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6 Compelling reasons you need a digital detox now

Based out of Dallas, Texas, Mary McCoy is a writer and social worker for disenfranchised women and children. She's a single mom, lover of Texas barbecue, and a die-hard fan of yoga

Step away from your devices for better health before it's too late

Among cell phones, tablets and laptops, it's hard to get a break from the digital world. A digital detox, however, might make all the difference for your health.

"Living in the digital age certainly poses challenges to individuals and their families," says Dr. Tanya Farman of Indianapolis. "It's not just about the amount of time we're spending with our devices — it's about what we're not doing instead, like spending time on exercise, relationships and leisure activities."

Not convinced? Give yourself some additional motivation for a detox by considering the following ways that digital devices can cause serious headaches in your life.

1. Mobile devices can jack up your spine

When I first went to the chiropractor for chronic neck and low back pain, he told me to step away from my laptop and smartphone. I promptly ignored him, but recent research out of the School of Medicine in Shanghai corroborates what my chiropractor told me: All of that electronic usage can contribute to chronic neck, shoulder and back pain from constantly looking down.

More: I made my whole family do a digital detox and here's what I learned

2. Facebook usage correlates with life dissatisfaction

If you're like most Americans, you probably have the Facebook app downloaded on your smartphone. You know that ache you feel when you see pictures from a Facebook friend's recent trip to Europe? It's the ache of dissatisfaction, and researchers from the University of Michigan found that the more people used their phone's Facebook app, the more dissatisfied they were with their lives and their general sense of well-being.

3. Laptops destroy wrists

You know we're living in a brave new world when everyone has debilitating wrist pain from fiddling around on the laptop. Back in 2007 — before laptops and tablets were a life necessity — researchers at St. Mary's University in Texas watched what happened to bright-eyed university students who all received a new laptop with their admission to college. At the end of the research period, 20 percent of all students reported chronic wrist pain that was attributed to the poor ergonomic design of laptops.

4. Mobile devices harm relationship quality

How often do you feel that your human relationships are nothing more than texting in emoji? You're not alone. A study out of the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships found that the mere presence of a digital device "inhibited the development of interpersonal closeness and touch, and reduced the extent to which individuals felt empathy and understanding from their partners."

5. Digital devices change your brain

Multitasking is as American as apple pie, but researchers out of the University of Sussex have discovered that multitasking with digital devices can lead to brain damage. People who use multiple devices at the same time register a decrease in gray matter in the part of the brain that governs cognitive and emotional control.

6. Smartphones can negatively affect your parenting

We're all occasionally guilty of staring longingly into the abyss of our smartphones while hanging out with our children. It turns out, unfortunately, that smartphone usage can turn us into harsher parents. A study completed by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that parents who were immersed in their phones while at a restaurant with their child were more likely to respond harshly to a child's misbehavior than parents who were not using their phones.

More: 'Soul work' — yeah, we said it — may be the best way to cure unhappiness

So, now that you're convinced that digital devices are slowly destroying your life, it's time to detox for a bit. "The first step towards effectively detoxing is to gain an accurate picture of how much time you're spending on your devices," says Farman. "Keep a journal for one day to map the amount of time you're spending on your phone and laptop. You'll likely feel quite surprised by the results."

Once you have an accurate picture of your digital use, Farman suggests that you start your detox in small increments. "It may first look like stepping away from one device for just an hour or two per day," she says. "You can then ramp up your detox to a full 24 hours without digital usage." Remember that the end goal is to have a healthier and more balanced relationship with your devices, so make a plan that works for you and your lifestyle.

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