In your life, is there a strange disconnect between your natural health ideals and your fast-paced, hyper-plugged-in habits? If so, you are not the only person feeling this way. Millions of people have become far more connected than they were just a few years ago. When we take email and smartphones and combine them with social networking, the average person’s world is much more noisy than it used to be. And when you add this noise to all the traditional sources of noise that still exist, life becomes incredibly hectic. Taken together, all of this can prove very unhealthy for the body, mind, and soul.
Though periodically checking emails, tweets, updates, messages and so on is part of the modern lifestyle for many people, it does not need to be obsessive. Most of our communication needs, whether for business or personal, can be taken care of in concentrated sessions a couple of times a day, yet many people, for some reason, go back to these things again and again all day long. Even after work, many people still cannot stop checking their phones or computers. It gets to a point where there is almost no time in which one is in a relaxed, shut-down mode.
There are a few problems with habits such as this. One is that obsessively checking one’s gadgets can literally become an addiction. The science on these matters is still developing, but numerous studies have already shown that internet addiction, smartphone addiction, and social networking addiction are real phenomena. If you find that you simply cannot go without being plugged in, and if you begin to feel fidgety or irritable when you go too long without checking your social streams, you might be on the brink of a very real addiction.
But we do not need to use such severe terms for gadget overuse to be alarming. It negatively affects one’s life in numerous other ways, such as the following.
• Obsessively checking social networks and email turns into a conscious or unconscious way to procrastinate other things.
• Outside work, it prevents you from engaging in hobbies and exercise.
• It distances you from your family and other people around you.
• Jumping around from thing to thing prevents you from ever focusing deeply on any one activity, and it can hurt your attention span.
• When you do happen to be off the grid, you always feel you are missing something.
• Being enclosed in a technology-filled bubble weakens your connection to nature, and you begin to forget about the simple things.
• Staying constantly plugged in can ramp up your stress level.
• The elevated stress can make it difficult for you to get the sleep you need.
If any of these things sound familiar, or if you have reasons of your own for feeling your technology habit has gone too far, there are easy solutions.
The fact that you are thinking about this issue is the first crucial step. After that, all you have to do is resolve to set aside all your gadgets for a certain period of every day, or even for multiple periods. For many people, the best time to go without technology is in the evening, when you need to unwind and prepare for sleep. But it is also a good idea to make an effort to go without gadgets during the day, especially when you can get outside and enjoy nature.
If it helps, make solid plans to do things that do not involve gadgets or technology. Get outside and exercise every day, set up social events to which you are not to bring your cell phone, and involve yourself in the types of activities that just do not mix well with gadgets. Not many recreational sports, for instance, are feasible when you have a phone in your pocket.
Perhaps the most important thing is to remember your fundamental values. If you feel that the constantly plugged-in lifestyle is not really who you are, then do whatever it takes to disconnect yourself for a certain amount of time every day. It will benefit your mood and your health, and it will make you feel better about yourself—which, incidentally, will have positive effects on your productivity when you are plugged in.
By Marc Courtiol