Does this sound familiar?: You wake up, grab your smartphone off your bedside table, and turn off the alarm ringing in your ear. While you’re at it, you scroll through emails and check your text messages to see what came in overnight. During breakfast, you busy yourself by scanning news headlines and retweeting articles to your followers.
Before you know it, you’ve spent over an hour looking at a screen and you haven’t even gotten to work yet. There are still at least eight hours of screen time to go. What gives?
You Might Have a Problem
It can be difficult to see the impact technology and screen time is having on your life until you take a step back. Our devices are so all-consuming that stepping away from them must be an active choice and not something that’s expected to happen on its own.
That’s why taking time to unplug is essential, especially for those interested in a minimalist lifestyle. The questions you should ask yourself when minimizing apply to technology too: Who is affected by my keeping this? How does this enrich, improve, and add value to my life? Where does this rank on my list of priorities?
You might be surprised by your answers. It’s often clear in social interactions that many people value whatever’s happening on their phone or Apple Watch over a personal, face-to-face conversation. How often do you see groups of friends sitting together, each on their personal device and not interacting at all? This is a sure sign that it’s time to step away.
Protect Your Mind
Minimalism doesn’t just apply to the things you do or don’t keep in your house — it applies to your brain too. How can you be mindful and free when you have a million tweets, Instagram posts, and news alerts swirling around in your brain? Being constantly plugged in makes it extremely difficult to manage stress — not to mention the distraction of technology has made our attention spans essentially nonexistent.
It’s easy to multitask when using technology. Distractions are practically begging you to click, scroll, and post. It’s much harder to do a single task at a time. Eat breakfast without a phone in front of you. Don’t check your email until you’re in the office and on the clock. These things are easier said than done.
Just as you might store your items in a way that gives your home a sense of Hygge, you should be aware of the mental junk floating around in your brain and do your best to minimize and organize it accordingly.
While mental clutter is harder to get rid of than physical clutter, it’s not impossible. Activities like meditating and spending more time in nature can help clear your brainwaves and make space for peace. Unplugging creates time for these activities and makes them a priority instead of something low down on your to-do list after “check email just one more time.”
Unplugged time needs to be built into your life on a rigid, strict schedule until it becomes a habit that you don’t have to think about, or even better, it becomes such a treasured time that you want to unplug even more often.
Protect Your Body
In addition to the mental benefits of unplugging, the physical benefits are plentiful, too. Less screen time will make you a healthier person; the physical impact of too much technology use is huge.
People who work in construction or in science labs aren’t the only workers who need to worry about protecting their eyes. Eye care is especially important for people who work primarily on computers too. In one survey, more than 50 percent of surveyed adults reported suffering from digital eye strain due to excess screen time.
Too much sitting in front of a screen can lead to weight gain and poor circulation, which are two things that can have a domino effect in terms of health. If you ever feel yourself hunching over at your desk, shoulders tense, it’s time to unplug and take a break. Even a 10-minute tech-free walk can help your system reset and recenter.
Real Things Matter
Technology abuse presents real physical and mental dangers. Technology’s influence on mental health includes anxiety, depression, and addiction. In the physical realm, it affects weight, spinal alignment, and eye health, just to name a few.
In a world driven by technology, we often spend more time living in our screen worlds instead of in the real world. Once you get in the habit of unplugging, chances are you’ll spend more time doing real things — walking outside with friends, playing games, or focusing on your food, for example. These things matter.
So the next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, cluttered, and distressed, skip cleaning out your closet or reorganizing your living room and ditch the technology for a while. Your brain will thank you.