Healthy living is so much more than what you eat and how much you work out. It encompasses your entire life. Healthy living is going to the dentist, flossing your teeth, seeing your doctor for an annual checkup and managing your stress levels. It’s what you watch on TV (or YouTube), your relationships, and your mindset.
There are people that “eat clean” and exercise seven days a week that are not healthy at all because of obsessive behaviors, lack of quality relationships and poor recovery. A healthy lifestyle is about living a balanced lifestyle: Food, exercise, and even your screen time.
Do you need a digital wellness intervention? I know I do.
WHAT IS DIGITAL WELLNESS?
Digital wellness is the level of healthy habits associated with our digital usage. Do we use social media and the internet as a tool to do business and connect to friends, or do we let it become a time-suck that takes us further away from our goals and personal relationships? Look at your usage honestly and objectively and decide for yourself: How strong is your digital wellness?
A lot of us are obsessed with our phones. I may be the worst offender. We Americans check our phone updates eighty times a day!. What started innocently enough with technological advances could be hurting our long term health, both mentally and physically. Whaaat?
Mentally we get addicted to checking our phones. Sometimes I turn off my phone during the day in an attempt to reduce the number of times I look at it, and I still find myself forgetting it is off and checking on it.
It affects our attention span when our brains get used to being stimulated every couple of minutes (or seconds!). I notice that I have a harder time sitting down and focusing on long term projects (like my book I swear I was writing—something I am working on).
But physically? How can our phone affect us physically, save walking into traffic while staring at our Facebook feeds? The blue light emitting from our screens can mess with our circadian rhythm which affects the quality of our sleep. When you have poor sleep quality or quantity it can lead to health problems.
Most of our body’s repair processes happen during sleep, so diminished sleep quality leads to reduced results from our fitness efforts. If we are not recovering properly, we’re not getting stronger or faster, and if we keep pushing without adequate recovery, it leads to overtraining, sickness, and injury.
Lack of sleep can cause hormone imbalance, can make you feel hungrier which can lead to overeating and possible weight gain or difficulty losing weight.
If you’re not paying attention, your phone habit could be affecting your health in tangible ways.
10 WAYS TO REDUCE PHONE USAGE
The obvious solution is to reduce unproductive phone usage, but we’ve become addicted, so it’s not as easy at it sounds. Here are some strategies to limit phone time. As in any new habit, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Don’t throw your phone into the ocean (I live in North Texas, the ocean is far away) or revert to a flip phone, work to reduce screen time a bit, then a little bit more. Work in stages until your screen time is at a healthy level.
Try a digital detox
I dislike the word detox when it comes to nutrition because it implies that our liver can’t do its job to detox our body without our intervention, which is far from the truth. However, a digital detox may be the most effective detox you can do for your health!
Can you turn your phone off entirely for a weekend? Too scary? How about a whole day? Or in the evenings after six? After an extended break from your phone, you might feel separation anxiety, but after a while, your head will feel clearer.
Make it inconvenient
One time we were in a vacuum repair store (yes, these places still exist) and when my husband reached for his wallet to pay for the part, he realized he left his money at home. As I pulled out my debit card to pay, the cashier said, “How convenient” (with a long draw on the ‘ven’) joking that my husband forgot on purpose so he wouldn’t have to pay. Now anytime a situation is inconvenient, we always say “How inconvenient!” Use our inside joke to remember how to make digital wellness easier.
Social media is right at our fingertips. It’s easy to check for updates every ten minutes all day long. Make it slightly more inconvenient to check your phone. Turn it off (or place in airplane mode) when you’re not using it (turn it on to check occasionally throughout the day). Delete social media apps from your phone.
Worried about emergencies if your phone is off? Place your iPhone on do not disturb, and set an emergency bypass contact.
Keep it out of sight when working, put it away in a drawer or behind a cabinet door. Keep it plugged into the wall while at home so that if you want to look at social media, you have to stand close to the plug, rather than to relax on the couch or in bed.
Limit social media usage
I love social media. I have formed real friendships with people I originally met online, just ask my Blogfest friends!
Social media is not the devil. It’s an integral part of doing business for some people, including me. Use your social media time strategically, so a post that is work-related, or to connect with friends, doesn’t turn in two hours of cat videos or epic fails on YouTube. Set a timer on your phone for 10 to 15 minutes at a time.
