The average adult in the UK spends nearly 9 hours on digital devices each day. That’s more time than we spend sleeping! In the US, 84% of cell phone users claim they couldn’t go a day without their device, with some of them checking their devices every 6.5 minutes.
We often consider the effect smartphone culture is having on our real-world relationships, our creativity and our productivity. But what affect does our digital activity have on our physical and mental health? Are there any hard facts to prove that unplugging from the digital world can improve your health?
Here are the facts you need to know:
1. Switching-off improves sleep
On top of this, the blue light emitted by digital devices keeps your brain alert and suppresses melatonin production. And it’s this sweet melatonin that triggers sleep.
Switching off your phone in the hour before you go to bed enables your mind to relax and wind-down in preparation for a good night’s sleep. Which is never a bad thing!
2. Logging-off off helps you feel less anxious
Constant access to emails, notifications and updates can make it difficult to disconnect from work once you get home from the office.
Studies have shown that employees find it harder to psychologically distance themselves from work once they’re off the clock. We need this work-home separation to mentally unwind and recover from a busy day, not to mention benefit from a good night’s sleep.
Many of us use smartphones to organise our lives, but constant notifications and reminders can become more of a hinderance than a help. Try using analogue tools like notebooks or planners to keep on top of daily tasks and activiites.
Logging off from digital communications helps us to fully switch-off from busy work life. As a result our motivation and productivity improves the next day in the office, and we’re better at our jobs.
3. Time-out from digital improves productivity
Using notebooks and diaries to organise workloads and commitments can be a great way to prioritise and process tasks. It’s a simple way to take control of your day, rather than letting digital notifications and online reminders define the way you spend your time.
4. Time-out from Social Media improves life satisfaction
Ever scrolled through Instagram and felt just a little bit envious about your friends’ seemingly perfect lives? You wouldn’t be alone.
Scientists at two German universities studied 600 people who logged time on Facebook and found that one in three felt worse after spending time on the site.
Researchers commented that they “were surprised by how many people have a negative experience from Facebook with envy leaving them feeling lonely, frustrated or angry… The spread and ubiquitous presence of envy on Social Networking Sites is shown to undermine users’ life satisfaction”.
Whilst its an excellent tool to keep in touch with friends and family, Social Media can leave us feeling isolated and dissatisfied. We may not want to complete obliterate our social media presence, but even limiting the number of people we follow can reduce the time and emotional investment Social Media takes away from us.
5. Logging-off makes us happier
Lack of sleep, work anxiety and social media envy can all contribute to poor mental health. Studies have shown that high ICT use is associated with higher levels of anxiety, depression and overall psychological distress.
In addition to this, smartphone use is sometimes used as an emotional coping strategy to distract from feelings of anxiety and depression. In the long term, using ICT as an emotional coping strategy has been found to have a negative influence on mental health.
Limiting our usage of digital devices breaks this cycle and allows us the time and space to address our mental health.
6. Time away from the screen is more time to exercise
Cutting down on our use of digital technology gives us the perfect opportunity to invest time in improving our physical health. Whether it be spending a couple of mornings at the gym before work, starting a new sport, or even just taking a walk in the park, logging-off frees up our time to get off the sofa and exercise.
Is it time for a complete digital-detox?
In this day and age, switching off your smartphone completely and returning to the age of snail mail and telegrams just isn’t an option. Indeed, digital devices bring a lot of positive impacts to our lives.
But perhaps there is an opportunity for us to adopt some healthier habits when it comes to using smartphones. Limiting usage and making time for other activities can only benefit our physical and mental health.
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