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Take breaks from technology — for the health of it

Posted by Medavie Blue Cross on March 05, 2021

Can you imagine going a day disconnected from your cellphone, tablet, laptop, or computer? Can’t even? Not going to happen?

You’re definitely in the majority. According to a recent study published by Forbes, the average adult spends as many as 12 hours a day in front of a screen.

So, what are we missing out on when we’re playing video games, doomscrolling the news, following social media, answering emails and binge-watching TV? Probably sleeping, exercising, having face-to-face conversations with friends and family, getting outdoors, and enjoying the natural beauty surrounding us, living in the moment, and more.

Eventually, too much screen time can negatively impact our physical and mental health. Here are just a few of the harmful effects:

Physical strain to your eyes and body

Staring at a screen for extended periods of time can cause neck and shoulder pain, as well as a condition known as “computer vision syndrome.” Symptoms, likely familiar to many of us, include strained, dry eyes, blurred vision, and headaches.

Sleep deprivation

Studies have established a clear link between heavy computer and mobile device use and restless sleep. That’s because the blue light from digital devices overwhelms the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin, keeping us from getting a decent amount of shut-eye.

Increased risk of obesity and chronic health conditions

Even two hours of TV a day can increase the risk of weight gain, as well as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some types of cancer. Among the reasons for this are inactivity and loss of sleep, not to mention seeing all those ads for unhealthy ‘junk’ foods.

One study found that sitting in front of a computer or TV more than four hours a day can double your likelihood of dying or being hospitalized for heart disease — and exercise won’t help lower the risk.

Studies have also noted higher cholesterol and blood pressure in kids who watch more TV as well as weight gain among teens.

Loss of cognitive ability, impaired socialising skills and weakened emotional judgment

Our brain goes through major transformations during our tween and teen years, which makes adolescents and young adults more vulnerable to the impacts of screen time on brain function and emotional wellbeing. Youth who spent a lot of time on TV and on a computer are more likely to suffer from attention disorders, lack self-confidence and have a higher chance of psychological issues.

Delayed learning in young children

Our children are picking up a bad screen habit at an early age. In fact, one study found that before infants reached their first birthday, 92% had used a mobile device! According to the American Academy of Pediatrics Studies, screen time can affect the normal development of fundamental learning, language, and emotional skills.

So how do we, and our families, kick the screen habit? We know that’s easier said than done while we’re safe at home during this pandemic and doing more online learning, streaming, and zooming than ever before to stay connected, and at the same time protected. However, we can start with a one-day fast, also known as a digital detox.

National Day of Unplugging is an awareness campaign that encourages us to take a 24-hour break from technology. The goal is to inspire a healthy life-tech balance that lasts well beyond this day, both for our individual and collective wellbeing.

Participation is open to anyone who wishes to put human connection ahead of digital interaction.

You can join the National Day of Unplugging by participating in screen-free activities from sunrise-to-sunset from March 5-6, 2021. Check out a few ideas of what to do on this special day here.

We suggest you unplug and unwind not just on this one day, but every day. Think of all the great ways that you can spend this extra free time. Whether it’s baking cookies with the kids, reading a good book, taking a scenic drive, decluttering your closet, or having a laugh over dinner, a digital detox is sure to lead to a healthier and happier you.

If your work requires you to be in front of a screen a lot, step away from your computer desk a few times a day to take a walk outdoors, do a light stretch or meditate.

Not only will disconnecting from our devices be life-changing, it could be life-saving.

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