If you're reading this, you might not know that it's the fourth annual National Day of Unplugging, a day when participants nationwide pledge to spend 24 hours completely tech-free.
Impossible, you say? Difficult, maybe, for the most avid Instagrammers and Tweeters and texters among us. But even if you don't unplug for a full sunset to sunset, spending more time off the grid can be surprisingly beneficial to your mood, relationships and overall health.
Since you clearly haven't been convinced if you're still reading, here are a few of the most powerful health reasons to take a tech break. Let us know why you unplug in the comments below.
Being Plugged In…
...Zaps Focus And Productivity
The cell phone is buzzing, the Gchat boxes are blinking blue and the columns of Tweetdeck are streaming by faster than the speed of light. All these bursts of technology are not informative news flashes but distractions, say experts. While you might fancy yourself a fantastic juggler, multi-tasking is actually limiting your ability to pay attention. Instead of getting more done on more tasks, people who are ultra plugged in struggle to tune out the irrelevant info, the New York Times reported. Some have taken to calling this effect "popcorn brain." All that constant beeping and buzzing may be leaving our brains too over-stimulated to focus on the slower-paced offline life.
Many of us are dealing with the unscientific but all-too-real "Social Media Anxiety Disorder." Half of people surveyed in a UK study said that social media has a negative effect on their lives, namely because of the opportunity to compare themselves to peers on Facebook and Twitter and the effect those comparisons have on self-esteem, Forbes reported. While SMAD isn't a medically recognized disorder, the statuses that don't elicit enough "Likes" or retweets and the emails that go unanswered are causing real anxiety. And stress, no matter the cause, can lead to premature aging, brain shrinkage, lowered immunity and increased diabetes risk, among other scary side effects.
...Disrupts Your Sleep
You've probably realized that sharing the bed with your buzzing, beeping cell phone can interrupt your slumber. But even technology use before bed is problematic. That's because screens emit a blue wavelength of light that tricks the brain into thinking it's time to be alert, thereby delaying the natural release of the sleep-aiding hormone melatonin. The National Sleep Foundation found that 95 percent of us use some screen in the hour before bed, whether that's a TV, laptop, smartphone or video game. You're not tired though, you say? Messing with your sleep is harmful for reasons other than just feeling sluggish the next morning: Chronic sleep deprivation has been linked to memory problems, heart attacks, obesity, stroke and more frightening health outcomes.
Stumped at work? Consider stepping away from the computer and getting some fresh air. A small 2012 study found that spending time in nature without your electronic devices boosted scores on a creativity test.
Yes, physically! Think about where you spend most of your time being plugged in. If the answer is "hunched over a computer," you're in trouble. Sitting too much in general isn't doing you any favors, but poor posture can lead to neck and back pain, eye strain and shoulder tension. Even if you're plugged in on the go, you can hurt yourself. More and more doctors are observing thumb, hand and wrist pain in patients, linked to cell phone use, ABC News reported.
...Makes Driving Dangerous
If you're looking at a smartphone, you're not looking at the road, and, even if it's just for a few seconds, the consequences can be serious. The New York Times reported on a study of truckers that found that when drivers texted, their risk of crashing was 23 times higher than when they put down the phones. The average time spent looking at a phone near a crash was just five seconds, but five seconds is long enough "at typical highway speeds to cover more than the length of a football field," according to the paper. Not much is so important it can't wait.
Need some tips for how to unplug? We've got you covered: