"Within you there is a stillness and sanctuary to which you can retreat at any time and be yourself." Hermann Hesse
Most people today spend an unhealthy amount of time in front of a screen - more than they even realize. Ask anyone how much time they think they spend watching their favorite TV shows or surfing the Web per day, and they'll probably say a couple of hours. That sounds fair, right?
However, a number of studies have shown that the average adult spends more than one-third of his day planted in front of a screen. That's a little over 8 out of every 24 hours, and it doesn't even include any work-related computer time that many employees are getting. Add that to the average 8 hours of sleep that most people usually run on, and it's a miracle you manage to get anything done throughout the day.
But productivity is not the only price you have to pay for what is now called a "screen addiction." The sedentary lifestyle that your abuse of technology has thrown you into has even more negative effects than what you realize, both on your health and your quality of life. Here are some of the most important problems that you're bound to face if you indulge in too much screen time.
An obvious consequence of screen addiction is that this habit eats up too much of your time - time that you would normally spend on other things, like your work, hobbies, or interpersonal relationships. Losing track of time causes you to waste a good part of your day, so you end up putting off important activities that would promote your personal and business goals. This can create feelings of failure and inadequacy, which can, in turn, lead to stress and depression.
The link between a sedentary lifestyle and weight gain is an obvious one, and studies have proved it over and over again. However, a less apparent cause of obesity in people who spend large amounts of time in front of the TV or computer is the inability to control what they are eating or how much. Mindlessly snacking while scrolling down your Facebook timeline or watching your favorite TV show can easily earn you a few extra pounds that will not go away unless you get up and start exercising.
It's not just a matter of staying up later than usual to watch another funny video or read one more article before going to bed. The quality of your sleep crumbles the more time you spend on a screen, especially if you're used to surfing the Web on your smartphone right before bedtime. Tablets and smartphone screens are known to emit a blue light that can affect your ability to go to sleep and stay asleep for longer during the night. As a result, you may wake up in the morning feeling tired and groggy regardless of the number of hours you spent sleeping.
Anyone following a sedentary lifestyle is more susceptible to depression, as regular exercise has been found to play a crucial role in maintaining good mental health. The hormones released in your body during a vigorous workout boost your mood and ward off depression. What's more, staying in shape helps you build a healthy self-image and promotes a body-positive attitude. On the flipside, watching the seemingly perfect lives of your online friends on social media can in itself trigger feelings of inferiority. Your life seems so boring and pointless in comparison to the image of endless fun and action your friends are portraying, and that makes you feel terrible.
Poor Social Life
Technology has made it easier and faster for you to communicate with people all over the world. Phone calls, text messages, and video calls are all excellent ways to connect with others, and it seems like most adults take full advantage of them. In fact, people seem to be communicating more often, which would make you think that their social lives are more bustling than ever. What about the quality of your social interactions, though? Face-to-face communication is not just about the words you exchange. It's about watching and interpreting facial expressions, touching, smiling, nodding, and so much more. A large part of the non-verbal elements of communication is missing in online conversations. Plus, even when you do hang out with your friends, you feel the constant urge to check your social media in case you're missing something interesting. In other words, you feel terrified of missing out on the action when you're not online.
Limited Attention Span
Watching TV while ironing or cooking can make chores around the house a lot less boring. However, if you're used to distracting yourself on a screen while doing other stuff, you're probably slowing yourself down, as you're forcing your brain into a never-ending multi-tasking mode. Constantly shifting from one task to the other drains your energy faster, which could be the reason why you feel tired so easily. It also makes you more prone to mistakes and oversights in comparison to focusing on a single task. Maybe single-tasking is the key to getting more done after all.
Cognitive Function Impairment
Multiple studies have shown that too much screen time can slow down the cognitive growth of otherwise healthy children, but it seems to affect adults as well. MRI depictions of the brain of individuals who spend excessive amounts of time in front of a screen reveal a significant degeneration of grey matter. What does that mean? Simply put, screen time can break down or change the connections between the different parts of your brain. That can, in turn, change the way you perceive and process the world around you.
There's no doubt that you lose much when you spend your days in front of a screen. Does this mean you should nix TV or social media? Absolutely not, but you can set limits to the amount of time you spend on them. In the end, you'll find that living in the real world can be infinitely more exciting than losing yourself in an online fantasy world.
AnJenette Afridi, MA, ERYT-500, is a pioneer in Lifestyle Medicine, Mindful-Based Strategies, and Creator of INHALE EXHALE SMILE℠ Meditation and Mindfulness Targeted Skills-Based Training. AnJenette is a Lifestyle Medicine Consultant and a Meditation and Mindfulness Master Teacher with 30+ years in private practice. “AJ’s” professional credentials include a Master’s Degree in Psychology (MA) 1997, Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher (ERYT-500) 2002, American Psychological Association (APA) Member 1996, American College of Lifestyle Medicine Member, Academy of Integrative Health & Medicine Member, and Harvard Medical School CEU’s in Lifestyle Medicine and Mind Body Medicine (Herbert Benson, MD) the last 15 years.
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AnJenette aka AJ has worked with corporations, hospitals, health centers, schools, and private clientele including adults and children. She is often featured at public and private in-person and online events, and she hosts events as well. AJ's warmth, credibility, and energetic sense of humor create an atmosphere that supports expansion, creativity, and abundant possibility.
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This article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any medical issue or disease. The author does not in any way guarantee or warrant the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of this article and will not be held responsible for the content of this article. The information in this article is not intended to replace a personal relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. Always consult your personal health care provider for specific medical advice.