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Digital Wellness - Maintaining Screen/Life Balance in the Digital World

We live in a world that is advancing in technology by leaps and bounds. And, technology comes with its advantages and disadvantages. With the increasing use and dependence on technology, we are seeing a generation of youth who has started suffering from digital dependency and we are clueless on how to strike a balance in our virtual life and real life. There is a very fine line between dependence and addiction. When we cross this line, multiple aspects of our lives go off balance and starts affecting our day to day functioning, physical health, mental health, social health and general well-being.

·Physical health effects include insomnia, daytime drowsiness, frequent headaches, text-neck syndrome, back pain, strain in eyes, ear functioning impairment, altered eating habits, obesity, etc.

·Mental health effects include irritability, anxiety, depression, anger, lack of attention or ADD, narcissism etc.

·Social health effects include lowering of scores/performance, social interaction issues, withdrawal/isolation, slippage into other addictions and so on.

Especially after the COVID-19 pandemic, when everything became digital, maintaining digital wellness has become all the more important. Digital Wellness is nothing but maintaining a healthy relationship with technology. To maintain digital Wellness, it is not necessary to go completely off technology but we have to use technology smartly, appropriately and responsibly. We just have to build healthy digital habits which will improve our digital health.

· Identifying healthy and unhealthy digital usage:

When we visit a dietician to improve our food habits to maintain our physical health, the dietician takes a diet recall and identifies our healthy and unhealthy food intake. Then the dietician guides us in making healthy choices for our diet. We increase our healthy food intake and cut down on unhealthy food intake as per the guidance. Similarly, when we want to strike screen/life balance and maintain our digital well being, we have to be aware about our healthy and unhealthy digital usage so that we can cut down on our unhealthy, unnecessary digital usage. Author Nicholas Kardaras in his book – ‘Glow kids’, has given very interesting names for healthy and unhealthy digital usage – Digital Vegetables and Digital Candy respectively. Screen exposure that is purely titillating or of the adrenaline rush variety (addicting and hyper stimulating) is considered Digital Candy while productive use of screens is considered as Digital Vegetables. Following are some of the examples of Digital Vegetables and Digital Candy.

Digital Vegetables:

  • Internet surfing to research a topic

  • E-mailing

  • Work/education/e-books

  • Educational videos/articles

  • Video calls to connect with people

  • Creating music or following a sports team

Digital Candy:

  • Video games and gambling online

  • Mindless YouTube surfing

  • Porn watching

  • Hyper-texting

  • Hyper-Social media use

· Track your screen-time:

Our screen-time can be tracked easily. Nowadays, smartphones have inbuilt screen-time tracker/ digital well being app where our phone can give us insights on our screen-time in general and on various apps with smart charts showing us day-time and night-time usage. Also, social media apps like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, etc have their own app usage tracker through which we can get information about specific app usage. We can also daily time limit for using those apps in app itself so that once we cross that time limit; the app notifies us to stop the usage. We can also set quiet mode/sleep mode and decrease our night-time usage.

We can also track our screen-time manually, where we can write down our screen-recall just like our diet -recall which makes us aware about our triggers, screen-time as well as planning new replacing habits.

  • Identify your triggers:

Triggers are the things or state of mind because of which we get the impulse to take the action, in this case, picking up your phone or any device. As mentioned above, you can write down your triggers in your screen-recall. The commonest trigger or cause of distraction is the notification tone. As soon as we hear a notification tone, we get the impulse to pick up our smartphone and check the notification. So, if we are getting distracted by the notification tone, we can change our notification settings on the phone and switch off notifications for distracting apps. Nowadays, smartphones have an inbuilt ‘focus mode’ or ‘Zen mode’ which helps us in setting the timer for selective apps. E.g. If your working hours are from 9 am to 6 pm, you can set the timer in your focus or zen mode so that you do not get any/selected app notifications during that time. Only when you want to check a certain app, you can check when you wish. Other such triggers are boredom, sitting idle, travelling, etc.

So we can identify triggers for ourselves and then devise a unique method that will work for us.

  • Replace old habits with new habits:

Until and unless we replace our old habit of using screens/gadgets with new healthier habits, digital detox doesn’t work. There are high chances that there will be a relapse. When we identify our unwanted and misspend screen-time, we can replace it with more productive habits like reading, learning something new, following our hobby, indulging in art activities, physical exercise, meditation and mindfulness practices, meeting or communicating with friends/family, playing board games, etc.

These are the four steps to make your Digital Health Plan work for you!

Let us look at some general tips for maintaining digital wellness:

Buy an Alarm Clock: Stop using your mobile phone as your alarm clock so that you do not pick up your smartphone first thing in the morning. Keep your phone at least 1-2 meters away from your bed. Be old-fashioned!

Gradual reduction of screen-time: If you decrease your screen time drastically, the de-tox won’t work. Tapering down is the best thing to do!

Tech fasting on weekends: Switch off your data on Saturday/Sunday for a day!

Use your phone/tablets in night mode/ blue light filter mode at night post 8 pm. While using laptops at night, use blue light filter screens/blue light filter glasses.

Look at an object far away for 20-30 seconds after every 20-30 mins of continuous screen use.

Practice neck relaxing exercises every 2-3 hours of continuous screen use while working.

Use earphones while speaking with someone to avoid direct radiation.

While watching/listening to audio-visual media content, keep the volume 60% or lesser.

If you are addicted and can not help yourself, seek professional help!

“If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself” – Henry Ford.

If you use these tips as a team/group activity with your family and friends, there is a better chance of success and you will enjoy the journey more!

Stay Home! Stay Safe!

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