Benefits of Unplugging

Modern life is on a screen. We can deny it. We can choose to remain oblivious to it. We can make excuses for why that isn’t us, by saying that we take time to enjoy being outdoors, and I’m so active I don’t have time to be on my phone. If that’s true congrats, but for most of us, having so much information and entertainment at our fingertips is hard to resist. Oh, and by the way, I totally get the irony of posting an article about the benefits of unplugging in an online blog.

So, let’s take a quick look at a few of the different ways that being constantly plugged in can be detrimental to your health. Don’t unplug until after reading the whole article though.


Wasted Time

This one is number one in more ways than one. There is one resource in this world that there will never, ever be enough of, and that’s time. It may not feel like it when we are skimming through social media feeds, or watching a how to video on making the perfect lasagna (when you know you are actually never going to make a lasagna), but what’s actually happening, is you are killing time.

We see it at the gym all the time, as someone sits on a bench flipping through their phone, as their “rest” expands out to 2 or 3 minutes from it’s intended 30 seconds. Often that same person will find themselves short on time at the end of their work out and need to skip an exercise or two.

The gym isn’t the only place where we kill time that would be better spent on something else, whether it be work around the house, time spent with family or having an actual, physical hobby. The biggest detriment to constant check ins with social media, is the time it is costing, and let’s face it time is one thing we can’t get more of.

So before you attempt to “quickly check in” to social media, consider what else you could be doing with that time.

Technology = Inactivity

While a lot of the negative effects technology and being constantly plugged into social media have on our lives are mental and social, let’s not overlook the physical detriment being constantly plugged in can have on our bodies. Geralyn Coopersmith, MA, CSCS, member of the Equinox Fitness Training Institute points out, “The human body in uniquely designed for movement, not inactivity. Prolonged sitting is the cause of a lot of posture problems and can even contribute to diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease.”

“The posture you have when sitting at your desk typing promotes upper cross and lower cross syndromes, both which are associated with muscle pain and tightness,” adds Coopersmith.

That doesn’t even touch on the spike in neck and back issues being reported in teenagers and children caused by the general posture of using a smart phone.

Take a Break

The work life balance isn’t a new idea. Working people have known for a long time now that finding time for things are than work is important, but with the advent of smartphones and being constantly connected, bosses have taken full advantage and an ever increasing segment of the working population who are now expected to respond to calls and emails wherever and whenever they come in.

It got to be such an issue in France, that lawmakers took it into their own hands and passed a law that prohibited workers from taking calls and emails after normal work hours, French legislator Benoit Hamon, described the law as an answer to the travails of employees who “leave the office, but they do not leave their work. They remain attached by a kind of electronic leash—like a dog.”

Meanwhile, researcher Young Ah Park points out the feeling that is persisting in the average work place. “People may worry about job security, want to increase their salary or advance in their career, so they feel they have to be more dedicated to their work. They show that by being available outside of normal work hours through communication and information technologies.”

Something to keep in mind though, is that several studies have suggested that taking a break, not thinking about and dealing with work through technology during your off hours, will actually keep you refreshed, lead to less burnout and make you better at your job.

Those emails will still be there when you arrive at work tomorrow, so enjoy your downtime.

Better sleep

By now, most of us know the important role sleep plays when it pertains to our overall health and fitness. It’s a large part of the puzzle and one that can’t be taken lightly. Our constant obsession with being connected has led to a lack of quality sleep as it not only over stimulates our brains but the glow of technology on our eyes also make sleep difficult.

“Our brain has the capacity to perform a daily systematic downshifting of brainwave activity, and much of that transition is cued by the daily arrival of darkness,” says Sam Sugar, MD, Director of Sleep Services at the Pritikin Center in Florida, points out, and the constant glow and hum of technology interfers with that natural downshift.

Dr. Sugar adds “Sleep deficit is well known to be implicated in the development of obesity, high blood pressure, depression, heart disease, and a whole host of other issues.”

A Swedish study found that young people who used technology heavily had a pronounced risk for mental health problems like depression, stress, and sleep disorders

Author Sara Thomée points out, “Regularly using a computer late at night is associated not only with sleep disorders but also with stress and depressive symptoms in both men and women.”

Find ways to make your bed a technology free oasis in your life. Your bed is for sleep and sleep is good for your health, so why not take whatever steps you can to be as healthy as you can.

New Forms of Stress

We all experience stress. It’s just a fact of life. Whether it’s over making sure the bills are covered, wondering what’s causing the car to make that weird bump or any number of stressor’s brought on by our work lives.

What researchers are noticing now, however is that there are new forms of stress arising out of our over use of technology and our constant connection to social media. It puts us all in a weird form of competition with each other and with people who, without social media, wouldn’t even be a part of our lives.

Coral Arvon, PhD, Director of Behavioral Health and Wellness at the Pritikin Center believes that it has created, “The feeling of needing to be involved and always ‘on’ actually creates more stress,” and adds, “People are constantly comparing themselves to their friends on Facebook. Users can make snap judgments based on a friend’s new career jump or vacation photo album that can make them feel left out, less glamorous, and inadequate that their life isn’t as fun.”

Real Relationships

Technology puts the world in the palm of your hands. It’s a phrase we’ve all heard in one form or another, but in reality, the world, our world is right in front of us all the time. Our world is made up of people. Family, friends and co-workers, and our current obsession with being plugged in is costing us those relationships.

“Take a look the next time you go to a meeting. That 15 or so minutes while everyone is filing in and finding a seat was once a vital part of building a real social community,” Says Dr. Mary Johansson, Psychologist and Social Specialist. “Now that time is often spent with everyone’s eyes glued to a screen, ignoring those around them.”

Unfortunately, that isn’t only happening with our co-workers. Technology has been shifting the family dynamic, and not in a positive way. A recent study conducted in the UK by the Headmasters and Headmistress’s Conference, shows that kids have noticed the negative effects of being plugged in all the time.

The chairman of the HMC, Mike Buchanan says of the study, “Our poll shows that children are aware of many of the risks associated with overuse of technology but they need the adults in their lives to set clear boundaries and role model sensible behavior. To achieve this, we need to join up the dots between school and home and give consistent advice.” 

All of this lack of maintaining real relationships has led to a death in the art of conversation, as people have begun to communicate more through text messages and emails that can be analyzed and studied before they are responded too with responses that can be over thought and edited. This has led to an inability for people to carry on a proper conversation where what is being said needs to be understood and responded to immediately.

Unplug

So if being constantly plugged in carry’s so many negative effects, what can you do about it?

Well step one is easy. You’ve read this. You’ve seen yourself in some of these descriptions, and the odds are you are evaluating how you use technology and where and when you have been over using social media and spending way to much time plugged in.

The next step is to simply be mindful. Pay attention to when technology is aiding you and when it’s just keeping you from using your time better. Be mindful of the time you are spending with your families and try to not even have your phone with you, so that you aren’t tempted to be constantly checking it.

Try not to have your phone next to your bed, and try and go tech free for a half hour before bed and find other moments where instead of watching another episode on Netflix you can do something active and get some fresh air into you.

Disconnect from the people on social media who are needlessly feeling in competition with. If it isn’t someone in your real life, but only in your online life, just let them go.

All of this is easy to say and not necessarily easy to do, but simply being mindful will help you to get, at least a little less plugged in.


Posted by Lorne Marr.
Lorne Marr is a Toronto-based fitness enthusiast and lifelong advocate of healthy living. He is on a journey to discover the best methods of training and nutrition for athletes and weekend warriors over 45. Connect with Lorne on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

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