March 5, 2022

Technology has countless benefits with constant innovations that allow for modern conveniences we all
enjoy and rely on. However, it is becoming increasingly apparent that society is developing an unhealthy
attachment to their devices and that constant connectivity presents a number of mental health risks.
One recent study suggests that spending time on screens activates the same neural loops that narcotics
do, suggesting that technology can be just as addictive. Although technology addiction is powerful,
fortunately there is a power-off button.

84% of cell phone users claim they cannot go a single day without their device, but powering down even
for short periods of time, can provide mental health and social well-being benefits that can improve
overall happiness and quality of life. Here are a few benefits of unplugging.

Decrease anxiety and depression. A two-year study found that self-reported mental health decreased
5%-8% after liking others’ content on social media, posting status updates, and clicking links. Another
study discovered one in three people reported feeling worse and more dissatisfied with their lives after
visiting Facebook. Additionally, research suggests that social media may be a major factor behind why the
rate of teen suicide attempts has doubled since the release of smartphones.

Increase productivity. Studies indicate that mobile device owners may check their phones every 6 ½
minutes on average, up to 150 times per day. When at work, it can take up to 23 minutes to recover from
disruptions like our phone. Just having our phone nearby can be distracting and make us less focused.
Sleep better. Blue light emitted from screens, which our brains connect with daylight, keeps us alert,
making it hard to fall asleep. Good sleep hygiene recommends staying off your phone and laptop for at
least an hour before going to bed.

Reconnect with life. Several studies provide evidence that the presence of a cell phone can negatively
impact the quality, depth, and empathetic connection of a conversation. Unplugging can provide us
with more time to spend outdoors, engaging in hobbies, and developing meaningful relationships with
others. Research continues to show that spending 120 minutes per week in green space significantly
increases physical and mental well-being.

March 5th is National Day of Unplugging, which encourages everyone to take a break from technology for
a 24-hour period to unwind and engage in things other than technology. If a 24-hour period seems too
difficult, start small. Choose a specific time each day or week to intentionally power-down or use internet
tools to assist. Setting app time limits on our phones, downloading apps that block access to specified
websites for determined periods of time, and designating unplugged zones in our homes, are examples
of ways we can work towards limiting screen time and reconnecting with the natural world. A great test
to discover technology’s controlling influence on our lives is to turn it off and see how strong the desire is
to turn it back on. Will you take the test?

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