It is often difficult to unglue ourselves from screens. We need laptops and phones for work, study, entertainment, socialising and many other activities that make up our day. It’s recommended that we shouldn’t spend too much time in front of screens but taking time away from electronics can be difficult. How can we unglue ourselves when our lives are so centred around technology? This article will talk you through the impact of the digital world on our wellbeing and how you can tackle some of the problems you’re facing.
What is ‘digital wellbeing’?
‘Digital wellbeing’ is a term used to refer to how we interact with technology – the ways in which the digital world and using technology affects our wellbeing. When discussing ‘digital wellbeing’ it is important to take a holistic approach to consider the ways in which every aspect of our life, our physical and mental wellbeing, is being affected. Smits et.al (2022) provides a recent discussion into the usefulness of the term and how we can use it to consider every aspect of the digital world’s affect on us.
How can your screen-time impact your wellbeing?
Technology and screen-time affects everyone differently, with some of the most common effects being:
- Insufficient sleep: Screens keep our brains active, and we keep thinking about the things we saw on the internet long after we have logged out.
- Lack of energy.
- Increased irritability and anxiety.
- Poor academic achievement.
- Compulsive behaviour: The feeling that you have to constantly check your phone to see what everyone else is doing.
- Decreased mental wellbeing: This can take the form of stress, mind wandering, and negative thinking styles.
- Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder related behaviour.
- Decreased life satisfaction.
However, it is important to note that the evidence of the impact of screen-time on our wellbeing is inconclusive. Dienlin et.al (2020) has found that life satisfaction remains stable and instead technology is more likely to affect “temporary measures of hedonic wellbeing” (such as short-term emotional reactions i.e. joy when watching a funny video). Excessive use of technology is most commonly a symptom of another mental or physical condition. Both low and excessive use are related to decreased wellbeing, whist moderate use is related to increased wellbeing. We should, therefore, consider how we are using technology, whether it’s benefiting our wellbeing or harming it.
There are many different methods of tackling excessive screen use and increasing our wellbeing when using technology. Thomas et.al (2022) noted that it’s often hard to stick to self-defined boundaries and break habits enforced by environments and our social setting. We need to personalise our plan of attack when improving our digital wellbeing.
1. Track your usage: There are many ways that you can track how long you are spending on your screens, and even how long you are spending on individual apps. There are google extensions for computers and most phones have a ‘Screen Time’ function where you can see all your usage data. With this data you can start to tackle the problem head-on.
2. Limit your time: It can be useful to set a timer for how long you will be on individual apps or websites. Another way to cut down is to delete apps that you spend the most time on and only going on the laptop version – this will also stop you mindlessly scrolling for hours!
3. The Screen Time Game: If you are spending too long on your phone, try the Screen Time Game. With friends or by yourself, set a goal (i.e. only spend 1.5 hours every day on your phone) and if you reach that goal by the end of the week you win! This competitive game will help you keep motivated and aware of how much time you are spending online.
4. Digital detox: Going ‘cold turkey’ for some is extremely effective for tackling excessive screen use. This can range anywhere from deleting social media apps from buying an old Nokia phone. Cutting yourself completely off from technology directly stops any temptation of overuse.
5. Monitor the impact on your mood: Ask yourself how going online makes you feel – Do you feel drained? Do you lose focus and become foggy? Or are you happier and feel rested? Asking these questions will help you pin-point exactly how technology is affecting your wellbeing and how you can most effectively use your screen-time.
6. Set routines: When living with family or housemates it is often difficult to decrease screen-time when everyone else is still on their phones or laptops. Try working together and set routines so that everyone can take a step away from technology. Try creating ‘technology-free zones’ where you aren’t allowed to use any digital devices, or say that no one is allowed on their laptop past 8pm.
7. Turn off all screens an hour before bedtime: Screens keep your brain active and awake. Turn off all devices an hour before you sleep and instead create a calming night-time routine. See our article on the Importance of Sleep for more information.
The digital world and excessive screen use can have a large impact on our mental wellbeing. However, as Dienlin et.al noted, it is how you use technology and not necessarily the technology itself that is bad for you. As the article says, “Let’s be wary, but not alarmist”. Hopefully the tips outlined in this article will help you improve your digital wellbeing and relationship with technology.
If you feel yourself struggling with excessive screen use or become increasingly affected by your use of technology, it is important to speak to those you trust for support. At MindSpace we have highly skilled licensed therapists available 24 hours a day. We can help you take the steps to improve your life, no matter what challenges you are facing. Call us on 0207 553 5010.