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While I have always loved technology’s potential to connect people and ideas in new ways, back in the ’90s when I was founding the Webby Awards, I never imagined we would get to a point where everyone was staring down at their phones, distracted from the people and ideas happening right in front of them. Then, ten years ago, a dramatic period, where my father died and my daughter was born within days of each other, seemed to put my priorities back into focus. I’d had enough of living in this distracted reality 24/7. I needed to create time and space for myself and my family, just to think and be in an uninterrupted way. So we started going completely screen-free one day a week for what we called our Technology Shabbat.
One day each week, we turn off all screens and we fill our time with things we love. We have a big meal with family and friends on Friday night. On Saturdays, we journal, cook, have friends over, read, go for bike rides. . . and sometimes we just nap and do nothing. We’ve been doing this for a decade. Our daughters are now 16 and 10 and they love it too. It has completely changed our lives and gets better the longer we do it. It’s our favorite day of the week.
Technology Shabbat is not about what we give up, but what we gain when we use our phone more mindfully and establish a healthy balance with technology. Here are some ways unplugging for one day a week will benefit your mental health.
1. You’ll be happier and less anxious.
A recent study found “both liking others’ content and clicking links significantly predicted a subsequent reduction in self-reported physical health, mental health, and life satisfaction.” Staying offline — and away from social media especially — makes you feel more optimistic and satisfied with your life.
2. You’ll feel better.
You’ll be more active, you’ll spend more time outside, you’ll get more sleep, all of which translates to better health. Spending less time on your phone reduces the chances of developing repetitive stress injuries like “text neck.”
3. You’ll improve your relationships.
When you’re not on your phone all your time, you can pay attention to the people you actually care about. And you’ll probably care more, too. Research done by Sara Konrath suggests that smartphone use correlates to decreased empathy.
4. You’ll form healthier habits.
If you feel like you’re hooked on your phone, it’s because you are. Screens can be just as addictive as narcotics, and can affect the brain in some similar ways. Unplugging once a week helps break these patterns.
5. You’ll be more focused.
A recent study demonstrated that just having your phone nearby —even if it’s switched off — makes you less focused. Screens distract everyone in the room, even those who aren’t using them.
6. You’ll sleep better.
The blue light from screens tells the brain to stay alert, and can make it hard to fall asleep. Stay off your phone and laptop for an hour or so before bed to ensure you get the sleep you need.
7. You’ll get more done.
Though it seems counterintuitive, research suggests working few hours can actually increase productivity. Companies that offer thirty-two-hour workweeks, or six-hour workdays, report both increased productivity and employee satisfaction.
This content is informational and educational, and it does not replace medical advice, diagnosis or treatment from a health professional. We encourage you to speak with your health-care provider about your individual needs, or visit NAMI for more information.
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