woman with glasses having trouble seeing phone has vision problemsWe get it. Screens have become an integral part of how our society functions. From computers, where much of our work and administrative duties are handled to powerful cell phones that can perform a multitude of helpful tasks. We can read emails, keep calendars, text, check the weather and news updates, track our health goals and pay bills. It can feel challenging to separate ourselves from these ever-present screens. But, statistics indicate that it can be essential to our health to make the effort to do so. The physical impact is something to consider such as eye strain and posture, but the mental strain can also be significant. Additionally, it's helpful to consider the activities being pushed out of our lives due to too much time on screens such as exercise, time with family and friends, time spent outdoors or time developing hobbies.

Victoria L. Dunckley M.D., author of the book Reset Your Child's Brain and an integrative child psychologist has weighed in on the impact of screens on adults. She had this to say. “Interactive screen-time affects an adult’s frontal lobe, too, so even moderate but daily use can cause a parent to become disorganized, exhibit poor impulse control, lack self-discipline, and have trouble following through on goals—including establishing healthy screen limits. Screen-time also affects an adult’s body clock, melatonin levels, and physical health. And just as with children, these effects are more likely to occur if a parent is stressed, not sleeping well, or has difficulty in those areas to begin with.”

Wow! Those are some significant side effects to consider when it comes to picking up your phone or flipping on the television. Interestingly, one thing to consider is not necessarily how much time is spent on a screen, but how often the “pick-ups” are occurring. Each time we pick up our phone, our focus and concentration are interrupted resulting in less efficient usage of our time. And, there is pretty good data to back this up. According to RescueTime, an app developed to track screen time usage on phones, we spend an average of 3 hours and 15 minutes on our phones, but what is more telling is that we pick up our phones on average at least 58 times a day! What that tells us is that each time we reach for the phone, our focus and concentration have been interrupted. Of course, there are times when a mental break is needed or perhaps we are using our phone to help complete a necessary task related to our current project, but admittedly much of what we do on a phone could be considered time-wasting or frivolous.

So, what can be done? Here are five tips to help pare down screen-time and to create more space in your life to create, connect, and unwind.

1.Create screen-free times. Consider shutting screens off for certain times of the day including meals, when with friends and family, and during the first and last hour of being awake.

2. Plan a screen-free day or vacation. While this may feel daunting, it is possible. Print out directions ahead of time or locate a good map, bring a guidebook, and plan activities that don't require screens. Enjoy!

3. Silence or turn off notifications. It's hard to take a break from screens when we are constantly being reminded of reasons to pick it up with dings, lights and buzzing. Silence those notifications and set a designated time during the day to check all notifications.

4. Kick screens out of your room. It's important to have a space that is reserved for rest, relaxation and recuperation. Screens can get messy and distracting.

5. Make eye contact and avoid your phone. When conversing with individuals, make an effort to take a break from your phone. Human connections are so important and you don't want your phone getting in the way of that.

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