Screens are everywhere.
From the laptop in your office to the television in your living room to the smartphone in your pocket. It’s more than safe to say that screens are ubiquitous in most of the developed world.
And the benefits that screens bring about cannot be denied.
Arguably one of the greatest advantages of screens, is that they allow a single device to provide an infinity of different functions.
Notebooks, calendars, calculators, maps, and so much more can all be screened on just one device and eliminate the need for owning and managing a large number of physical items (something minimalists like you and I will likely appreciate.)
But like any technology, screens are not perfect.
Despite the benefits they bring about, prolonged exposure to screens can also have severe impacts on your health. Studies have shown the following symptoms to be related to excessive screen time;
• Eye strain – Most of the screens we use are actually too close for our eyes to focus comfortably without tension
• Headaches – If severe enough, the eye strain can trigger headaches
• Reduced quality of sleep – In nights and evenings, the blue light that screens emit suppresses your body’s capability to produce melatonin, a hormone that is essential for quality sleep
With this in mind, some might suggest rejecting screens altogether.
But this is easier said than done for two reasons;
1. Screens are absolutely everywhere making them difficult to avoid completely
2. Despite the health setbacks, screens actually bring about a great number of valuble benefits which you might not want to be rid of completely
The way to improve your health without sacrificing the benefits of screens, is not to eliminate your screen time, but to reduce it by adopting new activities that don’t fully rely on screens into your lifestyle.
Here are 6 ways you can do that.
1) Listen to Music
Despite how much hard work goes into crafting a great song, music has sadly become something that is played in the background instead of something to be listened to with intention.
There’s a lot to be enjoyed and appreciated when you truly give your full attention to music.
The next time you’re on your lunch break, instead of using that time to stare into a screen, take out some headphones and listen to your favourite songs (or new ones if you feel like exploring).
Here are some ways that you can listen more intentionally and more deliberately;
• Listen to the rhythm and how it makes your body move
• Listen to how the chords change to create energy and make the melody sound even more impactful
• Listen to the many different sounds and instruments make up the whole song and give it its tonal colour.
Not only is this a relaxing alternative to staring into a screen, but the skill of intentional listening can also benefit your relationships and social skills too which is something that just about every person needs.
2) Listen to Podcasts
If you’re like me, chances are you enjoy being exposed to new information and stories. And if so, podcasts might just be a suitable alternative to your screened activities.
They’re easily portable as they can be downloaded onto your smartphone, the sheer number of podcasts released everyday means there’s more than enough variety to suit your interests and more often than not, they’re free.
If you currently absorb the majority of your information through screens, why not experiment with absorbing your information in audio format instead?
Whether your interests are in business, arts, news, education, entertainment or something more specific, the chances that you’ll find shows you’ll enjoy are almost guaranteed.
I personally use Apple’s Podcasts app (that comes as part of iOS) but you can also find podcasts on Spotify, SoundCloud and many more.
If you’d like to get into podcasts but aren’t sure where to begin, here are some shows you might enjoy:
3) Listen to Audiobooks
Digital books have many advantages over printed books when it comes to portability and space efficiency.
But despite these advantages, reading books in digital format typically requires your eyes to be focused on a screen for long periods of time. This can be a problematic to your health especially if you like to read late in the evening just before you go to bed.
On the other hand, Audiobooks can massively reduce the need for a screen and are a much friendlier way to enjoy books late in the evening (the time in the day when relaxation is very important).
Audiobooks can even be time efficient too since they free-up your eyes and hands to do other simple tasks such as cleaning and walking (simple is the keyword by the way and I certainly wouldn’t recommend trying to listen to audiobooks while you’re doing something that’s dangerous and demands your full attention).
If there’s any part of you that feels resistant to the idea of listening to somebody else read to you, know that audiobooks do not take away any knowledge or story that you would otherwise get from reading written words.
In fact, you could actually consider them to be a resurgence of a time before the alphabet, writing and books even existed when listening to stories told by others was the only way you could experience them.
If you’d like to get started with audiobooks, Audible normally offers a free first month subscription where you can download any book of your choosing from their library.
