Decreasing Screen Time for Better Health

We have all felt the struggle of “Zoom fatigue” at one time or another during this year.

As the weather is cooling down, it’s likely you’re spending even more time indoors, staring at electronic devices. Going from full-time remote work to watching a movie with the kids to scrolling through social media before bed may seem harmless. But too much screen time can actually have a negative impact on your physical and mental health.

How does too much screen time affect us?

Picture this: you’ve been at your makeshift home “desk” (aka a card table in the corner of the living room) for three hours without moving, your neck aches, your eyes feel as dry as the desert, and your face is twitching from constantly smiling into a camera.

Sound familiar? Those common feelings are just a few negative side effects of too much screen time.

Bright screens are notorious for causing headaches and dry, achy eyes, as well as more indirect long-term issues such as poor neck and spine health, weight gain, and arthritis. Spending time on a screen before bed can even negatively impact your sleep.

Overuse of electronic screens has also been linked to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety in both adults and children.

How do we decrease screen time while working from home?

  1. Pen and paper – Print materials that you have to read instead of reading off of a screen for hours and take handwritten notes.
  2. Take a break – Schedule screen breaks for yourself to get your eyes off the screen and your body out of the chair. If you usually scroll on your phone or watch TV during your lunchbreak, try replacing those habits with mindful eating or a book.
  3. Display settings – Decrease brightness and blue light to save your eyes on long days. On Apple devices, the Night Shift setting will shift to your display to warmer tones with less blue light.

What can we do to get ourselves and our family off of screens?

The amount of time spent looking at a screen for work and school may be somewhat out of your control, but you can significantly decrease screen time during non-working hours. Here are four easy ways to disconnect from the world and reconnect with each other.

  1. Mealtime – There’s nothing like a sit-down family dinner to bring everyone together. Remove phones and TVs from the mealtime environment to focus on food and family.
  2. Get outside – It’s cooling down out there but bundle up and enjoy the outdoors whenever you can. Take walks, go for a hike, play in fall leaves (cliché but fun!), or have a bonfire.
  3. Game night – A whole evening’s entertainment without ever turning on the TV! Bust out the classics that are gathering dust in the attic or pick up something new next time you’re at the store.
  4. Read – Replacing phone time before bed with reading time is a peaceful end to the day that will help you sleep better and wake up happy. There is no better time to snuggle up with a good book than cold days with a fire in the hearth, blanket in your lap, and hot drink in your hand. Read with the kids when you put them to bed and read something for yourself too before you turn out the light.