Why Taking a “Screencation” is Better Than a Vacation.

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Researchers say that most Americans spend 70% of their waking hours staring at some sort of digital screen. (I’ve seen a few reports with even scarier numbers, like 90%.)

First thing in the morning, all day long at the office, waiting in line at the grocery store, even in the bathroom stall, (come on, admit it)! We’re all incredibly glued to our devices, and it’s impacting our health in many ways. I notice feeling jittery and anxious if I’m not doing something productive most the time. So if I’m on my own, I am often reading office email or a medical journal or research for these articles with my phone. It’s hard to relax.

From eyestrain to arthritis to impaired sleep, anxiety, and depression, and even fatal accidents (like walking and texting… right into a busy intersection) our screen-obsession is taking a significant toll on our health.

My advice for all of us? Take a screencation: a vacation from all of your digital devices. Phone, tablet, computer, GPS unit, TV set, everything. Even if your screencation is very brief, even one afternoon, you’ll still enjoy so many positive benefits.

You can do it in conjunction with a real vacation, but it works other days too.

Here’s why you should schedule a screencation in the near future:

- You’ll sleep well.

Digital screens emit a blue-toned light which confuses your brain into thinking it’s time to wake up and stay alerted, even if it’s 3:27 in the morning. Remove screens from your surroundings, especially in the evenings, and your body will reset and get back into a natural sleep rhythm.

- You’ll feel better about your life.

Studies indicate that continuously scrolling around Facebook, Instagram, and other social media sites can make you feel less connected to others, less optimistic about your future, and more lonely. It’s partly because you’re flooded with carefully-crafted images depicting “perfect, happy lives,” and you might feel inadequate in comparison. Take a break from Internet-land and reconnect with real life and local friends. You’ll feel a noticeable shift in your mood.

- Your concentration will improve.

Every time you’re distracted by the “ping” that signals an incoming text or email—it takes up to 25 minutes before your brain is fully re-engaged in whatever task you were doing before. Remove digital screens, and you’ll eradicate a huge number of distractions from your environment. Your concentration and attention span will improve, and who knows? Maybe you’ll finally be able to finish organizing your closet or garage, or write a few real letters!

- You’ll notice beauty everywhere.

Unplugged, screen-free walks are becoming increasingly popular, especially in congested city settings. A woman named Clare Barry leads tech-free walks throughout London—she calls them “Urban Curiosity” walks, and she encourages walkers to set aside their phones and “look up, not down.” Take a walk in your neighborhood and really… look. You might discover flowers, architectural landmarks, cloud formations, and even neighbors that you’d never noticed before. Intrigued? Consider reading “How To Walk by the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh for guidance on how to begin a “walking meditation” practice.

- You’ll remember what truly matters.

When you subtract screens from your life, even for just a few hours, the “chatter” inside of your mind quiets down, and you can finally hear yourself think. You might find yourself remembering, “I really love to bake! I should do that more often…” or “I used to host dinner parties all the time…” or “I miss my friend Katie. I’m going to pop over to her house, totally spontaneously, and see if she’s home.” Unplugging allows us to reconnect with our values, and refocus on the priorities and relationships that really matter. What truly brings you joy? Unplug and find out.

I love technology, I love social media, and I adore my community of online friends based all over the world. However, I also recognize that there’s a strong need for tech-free time in my life. Pretty much everyone I know has similar feelings.

Wishing you a wonderful screencation,

Dr. Sue

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