How long has it been since you’ve had some screen-free time?
Properly screen-free, as in time away from your television, smartphone or laptop?
Where you are genuinely unplugged – not sitting in front of a screen, watching a screen, or reaching for a screen.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m a big fan of technology. I truly appreciate the positive impact it’s had on all of our lives.
As a Gen-X-er, I was around for the birth of personal computers, the world wide web, and smartphones. I still marvel at (and am extremely grateful for) the technology that allows us to access all the information we need, and connect with others.
I especially love how technology allows us to make and grow meaningful connections with people all over the world.
Our screens and devices contribute so much to our lives. They can literally be our lifeline.
I can’t imagine life without them. And nor would I want to.
But, like many great things in life, it is possible to have too much of a good thing.
We work on screens, we play on screens, we socialise on screens. We could if we wanted to live our whole life via our screens.
Screens will always be a big part of our lives.
It’s fair to say that the way we work, communicate, socialize and consume information isn’t going to change any time soon.
So it’s up to us to make sure we use them in a way that helps us, not harms us.
Why screen-free self-care?
Self-care is about taking action to support and protect our health and well-being.
We need to ensure that when we use our screens we do so in a way that supports our health and well-being, not hinders it.
We’re all aware of the need to limit the amount of time our children spend on their screens.
We know how appealing they are to children, and how they would spend every waking hour glued to their screens if they could.
In the same way, if they were allowed, they’d eat candy or ice cream all day.
Screen-free time is just as important for adults too.
Just like we need to eat our vegetables, (and yes, set a good example for our children) we need to take some time away from our screens every day for the sake of our health and well-being.
How too much screen time affects adults
I’m sure you’re familiar with how your body feels when you’ve been staring at a screen too long.
How you can experience dry eyes, blurred vision, headaches, fogginess, eye strain, or muscle stiffness (particularly in your shoulders, neck, and back.
The immediate impact on your body is very real. But there are other long-term risks too.
The sedentary lifestyle that comes from ongoing and prolonged use of screens increases your risk of obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
The blue light emitted from screens can affect your sleep and lead to insomnia and other sleep problems.
And it doesn’t end there.
Spending too much time on our screens can affect our mental well-being
Firstly, there’s the overwhelm that comes from a continual supply of news, updates and information.
There’s also the way our social feeds can lead us down a comparison rabbit hole.
Where they can start to trigger feelings of disappointment, dissatisfaction, or inadequacy.
Then there’s the distraction factor.
It’s all too easy for screens to become a distraction from taking action in your life.
When the time you spend in front of a screen distracts you from getting things done, working towards your goals, or doing the things that are important to you, the result is often annoyance, frustration and stress.
You get to the end of your day wondering “where on earth did my time go?”
Give yourself a proper break
We all need breaks in our day for the sake of our physical and mental well-being.
Taking breaks helps our body and mind relax and recharge, ultimately helping us to concentrate, focus, be more productive, and more creative.
The thing is, turning from one screen to another, isn’t taking a proper break.
We may think that when we work on our laptop for 45 minutes with no distractions, and then reward ourselves with a browse on Facebook or a scroll through Instagram, we are having a break.
But our brains, and our bodies, can’t tell the difference. You’re still on a screen – your brain thinks you are still working.
So for the sake of your well-being, make an effort each day to turn off the television, close your laptop or put down your phone to have some proper screen-free self-care.
21 ideas for screen-free self-care
- Read a book
- Browse through a magazine or newspaper
- Do a puzzle, crossword or sudoku
- Listen to music, the radio or a podcast
- Practice a musical instrument
- Go outside
- Have a nap
- Go for a walk or a run
- Tend to your plants (indoors or outside on the balcony or garden)
- Draw, sketch, paint, color, or doodle
- Write in your journal, or a card, postcard or letter
- Cuddle your pet
- Cook or bake a favourite meal or treat
- Sew, crochet, or knit
- Stretch or do some yoga
- Practice meditation
- Sip a warm drink, or drink some water
- Soak in the bath
Using screens mindfully
There are so many ways technology can have a positive impact on our lives.
But it’s up to us to make sure the impact is positive. So that we use our screens mindfully, and with intention, rather than as a distraction, a way of procrastinating, or a break from boredom.
The key to using screens mindfully – in a way that supports our health and well-being – is by paying attention.
Believe me, I know how easy it is to be distracted by screens.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who has picked up her phone to check the weather forecast, then ended up checking emails, scrolling through social media feeds, and down a YouTube rabbit hole, only to find 15 minutes later I still haven’t checked the weather!
So start paying attention.
Take notice of when you are on a screen and whether you are there for a particular purpose, because you chose to be, or you are there because of habit.
Make reaching for your technology an intentional choice. Rather than a reflex developed from habit, procrastination, or boredom.
It’s certainly not always easy. Those apps are hard to resist!
Jake Knapp and John Zeratsy have lots of great advice and practical strategies for resisting what they call “the infinity pools” of modern technology in their book “Make time: how to focus on what matters every day“.
You can also take a look at some of their suggestions over on their website.
You don’t have to ignore technology
Technology will always play an important role in my life, including in supporting my self-care.
I use several online resources and apps to support both my physical and mental health and well-being:
- Insight timer for meditation
- YouTube for online workouts
- Journey for journalling
- Supporti for goal accountability
These are just a few – I use others for organizing my life too!
My goal is always to be mindful and intentional in when and how I use them.
I make sure I use this technology in a way the helps me.
And I make sure that my self-care routine includes time away from my screens.
Incorporating self-care into your day is crucial for your well-being.
With screens forming such a big part of our everyday lives these days, be sure to protect and support your health and well-being by including some screen-free time into your self-care routine too.