In this digital age, it’s possible to have almost everything in one place. Computers and smartphones allow us to work, watch movies, chat to friends, play games, manage bills and bank accounts, listen to music, shop, and much more – all without leaving our chairs!
This is all incredibly convenient, and I’m grateful for it. But it does have consequences – namely that most of us spend a lot more time staring at a screen than we used to.
I’m very guilty of this. I spend a lot of time writing, and check my email and Facebook more often than I should. I watch a lot of YouTube, and make a little money doing online surveys. As a result, it’s not uncommon for me to spend most of the day in front of my laptop.
I’m very aware that this isn’t healthy, and have been making steps towards cutting down for a while now. I’ve banned myself from scrolling down Facebook, and rarely go on Tumblr (a site I used to spend far too much time on!). I also unsubscribed from most of the email mailing lists I was on. Although this is progress, it doesn’t feel like enough. It’s hard to know what to do about it, since many of my hobbies are dependent on using a computer.
In an attempt to solve this problem, I’ve been looking back at the ways I used to entertain myself before I had Internet access. For instance, I’ve always been a bookworm, but had been reading less and less as time went by.
My Kindle recently broke, and rather than replacing it, I decided to get a library card. It’s so much fun to browse the shelves and pick a few books to take home! I’m finding that I now read a lot more, especially as I have limited time to finish the books. And since the library is a mile and a half away, I get out of the house and get some exercise too.
Another thing I loved as a kid was puzzles. So I bought myself a puzzle book, and have been completing them whenever I feel like I need a break from the screen. I really enjoy it, and it’s good for my brain too. At some point, I’m planning to take up art again – I used to draw and paint often.
I’m slowly discovering the value of chores. They may be boring, but they get me out of my chair and away from the computer. Doing housework is decent exercise, and I’m left with a cleaner, tidier and more pleasant environment. It’s much easier to concentrate on writing when I’m not thinking about the looming pile of dirty laundry in the corner!
Since I love cooking, I sometimes take a break from the screen to bake something healthy. This has the advantage that it prevents me from snacking on unhealthy things, and it probably saves me money too.
I’ve also started going for a walk every day (even if it’s to the supermarket!). Going outside and getting some fresh air is important in its own right – exercising indoors isn’t the same.
The health impacts of being sedentary can be serious; there’s a reason why bad posture and back pain are so common in our society. In addition to walking, I try to do a yoga video every day – Yoga With Adriene has some month-long challenges which keep me motivated. I concentrate on the spoken instructions to avoid looking at the screen too much.
I’ve recently begun meditating too. I find it difficult, but the benefits are huge. It really helps with adopting a healthier and more mindful attitude to life.
I believe getting away from the screen is important for mental as well as physical health. After using the computer for too long, I often feel stressed, anxious and tense. When I spent two weeks living off-grid, I didn’t miss computers or the Internet at all. Quite the opposite – I felt a whole lot better. That’s made me all the more determined to minimise my screen-time.
Have you tried to cut down the time you spend on your phone or computer? Do you think it affects your health? I’d love to hear your experiences.