Health Benefits Of Unplugging And Going Screen-Free This July 4

6 Reasons To Step Away From Your Screens Today

Summer's first true holiday weekend is a upon us and with it, many people have plans to cook out, go to the beach and see family. But we at HuffPost Healthy Living would like to suggest another way to celebrate with a true exercise of freedom this Independence Day. We like to call it Operation: Ditch The Screens.

Taking the long weekend to enjoy a life in the third dimension might sound impossible, but it's perhaps more important to your overall health than anything else you could do. Overusing technology is associated with low self-esteem, high stress and even poor sleep and weight gain.

Read this and then consider an Independence Day power-down:

It Makes You Insecure
Why does everyone at your frenemy's BBQ look like they're having more fun than the guests in your own backyard? The answer is: the EarlyBird filter. Put down your iPhone and start chatting with the people you invited over.

In all seriousness, over-engagement with social media can cause anxiety, feelings of low self-esteem and even prevent you from mending a broken heart: If your ex is at a competing social event? Forget it -- one study conducted at Brunel University in the UK found that people who remain in contact with an ex-partner via social media have a tougher time moving on.

You'll Miss The Party
Just under 40 percent of Americans spend more time socializing online than off, according to an online survey by the company Badoo. And while much of that may be a good thing -- pre-Internet, it was harder to keep in close touch with our far-flung friends and family -- it does put into relief just how important and rare those offline hangout sessions can be.

What's more, while we often think we can multitask by keeping one eye on our phones, one on our friends, the research reveals a very different reality: People who engage in multitasking perceive themselves as great jugglers, though data shows they are more likely to be less capable of focusing on multiple things at once than peers who don't make a habit of multitasking.

Don't Tweet it -- say it out loud. To the person next to you. While making eye contact.

It Could Make You Fat (Especially If You're A Teen)
One study of teen media habits found that increased screen time was likely to be associated with larger waistlines, reported Scientific American. There are many factors linking media use and weight, but one of the big ones? Tapping away on a computer can replace physical activity. What's more, screens can lull you into unconscious eating.

In other words? Get outside, go for a walk, a jog, a trip to the beach. And enjoy a July 4 feast -- just do it with intention.

It Will Mess With Your Sleep
We've said it before, but it bears repeating: Bedtime technology sessions interfere with our sleep. Regular computer use late at night is associated with sleep disorders and also with symptoms of stress and depression.

And the light given off by that screen can be problematic on its own: One small study of tablet users found that the blue light lowered production of the sleep hormone melatonin by 22 percent after two hours of screentime.

It Could Make You A Jerk

In a study of cell phone use and behavior, researchers at the University of Maryland found that people who used their phones more often were less likely to engage in "prosocial" behavior, like helping others or contributing to the greater good.

As TIME reported, "After using a cell phone, study participants were more likely to turn down volunteer opportunities and were less persistent in completing word problems, even though they knew their answers would provide money for charity."

Monday, July 8 Will Be Your MOST Productive Day
Blackberries stay inside! Research shows that signing off from work email over the weekend allows you to recover from the demands of your job. In a survey of 229 office workers, researchers found that having a restorative weekend was key to reducing job-related stress, repairing fatigue, recovering from workplace hostilities and fears and improving a sense of serenity, mastery and control.

What's more? Taking a break will make you MORE productive in the long-term, according to emerging research on "strategic renewal."

"More and more of us find ourselves unable to juggle overwhelming demands and maintain a seemingly unsustainable pace," wrote Tony Schwartz in a recent op-ed in The New York Times. "Paradoxically, the best way to get more done may be to spend more time doing less."

"Research has shown that employees who unwind from work stress during off-work times are better at showing proactive behaviors to solve problems and are more engaged in their work," said YoungAh Park, an assistant professor of psychology who studies work-life technological boundaries, but was not involved in the survey. "In the long term, ensuring employee recovery from job stress by detaching themselves from work is beneficial for sustaining employees' well-being and job performance capabilities."

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