The internet is an incredible tool with a long list of benefits. Ghostery is an internet company after all. However, unplugging from the internet can be very beneficial to your health. Our society promotes a constant need for connection. As a result, using our devices shifts from during times of convenience to full-on compulsions. Feelings of restlessness, anxiety, stress, and FOMO (fear of missing out) creep in after just a few minutes of being offline.
Many of us are living with an unhealthy dependence on the internet and our devices. Research studies have proven over and over again the negative consequences of this excessive use – taking a toll on our physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Recognizing when it’s time to take a break is a crucial part of effective self-care and maintaining healthy relationships with the technology in our life.
If the risk of developing an internet addiction hasn’t convinced you to take occasional breaks, here are a few more reasons to consider.
We, as a society, are busier than we’ve ever been. Filling each day to the brim and moving through the tasks like an ongoing itinerary. We are so used to this feeling of hurry and anticipating the next thing, that moments of stillness make us uneasy. Waiting in line. Riding an elevator. Walking to class or to work. So instead of embracing these moments, we fill them. We check our email one more time, scroll through Twitter, refresh our Instagram feed. In doing so, we sacrifice our ability to be fully present. Present to ourselves and to the world around us. Studies have shown that mindfulness and being present in the moment is key to a happier life.
Have you ever been to a restaurant and seen a couple or a family sitting together in silence, each person on their phone? It is so common for real-life moments with friends, family, and coworkers to be interrupted by those little devices in our pockets. We fall into the misguided belief that more social media means more connection, when, in fact, it can increase our feelings of loneliness and depression. Fully committing our time and attention to opportunities that nourish our real-world relationships is a far better strategy for feeling connected.
Improved Focus & Productivity
Similar to our social life, our constant need to check our phones and online accounts can significantly decrease our ability to focus on tasks. We are incapable of giving 100% of our focus to multiple tasks. Instead, the concept of multitasking is essentially your ability to split your focus or switch between tasks. In the former, 50% of your focus goes to the task you’re working on, 30% to the pings and dings of your phone, and 20% to the music you have streaming in the background, resulting in less quality work. In the latter, you give 100% of your focus to a task for say, 20 minutes, before being interrupted and switching your focus to your phone for the following 20 minutes. This results in the inability to settle into what is known as a flow. Scarily, even just the presence of an ignored cell phone can be a distraction, reducing our cognitive capacity. You’re better off keeping it in the other room.
One more quick check before I call it a night… 2 hours later. We’ve all fallen into this trap. It’s easy to get sucked into a digital black hole and lose track of time, costing us what could have been quality sleep. Or maybe you get in bed without your devices but have trouble getting your body to rest. This may be a result of too much screen time in the hours prior. Studies have shown that blue light emitting from screens can delay the brain’s production of melatonin, making it difficult to fall asleep. Researchers suggest avoiding screens for the last hour or two before bed. Quality sleep is an essential part of health and is worth the extra time without devices.
Recognize Unhealthy Habits
Sometimes we can’t see the forest for the trees. We don’t realize just how much time we spend on the internet and our devices, or how often pick up our phone for no real reason, or how distracted we truly are. To fully understand, we have to step away. We have to see the bigger picture. Taking a break creates space for self-realization and the recognition of unhealthy habits and routines that may have, knowingly or unknowingly, developed over time.
Implementing breaks from devices and the internet looks different for everyone. We all live unique lives that are intermingled with technology. Maybe you take short breaks throughout the day. Maybe you unplug for one full day a week. However you choose to do it, it is well worth being done. Try getting family and friends to do it with you. If you’re looking for more resources about unplugging, check out https://www.screenfree.org/.