Technology has become such an integral part of our lives that it's hard to imagine living without it. Although it definitely has its benefits, sometimes we just need to unplug, so it's important to find healthy ways to disconnect. Although there are definitely times when we need to check our email or have our phones on hand, most of us have spent more time on Instagram than we would like or have spent time texting someone else when hanging out with your friends or family.
"Today's technology is created to suck you in," says Melody J. Wilding, LMSW, over email. "Every email, every click, and every action is designed to keep you connected and using more. We have to deliberately disengage with technology in order to mentally re-energize and make space for highly important creative thinking and the capacity to empathize and connect with others."
Technology can be a positive in our lives, but like anything, in needs to be used in moderation. Nothing can replace the importance of real-life social interaction, and putting our technology away can help encourage that, along with other healthy habits.
If you're looking to cut down on your technology use in a balanced way, consider these six healthy ways to disconnect.
1. Have An Alternate Option
"Have a list of other 'treats' you can turn to instead of technology," says Wilding. "Work on curbing your obsessive Netflix addiction by having other, healthier outlets at the ready to turn to when you feel bored. For example, maybe it's reading a great fiction novel or having yoga routines you can do."
2. Extinguish Your Triggers
"If you have a habit of checking your phone at red lights, get rid of the temptation by leaving your phone in the back seat or the trunk, for example," says Wilding. "It sounds extreme and maybe even silly, but over time you'll extinguish the trigger and the urge to check, and you'll gradually be able to work up towards having your phone in the front console without checking it."
3. Tell People Your Boundaries
"Inform the people in your life of your new behaviors and boundaries," says Wilding. "You have to articulate any technology behaviors changes you are making to friends, family, and the people you work with, otherwise you'll constantly be in a position of forever responding to demands instead of being in control."
4. Have Designated "Check Out" Times
If you're having a hard time tearing yourself apart from your phone or computer, plan a technology-less part of the day. "Plan to step away from your desk to talk to a co-worker instead of writing that e-mail, picking up the phone, or sending a text," says Rachel Dubrow, LCSW over email. "If you need to set an alarm to remind yourself to take five minutes and close your laptop, shut off your phone, etc., then do so."
5. Have A Phone-Free Dinner Policy
We've all seen how silly those people look sitting around the table at a restaurant looking down instead of at each other, but we've also probably been there ourselves. "Instead of looking at phones or the TV, take this time to talk about your days, laugh about old memories, and problem solve about whatever is going on," says Dubrow.
6. Shut Down At Bed Time
"Our brains need time to adjust to getting ready for sleep," says Dubrow. "By disconnecting from technology before bedtime, we give ourselves and our brains the opportunity to unwind, which leads to more restful sleep." In fact, research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that using electronic devices before bed can disrupt our patterns of sleep, so all the more reason to shut off once you hit the sheets.
You don't need to shut off technology completely, but making a conscious effort to disconnect here and there will probably have some noticeably-positive effects on your day.
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