Wired in

It’s so easy to get wired in.

Many of us, especially if we work in an office, spend hours every day staring at a computer screen. Then we go home and turn on the television or fire up Netflix, and spend another hour or three decompressing after the day. Of course, this doesn’t even count any time we spend one-on-one with our smartphones. 

Like most things in life, technology isn’t inherently good or bad. But the way we use it can affect our health. 

Think about how you feel after spending a long time in front of a screen. Not great right? Chances are you’ve been sitting in one place, so your body is craving movement. I usually feel tired, foggy, and in need of some sunshine! My eyes tend to hurt too, from being focused so closely in front of my face for an extended period. 

There’s also the pressure to always be connected. Because we have so many ways of communicating with each other, we often feel like we need to text or check email at all hours of the night and day. This can be helpful at times, but also adds a great deal of stress to our lives. We end up feeling like we’re constantly on-call--for everyone in our lives.

If we pay attention to our bodies, we can learn to use technology in a way that works for us, not against us. It’s a great chance to practice being mindful and to honor how we feel.

Here’s what I suggest to my patients: notice how your body reacts to screen time. Make an exercise of it--check in with yourself when you sit down at the computer, and again after half an hour, an hour or two. Listen to what your body is telling you. Are you feeling good, or starting to feel worn down? At what point does that start to happen?

When you start to feel like you’ve had enough, take a break! If you’re at work, go to the bathroom, stretch your legs, talk to a colleague, or look out the window for a few minutes and do a little deep breathing—anything to mix things up. If you’re at home, even better. You’ve got more options. Go for a walk around the block or the neighborhood. Play with your kids or pop in a load of laundry. Whatever works for you!

I also suggest turning off our phones when we can, or putting them on airplane mode. Anything that takes us off the grid for a while is a plus for our health. It might feel scary at first: what if something happens? But the reality is, there are very few things in life that can’t wait a little while for us to address them. Whatever it is, it’s probably not that important. But you are. 

If we bring attention and mindfulness to the way we use screens, it can help us be more relaxed and feel better. We can make technology work for us, rather than the other way around!