So many people are noticing they might spend too much time on their phones, and health reports are coming out that the light from screens is bad. What should we do?
A few years ago I made some money online while I was recovering from my autoimmune issues, and raising little babies. I am grateful for that. But it trained me to be on the phone almost 24/7. I wasn't aware of what that meant to my life, and health. I found some ways to lessen my screen time, and the improvements in my life are profound, including amazing sleep, which I say is the foundation of all success.
Here are a few things I found useful in my journey of lessening screen time.
Most importantly, be kind to yourself, don't judge yourself for going to the internet. It's an exciting time to be able to have the world at our fingertips. Past generations sat in front of the XBox for hours at a time, or computer screens. Others spent every night in front of the television.
It's alluring to want to live in someone else's life and escape what may be going on in ours. A key is to remember that while we are participating in social media, or watching someone else's life unfold, even if they are fictional, we are stalling ourselves out. It's keeping our own forward progress from happening, and most importantly, we are allowing information into our brains that we didn't necessarily seek out, or need. It fills our buckets with data that someone else wants you to have. It is a barrier to getting to know our true selves. Be aware of that, but don't beat yourself up, either.
Additionally, there are studies coming out that the light is actually harmful to our physical bodies. It stops melatonin that tells your body to get ready for bed, and messes with our circadian rhythms, which can affect all systems. It makes sense that this occurs in our eyes, but there is new research that this can even be soaked into your skin, so even being in the glow is not ideal.
So what are some helpful tips, and useful information that can help us curb the effects of too much screen time?
1. Set a time to watch a show if you want it badly. While I don't get Game of Thrones, I did switch college hours around once so I could get home in time to watch ALF. I made sure I got that half hour in, and it was restorative because I laughed so much. Put it on your calendar, get a snack and enjoy that time! I sometimes miss the days of having to be live for a show, or TV event.
2. Make sure your energy is spent wisely. I can't reiterate enough with clients to guard their energy for themselves and then give to others. If watching intense documentaries riles you up, that might be something to reflect upon. Is it a useful drain of your adrenals? Could your time be better spent? Does it feel restorative, or draining? What about those movies that scare you to pieces and ruin your sleep? What might be better for you, personally? My number one tip to protect energy is to remove yourself from all but the best, most helpful Facebook groups, and that does not include the Crime Watch, or Neighborhood gossip sites. During a cleanse last year I dumped over 250 Facebook groups, most of which I was added to without knowing. What this did was fill my Newsfeed with information I never asked to see. By cutting that all the way out, I suddenly had cute cousins, friend's baby pictures, and my actual family back. I noticed that not hearing about petty crimes and neighbor tiffs kept me in a positive zone throughout the year.
3. Consider your phone as a tool, not an escape device, or entertainment system. Use it as a timer, a communication device, and as a phone, even a way to make money. It is an audiobook player and a calculator. Sometimes a camera.
4. Bring awareness to how much time you spend on your phone. There are apps that can track your time, and give you a breakdown, But they use info already on your phone. On Apple, go to Settings-Battery and see your usage by App, and amount of screen time. Get real with yourself. It can be a shocker to some.
5. Once you have this awareness, make it less tempting. Change the phone screen by going to Settings-General-Display Accommodations-and Color filters. You can turn the phone into grayscale while working (so you can read texts), and it just ruins Instagram and Facebook for you. You can take out the blue, tint to red, and avoid the detrimental blue light from the screen.
6. Set up a time frame, and allocate how many minutes that you do Social Media. Try to stick to it. I like to check it after meditating, and while sipping coffee. I do like to see what is up with my people! While I no longer do a majority of my work on the internet, I wish I had set up specific hours when I did. I would not live in the pressure of instant response times.
7. Get blue blocking glasses if you have a TV show, or need to binge watch. Remember it will stop some of the blue light that harms sleep, and the blue light in your eyes tells your body to stop natural sleep agents like melatonin. Good sleep is still my number one health hack!
8. Learn to be present, in your body, with yourself, and others. Put your phone all the way away when your kids talk to you. Hold their hands, not the phone while they speak. Play games where you count how many people in Starbucks are on a phone. Take note of others who are also present. Put your phone in a purse, leave it at home on purpose, be with real humans. Take a planned sabbatical. So much phone use and binge-watching is avoidance of being present. Accept what is, enjoy the now, and feel the pleasure and pain of what is going on around you. Numbing your thoughts by seeking outward input doesn't allow your body to process what is going on with you. If there's one thing I wish I knew earlier, it is that pushing away, numbing, being embarrassed, and hiding feelings helps us to bury a nugget of pain in our bodies, and souls that will eat away at us. It affects us physically and emotionally, until we find a way to release it. That is why my somatic coaching work is so important to me. But I'd rather that you not have that to begin with!
9. Ask for help, and don't be embarrassed. Find helpful information about what screen time and phones do to you. If you want to watch a video, google videos from Simon Senek on phone use. Knowledge is critical. If you don't know, you can't make wise decisions for yourself or your families.
10. Don't forget - do not beat yourself up if you don't feel you have the energy today, and decide to cruise that phone. Do note how you feel. What is your energy like later, are you more energized? Did you go to sleep on time? How productive were you on this day, and the next? Are your actions in alignment with your values? What did you lack today that you tried to fill with screen time?
I hope these tips can help us all connect as human beings on a cellular level. I promise that if you spend more time in your present space, and less time seeking outward information, your body, mind, and spirit will thank you, and I am sure your friends and family will notice. Be kind to yourself, always!