According to research, teenagers who stare at screens for a long time are distinctly less happy than their peers who engage in physical activities and face-to-face social interactions.In fact, a team of psychology professors analyzed data from Monitoring the Future (MtF) to support their research.
The MtF is a national source of surveys in the US, which has information regarding the screen habits of over 1 million US teens. The experts concluded that screen time should not exceed more than one hour a day.Excessive screen time is linked to rising unhappiness levels in young people.
The reason screen time decreases happiness levels is that it causes our attention to shift from one external stimulus to another rather quickly. The longer we spend our faces buried in screens, the more it will inhibit our ability to focus on important tasks that require cognitive strength. According to happiness researcher, Amy Blackson, the average human attention span is even lower than that of a goldfish. Also, checking your email only 3 times a day can reduce stress levels by 25%!
Doing an activity that doesn’t involve a screen can elevate our happiness levels. Happiness experts recently carried out an experiment in which people were asked to give up Facebook for a week. At the end of the week, they felt happier, less lonely and depressed as compared to their counterparts who continued to use Facebook. Several other studies also show that increased screen time leads to unhappiness. Most people assume depressed people use social media as an escape, but that’s not the case.
If you want us to give advice based on hardcore research and startling facts and figures, then it would be simple: Put down your gadgets and do something that intoxicates your senses and flexes your brain muscles. Here’s why reducing screen time can help you reset your happiness levels:
1- Helps you sleep better
There is a definite link between poor sleeping habits and depression. Experts claim that the blue light from the screen is harmful to the brain and eyes, particularly before sleeping. Try to avoid screens at least one hour before bed as your brain needs time to relax. Put away your phone where you can’t reach it easily.
Try a soothing bedtime ritual, such as de-cluttering your bedroom and using lavender oil to keep away unnecessary stress and fall into a deep slumber easily.
- Reduces anxiety and stress
As we discussed earlier, shutting down all screens (especially before bedtime) can decrease your anxiety levels and help you become much happier.
Amy Blankson sums it up perfectly in her new book, The Future of Happiness:
If you fill your time with digital distractions, the brain can no longer process information to create long-term memories.
Screen time has a great impact on our body’s stress hormone and can act as a valid psychological stressor. Doctors confirm that playing computer games regularly have shown to increase heart rate and blood pressure, EMG (muscular activity) and cortisol levels.
3- Helps engage in creative environments
Creative and social environments stimulate the right side of the brain, the side that is usually neglected, thanks to our information-overloaded world. It is equally important to flex the creative cells of our brain because they help us in other cognitive areas such as problem-solving and better conversational skills.
Studies show that excessive screen time can limit imaginary play in kids. When the brain is constantly fed with overstimulating entertainment, children find it difficult to be creative during playtime. Reduced screen time can lead the brain to be more exposed to the natural world and its wonders. Hence, stimulating the brain to wonder and imagine on its own.
Don’t forget to turn off your phone when you’re interacting with people. There is nothing more annoying than being with a person who is not present. Staying away from screens while spending time with your loved ones will make you connect with them and you will feel a drastic difference in the quality of your interaction.
4- Get Rid of Metabolic syndrome
According to a2008 research, excessive screen time can lead to metabolic syndrome in adolescents, and it seems true for people of all ages. Metabolic syndrome is the combination of diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure. In short, it is a deadly cocktail of poor physical health and is linked to a sedentary lifestyle.
Screen time means that you most likely sit still for hours and lounge around on your bed or sofa. Hence increasing the link between screen time and metabolic syndrome.
5- Longer life
For decades, scientists have suggested that excessive screen time, whether it is a TV, mobile phone or a tablet- can lead to cardiovascular diseases and increased mortality risk. Unfortunately, if you work out for one hour a day and spend the rest of the day parked in front of a screen, it won’t help at all.
A 2011 research that included 4500 adults, showed that excessive screen time can decrease your life expectancy by 52%.Daily exercise can only help you lower the risk of death by 4%.
So, if you want to live a happy and long life then you should have a healthy heart. If you find it difficult to log off social media, talk to your friends and stage an intervention for yourself.
There is no doubt about the fact that too much screen time is terrible for the eyes. Blue light emitted from the screens not only damages the retina but also causes eye-strain and disturbed sleep patterns.
While it is almost impossible to get away from screens, try to reduce its negative effects by taking systematic breaks. Apply the 20-20-20 rule: After staring at a screen for 20 seconds, look at an object that is at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Try to reduce the brightness.
These few measures will go a long way in protecting your eyes and brain. Instead of reaching for an iPad, prefer face-to-face interaction to build simulated emotional connections. These activities may not seem like much but they impact your ability to process emotions. Stay away from screens unless it’s necessary. Spend your leisure hours doing something creative that increases bonding with your loved ones.
Have you made a conscious decision of reducing screen time and taking up an activity that stimulates your brain? Have you ever tried an electronic fast? If yes, share your views in the comments below:
Zyana Morris is a passionate blogger who loves to write on prevailing trends particularly on Health and Technology related topics. She is associated with Centra Care – Urgent Care Tampa.