Technology is an integral part of most of our lives – and there’s nothing wrong with that! We rely on it to do our jobs, communicate with friends and family, find answers for our questions, and so much more. If you’re reading this right now, it’s because you have access to the internet via a phone, tablet, computer, or other device. Did you know, on average, Americans spend over 50 hors per week online? This “world at your fingertips” has so many great parts, and yet it can be extremely damaging to your health if you never take a break.
Too much screen time can disrupt normal sleep patterns and cause insomnia, lead to increased feelings of isolation, and decrease your attention span over time. And from a physical therapist’s standpoint, walking around looking down at your phone or sitting hunched at your computer for hours on end is terrible for your spine!
We’re not telling you to give up technology altogether – smartphones and other devices are an important part of the world we live in. However, research shows it can be an incredibly beneficial to engage in a sort of “detox” from your gadgets and take a break! This doesn’t have to be as extreme as locking up your phone for a week or quitting social media. There’s plenty you can do to take small steps towards freeing up those hours that you would otherwise spend online. For example, you can turn your phone off in the evenings, for instance at 5:00 or 6:00, so that you are not staring at a screen for several hours before bed. This allows your brain to produce its natural levels of melatonin, which your body needs to both fall and stay asleep. Another option would be to delete certain apps off your phone. Is Facebook a big time suck for you? Try eliminating it from your mobile devices so that you can only access it from a computer. That way, you can prevent distraction when you’re out and about. You can also delete those games you play out of boredom – which will free up your storage as well as your time!
It’s hard to put away the phone altogether. We rely on it for things like its camera and music. If you’re carrying your phone with you constantly, try putting it on airplane mode. You won’t get texts or social media alerts, but you’ll still have access to those important things like your camera, music, calendar, and clock. You’ll be less distracted, but still get to enjoy a lot of what your smartphone can offer.
If you spend a lot of time during the day on the computer for our job, or have other commitments that require screen time, consider incorporating timed breaks into your day every 25 minutes to stretch and/or walk around. Easy everyday movement and mobility exercises really help to invigorate your body, and taking these breaks will ease tension in your back. You can read more about how to improve your posture, and reduce pain, while at work here. If your job requires constant sitting, try to stay up and moving when you get home. It’s easy to flop onto the couch after a long day, but consider stretching or doing a simple in-home workout while watching TV. Or instead of devoting hours strictly to TV watching, you can catch up on shows while making dinner or folding laundry, for example. Pairing a mobile activity with a passive activity like watching TV will not only make you more productive, but it will also save your back from the pressure and imbalance of prolonged sitting!