Replace phone time with a healthier habit
Developing healthy habits is the core of my lifestyle choices. It’s how I learned to eat healthy and exercise without relying on daily motivation or willpower. The best way to change a bad habit is the replace it with something healthier, yet similarly satisfying.
Find other ways to pass the time: Take a walk, read a book, call a friend, write a letter; Tell someone how much you appreciate them, write a gratitude list, work towards your goals. Just imagine how much you could accomplish if you work towards your goals eighty times a day (the number of times Americans look at their phones).
Turn off your phone during meals
Go ahead and take the picture of your food for Instagram (we can’t change ALL our bad habits at once) but then put away the phone as you eat your meal.
Make it a rule to never look at your phone during meals. It will help you be more mindful during meals, which can help you slow down and eat less, plus you’ll be more engaged with the people you eat meals with, which leads to healthier relationships. Win. Win.
Turn off your phone three hours before bed
Three hours? That seem like a lot, right? But this simple step can improve percentage of deep sleep you get each night, an important factor for health. You are trading meaningless scrolling for better health.
Limiting screen time at night is vital for improving the quality of your sleep. It may feel like scrolling your phone at night before bed is relaxing, but you could be sacrificing deep sleep for your phone hobby. There are healthier ways to unwind at night.
Never use social media while sitting
I think I first heard of this idea years ago from Carla Birnberg —- maybe I should have practiced it sooner.
An excellent habit to cultivate is not to use social media while sitting to avoid falling into a two-hour slump on the couch (what? Just me?). If you only use social media while standing or walking, it will naturally reduce screen time or your greatly increase your Fitbit steps. (Of course, I don’t mean while walking outside or in public — be safe, friends.)
Pay attention to screen time usage and work to reduce it each week
When I get the weekly screen time recap on my iPhone, I think about the productive activities I could have accomplished in that time. Don’t feel bad about it, do something about it.
The weekly screen time report on my iphone reminds me that I fail a lot at applying these strategies to reduce my screen time. As with any new habit, we go into it with good intentions; then we tend to revert to our old comfortable ways. Use the report of weekly screen time as a reality check, to keep track if you’re meeting your goal. What gets measured, gets managed.
Don’t use your cell phone in bed
This is the hardest one for me, because we’ve developed a bad habit of falling asleep to old sitcoms. Who doesn’t love King of Queens reruns? #ShutItStew
Don’t watch movies, TV, or scroll social media in bed. Keep the bed for what God intended—sleep and sex. Most people use their phone as their alarm clock. Don’t charge your phone in the bedroom. When the alarm goes off, you’re forced to get out of bed and go into another room to turn it off, which can help reduce the snooze button usage too, which relates back to better quality sleep.
Work to connect with friends offline
For a self-proclaimed introvert like me, social media can make it feel easier to connect with friends and strangers online, safely behind the blue screen. While it may feel like you’re being social on social media, real social connections are better cultivated in person or on the phone.
Social media is a fantastic tool for connecting old friends and making new ones. Don’t limit your friend time to social media and email. A better way to catch up with your old friends is to pick up the phone and call them. If your friends are local, make an effort to meet in person, you’ll build a stronger relationship than you will with a laughing emoji on their latest meme.
I am the first to admit, that I am the worst at this. When I post a new video or picture on Instagram, I am repeatedly back to social media to see the likes and comments. When I post a new blog post (like this one), my brain is anxious for the likes to start flooding in (flood might be a strong word).
I sometimes scarf down my breakfast while reviewing my “on this day” memories on Facebook. I’m more likely to text than to call and I despise voicemail. #GUILTY
Let’s improve our digital wellness together. You don’t have to implement every strategy at once, that would be too overwhelming. If you think you spend too much time on your phone, and not enough time working towards goals or spending meaningful time with loved ones, or if you need to improve your sleep quality, choose one option from the list and implement it. Then another, then another, over time we can improve our lifestyles with a more a balanced approach to our digital use.
I still want to see your post-run sweaty selfies, I promise to give it a heart, then get offline.
Did you like this post? Do you know someone who might benefit? It helps me when you share with your friends and followers on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest.
Questions? I’d love to help.