Screen time refers to any time spent looking at a laptop, phone, or TV. Many people know that too much screen time can cause health problems such as deteriorating vision, chronic dry eyes, depression and anxiety, neck and back pain, and sleep issues; but screens have become an integral part of daily life in the western world, and it is almost impossible to avoid them altogether. Experts suggest that people use screens for less than two hours a day, which is often unachievable. However, many people could reduce the current amount of time they spend looking at screens.
Set Your Phone to Black and White
Social media sites are designed to be addictive; using social media can activate the same part of the brain that lights up when you use addictive substances. Your brain derives a pleasure response that triggers a compulsion to keep scrolling, watching videos, and engaging with the site even if you are not enjoying yourself. Setting the screen to black and white can help to tackle this problem by reducing the brain’s pleasure response, making it much easier to regulate your social media use.
Most people are in the habit of brainstorming or planning projects on a computer. However, there are times when it would be possible to make notes and plans on paper and just complete a final write-up on the computer. The problem is that it is often so much faster and more convenient to type rather than write. Learning shorthand can help you to create handwritten notes and plans as quickly as you could if typing on a computer. Using handwritten notes rather than electronic ones also forces you to regularly look away from the computer whilst working, giving your eyes valuable intermittent breaks from looking at the screen.
Learn to Touch Type
Touch typing is a useful skill that can speed up your work and make you more efficient, especially when writing reports or completing other long, wordy assignments. Touch typists are able to type effectively and accurately without looking at the screen to constantly check for errors as they occur. By learning to touch type properly, you can look at the keyboard, at handwritten notes, or just at a non-electronic focal spot while you write, checking the document periodically to proofread for errors.
Carry a Book
It is very common to find yourself pulling out your phone when you are waiting or bored. Standing in line at the coffee shop, waiting for a bus or train to arrive, or even trying to avoid making eye contact with people in a public place are all situations where you might instinctively look at your phone to avoid discomfort. Try carrying a book or magazine that you can look at or listen to in moments like these. You could also listen to music on your phone if you can avoid the urge to scroll through apps and social media as well.
Find a TV Activity
Find a skill or hobby that you can comfortably do whilst watching TV. This might seem counterproductive, but many people spend time each day watching TV specifically for the purpose of vegging out and switching off their brains rather than because they are engrossed in a show and want to concentrate fully. Finding an activity that you can do whilst watching TV, for example, knitting or other simple craft activities, painting your nails, doing light exercise, or completing chores such as ironing or folding laundry, means that you will spend considerably less time focused on the screen than if you simply sit staring at the TV.
Make More Phone Calls
Video calling has become the new face-to-face meeting, and this has positive merits; it is a great way to catch up with family and friends who live far away, or have work meetings without having to waste time travelling. But consider swapping some video chats for regular phone calls. Catching up over the phone can be just as nice as over video chat, and many people actually find it less stressful. Plus, it can save you from an hour of staring intently at a screen.
Detox From Addictive Technology
Do you spend four hours a day scrolling through Instagram or TikTok? Are you an avid video gamer? If you spend large chunks of your time doing one particular screen-based activity, it is a good idea to schedule regular detox periods to avoid becoming too addicted. You might select one day a week where you avoid social media completely or even a weekend where you lock your gaming console in a cupboard and give a trusted friend the key; the scarier the idea of going without technology, the more important it is that you give your mind and eyes a break from it. After detoxing, many people find they are able to use the technology less, but that they will revert to old habits over time, which is why scheduling regular detoxes is a great solution.
Use Your Lunch Break
If you work or study at a computer all day, taking a break in the middle of the day is vital for your health. If you stay home or in the office, the temptation is to look at your phone or watch TV, which means you don’t get a decent screen break all day. Try to go for a walk on your lunch break, or actively go somewhere you won’t look at screens, for example going shopping or to the gym. If you can’t leave your workplace or home at lunchtime, or if you only get a short break, try to at least physically leave your workstation and move around, or do a non-screen-based activity like meditating, reading, chatting with co-workers, or listening to music.
Make a List
Most people have times in the day when they have to use screens for work or study, or when they actively choose to engage in screen-based hobbies. But many people find themselves engaging in screen-based activities out of boredom, habit, or addiction, without really wanting to. Be honest with yourself about the amount of time each day you spend in front of a screen; there are tracker apps that can help you work out exactly how long this is. List every screen-based activity you engage in throughout an average day and decide which activities you will continue, and which you want to actively stop. Many people are shocked by how many times a day they reach for their phone subconsciously, or how many hours they spend watching reels of videos online. Writing it down on paper can help you to gain a sense of perspective and feel more in control of your screen time, leading to habitual changes that will make you healthier over time.
Screens are avoidable for the vast majority of people, but there are lots of ways you can reduce the amount of time you spend staring at a screen and the consequent impact on your physical and mental health. Be honest with yourself about how much screen time you engage in, learn skills or make technology switches, and address any addictive behaviours or habits you might have developed. Reducing your screen time is possible and many people find that they are happier and healthier when they cut down.