Put down that device!

Taking a technology breather is good for your health

Created date

September 13th, 2018
A man in a vest squints at his cellphone while walking down the street.

Where is the nearest coffee shop?

Did Marcia reply to my email?

What’s the name of that guy in that movie?

Smartphones, tablets, and other devices have made answering these questions—and so many more like them—easier than ever. You likely reach for your phone without even thinking about it, whether to check a text, send an email, browse social media, get directions, take a photo, or play a game.

Because these devices are so portable and convenient, they’ve become a ubiquitous presence in most people’s lives. One study by British psychologists showed that adults spend an average of five hours a day looking at their smartphones. That’s almost 20% of the day!

And how many times do you think you simply look at your phone throughout the day? Experts say it’s probably double what you estimate.

Naturally, this type of behavior is accompanied by downsides. Research has shown that extended smartphone or tablet usage can be linked to physical ailments like eye strain and muscle pain, along with psychological effects, including disrupted sleep patterns, stress, and anxiety.

Make up your mind

The first step to combating these effects is a firm resolve. Depending on your frequency of use, you may find it more difficult than you expect to separate from your devices for a meaningful amount of time. But don’t be discouraged! As with all positive change, creating a routine that works for you will yield the best results.

You likely won’t need any ideas for how to spend your device-free time—reading a book, enjoying nature, meeting a friend for lunch. Below are a few ways to help you carve out that time and keep it uninterrupted.

Leave your phone in the kitchen when you go to sleep. It doesn’t have to be the kitchen, but keeping devices out of your bedroom stops you from staying up longer to peruse them aimlessly—and eliminates the temptation to check them if you wake up in the middle of the night.

Set aside regular device-free hours. Make yourself a phone-free, tablet-free schedule. It can be as simple as deciding to enjoy your morning coffee without looking at a screen, or as regimented as a dedicated device-free block of time each afternoon.

Stop push notifications. One of the most disruptive features of your devices is little pings for text messages, emails, voicemails, news alerts, social media likes, and much more every few minutes. Turning off those notifications can prevent you from checking the device so frequently—and often unnecessarily.

Turn it off! This is the most straightforward way to take a real technology breather. Turn your device off completely for a full break, or put it in “airplane mode” so you can still play music or use the camera.

With so many people “cutting the cord” and relying on devices like smartphones to be their primary means of contact, taking a tech respite is getting tougher. Feeling unreachable can be unsettling at first—but it can also be freeing, even in small doses.

Not too long ago, everyone was unreachable for large parts of their days, and somehow they got by. If you’re experiencing any of the negative effects of device usage, it may be worth it to “travel back in time” and experiment with regular breaks.