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Take a Break From Technology and Get Back to Your Roots to Boost Your Mood

I'm a freelance writer and editor, blooming in the desert with my husband, son, two dogs, two cats and several plants.

Whether you're a kid or an adult, screen time is practically unavoidable in the 21st Century. It's important for your health to take a break from technology now and again.

Whether you're a kid or an adult, screen time is practically unavoidable in the 21st Century. It's important for your health to take a break from technology now and again.

Does your artificially lit, windowless work cubicle feel like a suffocating vortex from which you will never escape? Are you endlessly entranced by the eternal glow of your personal laptop? Did you fall down the stairs while doomscrolling on Twitter (again)?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, you're not alone. This is the information (and disinformation) age, also known as the technology or digital age. It's an exciting ride, but one filled with sudden dips, curves, twists, and speed bumps. Like any other rollercoaster, you have to sit on the sidelines from time to time.

Life in the Digital Age

My personal relationship with technology began with Mr. Roger's Neighborhood and Sesame Street on TV in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Then, in 1983, my dad brought home an Apple IIe (and two floppy disks with The Oregon Trail), followed by an Atari in 1984. It was life-changing.

Despite the differences between computer technology now and then, you can't deny its growing influence on society. Almost all kids and adults are tethered to an electronic device.

COVID-19 accelerated both our appreciation of and dependence on electronics, including those of us who were already highly dependent: 61% of remote workers find it more difficult to unplug during off-hours now than before the pandemic, according to a study by WalletHub.

How Much Screen Time Is OK?

There's no universal approach to limiting screen time, but the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests:

  1. Under 18 months: None (except video chatting)
  2. Children 2-5: One hour daily on weekdays, 2 hours on weekends
  3. All ages: Turn off screens 60 minutes before bedtime

Ultimately, it's up to you to pay attention to your health and use your best judgment. Contact your doctor if you have concerns.

Why You Should Take a Break from Technology

The blue light emitted by digital screens is a major culprit when it comes to eye strain, macular degeneration, and circadian rhythms. Too much screen time may also cause other physical and mental health symptoms.

Health Hazards of Technology

  • Headaches
  • Addictive behaviors
  • Obesity (from lack of movement)
  • Neck, shoulder, and back pain
  • Cognition changes
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
Enjoying the natural landscape, such as that of Bryce Canyon National Park in southern Utah, is a great way to get off the grid.

Enjoying the natural landscape, such as that of Bryce Canyon National Park in southern Utah, is a great way to get off the grid.

Other Reasons to Log Off, Reboot

Social Media Mayhem: A survey of U.S. adults found that social media use was associated with greater likelihood of subsequent increase in depressive symptoms.

Lack of Privacy and Cybercrimes: Identity theft, phishing scams, hacking and even cyberterrorism, to name a few.

Nature-Deficit Disorder: Coined by author Richard Louv in his 2005 book, Last Child in the Woods, the term describes "the human costs of alienation from nature" such as an increase in isolation, loneliness and depression.

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Though Louv's book focuses on children, people of all ages are at risk: Parents burying their faces in Facebook; teens watching endless Tik Toks; kids playing video games all day, instead of going outside to kick a ball or ride a bike.

Nature deficit is not an official medical diagnosis, but the remedy is spending time outside, according to a pilot study by medical experts: "Connection to nature appears to be associated with reduced stress and greater holistic health and well-being, thus counteracting the risk of untoward effects from nature-deficit disorder."

A 2019 University of Exeter study found that those who spent two hours or more in natural environments were significantly more likely to report "good health and high well-being" than those who didn't.

Unsafe Selfies: The perfect profile pic isn't worth your life, yet the list of senseless selfie-related deaths goes on and on, including a 19-year-old Dutch man who fell of the Liberty Bridge and a U.S. hiker who fell approximately 700 feet in Lost Dutchman State Park.

Walking and Texting: Walking while looking at your smartphone is a potentially dangerous habit that can even lead to death. In 2013, the Guardian reported that a woman in Australia walked off a pier while Facebooking on her mobile phone. Fortunately, she survived.

Take a walk (without electronics). Above, Zion National Park in southwestern Utah.

Take a walk (without electronics). Above, Zion National Park in southwestern Utah.

Will Spongebob Rot My Brain?

Remember when your mom said too much TV would rot your brain, and you rolled your eyes and laughed it off, then turned around years later and said the same thing to your kids?

It may or may not be true.

A Bureau of Economic Affairs paper concluded in 2006 that television, "if anything, had positive effects," but noted "developmental effects to childhood television viewing may require reevaluation."

An infamous 2011 study found that watching fast-paced television cartoons like Spongebob Square Pants had an immediate, most likely temporary, negative impact on preschoolers' executive functions.

A more recent study suggests that greater amounts of TV viewing may correlate to reduced amounts of cranial gray matter (the hub of mental processing).

Tech fact: Camping without electronics for one week resets our biological body clock and synchronizes our melatonin hormones with sunrise and sunset, according to didyouknowblog.com.

