Instagram, Snapchat, tweets and status updates keep us connected, but overusing technology may affect our health. As we turn our minds to cleansing, many of us can also benefit from a digital detox. Going screen-free—for a weekend or an entire vacation—can be as revitalizing as a crisp kale salad.

 Do you need a tech break?

New technologies have been a source of cultural anxiety since the fourth century BC. Concerned about the invention of the alphabet, Socrates predicted that people’s use of the written word over oration would “implant forgetfulness in their souls.”

Echoing this sentiment, today’s digital devices are met with equal parts disparagement and adulation. Our fixation with being wired in has even given rise to technology addiction. “A simple way to define technology addiction is that you can’t function without it,” says Cris Rowan, author of  Virtual Child (Createspace, 2010) and founder of the Zone’in educational program.

 Bodies in need of rewiring

Computer/Screen vision syndrome, text neck, Gameboy back—these are just a few of the modern-day maladies that are starting to offset the benefits of technology.

Other health problems related to our sedentary, screen-savvy lifestyles include

  • headaches
  • eye strain
  • wrist pain
  • insomnia
  • carpal tunnel syndrome

Faulty reception

More and more studies confirm that overuse of smart phones and computers can result in stress, depression, and other emotional health issues. Digital distractions may also be short-circuiting other connections in our lives. Our ever-present cellphones, for example, have been shown to interfere with levels of trust and empathy in face-to-face conversations. This will come as no surprise to anyone who’s ever sat across from a texting dinner companion.

Disconnecting in the digital age

Added to the Oxford Dictionary Online in 2013, a digital detox is “a period of time during which a person refrains from using electronic devices … to reduce stress.” Many travel destinations around the world now offer tech-free vacation packages designed to help us do just that.

If the thought of going even a day without a smart phone makes you twitchy, fear not: limiting our consumption of digital “fast food” can be as simple as implementing a few guidelines at home.

 Create a screen-free zone

“There is no sacred time without technology anymore, as the big screen has replaced the dining room table,” says Rowan. Think about it—is there one place in your home (just one!) that hasn’t been infiltrated by some sort of digital device?

In Hamlet’s Blackberry (Harper Perennial, 2011), William Powers calls these spaces Walden zones. We can follow the example of writer Henry David Thoreau—who created a space of quiet tranquility near Walden Pond—by setting aside one room as a screen-free haven. This could be your bedroom, kitchen, or dining area.


Ditch digital bad habits

Opening an internet browser can begin with the best of intentions: checking just one email or looking up the weather. Before we know it, we’re tweeting and updating our statuses mindlessly. It’s not our fault, really. Our brains are wired to find social media addictive, releasing feel-good dopamine from the online sharing and subsequent attention.

Stop this snowball effect by scheduling your social media time. Before you sit down in front of the computer, decide how long you’ll spend there: five minutes, 20 minutes, an hour.

The same logic can be applied to calling or texting on our smart phones—which the average person will keep within reach for 70 percent of their day. To combat these statistics, the Sabbath Manifesto was created. An online project inspired by the Jewish day of rest, it encourages followers to indulge in one screen-free day a week, either Saturday or Sunday.

Since you’ll be logged off anyway, why not use this extra time to form healthy habits? Restore peace of mind with these tried-and-true relaxers (and try not to post about them on social media after).

  • Go for a walk in a forested area.
  • Host a phone-free get-together.
  • Meditate or try deep breathing exercises.
  • Practise yoga.
  • Read a book.



By Collen Grant Alive.

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