I get exercise and entertainment. Instead of spending more of my evening watching a streaming service, I extend my walks with my dog or we spend an hour playing.
Make actual weekend plans: If you don’t plan, you end up sitting in front of screens. I have started making plans to meet up with friends to play boardgames, have coffee and bring a book to a café for Saturday breakfast, or even planning a hike in a local area.
Listen, no one is saying that you have to give up all screens for good. But we can all benefit from a little less time focused on screens and social media and a bit more time being present with our thoughts, feelings, and those that mean the most to us.
Aalbers, G., McNally, R. J., Heeren, A., de Wit, S., & Fried, E. I. (2019). Social media and depression symptoms: A network perspective. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 148(8), 1454–1462. https://doi.org/10.1037/xge0000528
Nakshine V S, Thute P, Khatib M, et al. (October 08, 2022) Increased Screen Time as a Cause of Declining Physical, Psychological Health, and Sleep Patterns: A Literary Review. Cureus 14(10): e30051. doi:10.7759/cureus.30051
Sigman, A. (2014). Virtually addicted: why general practice must now confront screen dependency. British Journal of General Practice, 64(629), 610-611.