Positive Side of Technology

From progress in education, healthcare and automation to connecting people globally, there are countless ways that electronics improve society. And 52% of adults surveyed by Pew Research Center agree. They said technology has a mostly positive effect on their lives, citing benefits including:

  • Increased availability of information
  • Improved interconnectedness
  • Scientific advancements
  • Improvements in industry, jobs

Only 8% of those surveyed reported negative effects.

Tech tip: Use the 20-20-20 rule to alleviate visual eyestrain when using a computer: Take a 20-second break to view something 20 feet away every 20 minutes.

10 Things to Do Outside Without Technology

Modern technology making you sick? Try a technology sick day or Tech Shabbat (coined in 2010). Once a week, turn off your smartphone, unplug your computer, and head outdoors. Show that Apple Watch it isn't the boss of you by stuffing it in a drawer.

1. Dine Al Fresco and Spill the Tea

Catch up with an old friend over brunch and mimosas on the patio at your favorite restaurant. Do not take photos of your food or check in on Facebook.

2. Take Your Kids to the Park

Set them loose on the playground to get their wiggles out and, maybe, join them.

3. Start a Community Garden

Or, plant veggies and fruits in your own backyard. Former first lady Michelle Obama created this handy step-by-step guide for families: Kitchen Garden Checklist.

Lafayette Greens Urban Garden in downtown Detroit, Mich.

Lafayette Greens Urban Garden in downtown Detroit, Mich.

4. Draw an Epic Masterpiece in Sidewalk Chalk

If you don't like how it comes out, just wash it away.

5. Walk the Dogs

Nothing makes your dog's tail wag faster than going on a walk with his best friend.

6. Round up Your Crew for a Game of Disc Golf

Check your local listings for disc golf courses in your area.

7. Visit a National Park

There's a reason it's called America the Beautiful.

8. Feel Your Toes in the Sand at the Beach

You live near the beach? Why aren't you already there?

Head to the beach for a natural escape from tech. Beach in La Jolla, CA, above.

Head to the beach for a natural escape from tech. Beach in La Jolla, CA, above.

9. Fly a Kite on a Windy Day

You'll feel a true sense of accomplishment when you see your kite soaring through the air.

10. Take a Hike

And please don't try snapping any unsafe selfies.

Good Luck!

Spending less time on your screens can be challenging, especially if you're accustomed to frequent use. If you have any tips or more ideas to share about the effects of screen time, let us know in the comments below!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

Comments

Aleza Freeman (author) from Las Vegas, NV on June 18, 2012:

@DebWelch Sometimes it's hard to believe we ever existed without all these technological gizmos. But we did ... and it was good!

Deb Welch on June 16, 2012:

I unplug and put the laptop away for a day or more - I know when I get overloaded. Don't have a SmartPhone or an iPhone - can't afford it and don't need it. Can't miss something you never had. Good Hub.

Aleza Freeman (author) from Las Vegas, NV on March 01, 2012:

@neeleshkulkarni Haha I love the irony of that as you Facebook status message! Awesome.

neeleshkulkarni from new delhi on March 01, 2012:

i have been following the no phone calls policy on sundays and holidays for years.I normally switch off the phone when i get home on saturdays and do not switch it on till monday morning.The computer yes, i do fiddle with it on sundays for a whole since that is the only occasion when i have freee time to do it unfettered but once i switch it off it stays off.

Would love to do that for television too but the wife would not agree to that and at this age and financial status it will be tough finding another one.

am making the statement "show the 21st Century it isn't the boss of you" my status message for facebook- hope it is not copy righted!

Aleza Freeman (author) from Las Vegas, NV on January 09, 2012:

Thanks @jpmc I totally agree.

JP Carlos from Quezon CIty, Phlippines on January 09, 2012:

Of course technology is there to make our lives easier. But there are times when we need to unplug. It pays to spend time with family and friends (not in the cyberworld). Great hub, it's a true eye-opener.

Aleza Freeman (author) from Las Vegas, NV on December 11, 2011:

Ha! @livelonger I have the same problem. It's so hard to avoid it all together. I intended to take a long break after I posted this hub and yet...

Jason Menayan from San Francisco on December 11, 2011:

I've tried to do a "technology Shabbat" for a long time, but always have a "reason" to pick up my phone or computer. One of these days I will manage to actually do so, and I suspect I'll find it liberating (and I'll wonder why it took me so long).

Aleza Freeman (author) from Las Vegas, NV on December 11, 2011:

Soul refreshing is definitely a big thumbs up!

Danette Watt from Illinois on December 11, 2011:

I absolutely hate to see parents (usually moms) out with their kids (i.e., in the grocery store) talking or texting on their phones while the child sits in the cart with no interaction from her. That video you posted is so true. I mentioned that or a similar study in a hub I wrote on the hidden benefits of joining a CSA. I feel a big difference in myself when I have had a chance to talk a walk in the woods or go to a park or pick vegetables at my CSA - it refreshes my soul.

Nice hub, voted up

Aleza Freeman (author) from Las Vegas, NV on December 07, 2011:

Thank you @HendrikDB

HendrikDB on December 07, 2011:

Interesting!

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