The benefits of walking speak for themselves.
It burns calories, yet it’s still relaxing enough for you to enjoy yourself without too much discomfort.
But by far the biggest reason why I love walking is how it stimulates creativity.
If you find yourself constantly in need of new creative ideas, or you need to find the solution to a difficult problem, I recommend that you make walking a regular part of your schedule.
Here are some ways you can make a walk fun, interesting or even productive;
• Look at the scenery and savour your surroundings
• Listen to music, podcasts or audiobooks
• Bring a note-taking tool and write down any creative ideas or potential solutions that come to mind while you contemplate your life (digital notebooks are okay since you’ll only use your screen for quick short bursts)
5) Be more active
I probably couldn’t state the obvious anymore by saying that excessive amounts of television, video games and social media do little to no good for your physical health.
If large amounts of your personal time are spent on unhealthy screened activities, it might be time to incorporate more physical activities into your schedule.
If you’re a competitive person, take up a sport and join a local club/team. Or if you have a simple passion for improving your wellbeing, consider taking a yoga class. The chances that you’ll make new friends are also very high.
In comparison to sitting in your living room and staring at the TV, this will almost certainly feel uncomfortable. It’s easy to feel apathetic and that you can’t be bothered to do anything. Sometimes you may even believe that that’s just simply who you are.
I understand this feeling because I too used to think that about myself.
But I’ve come to believe that for every person, there’s at least one physical activity out there that they love to do so much that they’ll endure any pain and discomforts it comes with.
And this applies to you too!
I used to be the kind of person who loved to lazily slouch on the sofa playing video games, now I love to run my ass off playing basketball.
Maybe there’s something you’ve always wanted to do but were too afraid to start, or perhaps you tried and quit because it was too hard and now you’re feeling the pain of regret. Regardless of your situation, I encourage you to push past your fears and pursue your interests no matter how physically uncomfortable they might make you feel.
No matter how young or old you may think you are, and no matter how difficult your pursuit might seem, it’s never too late to start.
Few things are more memorable and fulfilling than human interaction.
While it is possible to socialise online through screens, it’s unlikely that screened communication can ever bring about the same fulfilment as deep face-to-face conversation. It’s difficult to give your full appreciation to another person without eye contact, voice tone and body language.
Let me ask you;
• Does the majority of your social life take place through Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or WhatsApp?
• Does only a small portion of your social life involve face-to-face contact?
• Do you truly feel contempt, satisfied and happy with your overall social life?
If you answered “yes” to the first two questions but “no” to the third, then I’d highly encourage you to schedule time to meet up with your friends and family. Invite them to your home for dinner or arrange to go out for a coffee instead of settling solely on screened communication.
I get that socialising can feel like a lot of work (especially if you’re an introvert like me).
Unlike on social media, face-to-face conversation generally involves more time, more discomfort, more anxiety and you typically don’t have the option of ignoring somebody simply because they’re boring you beyond belief.
But never forget that human beings are a tribal race, meaning we need to belong to others and were never designed to operate as isolated individuals. And very few people can live fulfilled lives in self-containment without interaction from others.
Reducing your screen time
Screens are not evil (no technology truly is) and the benefits they bring about are undeniable. There’s no doubt in my mind that screens have great potential to make lives simpler.
But these benefits have far less value if they’re also doing a disservice to your health.
You don’t have to give up screens completely. What’s more important is that you limit your screen time so it has the least impact your health.
To close, here are some general rules;
• If screens are unavoidable (such as at work), make sure you take frequent breaks to give your eyes a chance to recover.
• Replace addictive screen activities with alternatives (such as what’s mentioned in this post) that do a better service for your eyes and sleep.
• Have a cut off point in the evening where you no longer engage in screens. I personally aim to turn all screens off two hours before I go to bed. Otherwise, the only time I use a screen is to select what I want to listen to on my phone (which is merely seconds).
Depending on how you use them, screens can either be a vacuum for your time, attention and energy or tools you can use to improve and simplify your life.
I personally favour the latter.