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What's Up Magazine

Powering Down: The Benefits of Life Off-Screen

Mar 22, 2017 02:00PM ● Published by Becca Newell

By Becca Newell

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Nomophobia: Fear of being without a mobile phone

Time’s 2012 Mobility Poll revealed most smartphone users can’t go a day without their device— one in four participants checked it every 30 minutes

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Computers, TVs, tablets, smartphones—the list of screens in our every-day repertoire is ever-growing and ever-more consuming. But for most of us, they’re unavoidable, work-required electronics that unquestionably make our lives easier. Ongoing research, however, suggests there’s some cause for concern—perhaps technology is a little too involved in our lives? We’re not advocating for electronic elimination—how could we ever forgo posting our #ootd?! But we do recommend reviewing your screen time and adjusting to a somewhat more analog life.

There are numerous studies on how our brains (and our bodies—check out our October 2016 article “The Tech Effect”) have adapted to technology. One such phenomenon, called “Phantom Vibration Syndrome,” is described as perceiving non-existent phone vibrations. In one study of college students, 89 percent reported experiencing phantom vibrations about once every two weeks and the majority of students weren’t bothered by their existence.

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Globally, 87% of consumers use another device while watching tv. The most popular companion device? A smart phone


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Another study dubbed cellphone use the “new yawn” because of its social contagiousness. The study, which observed college students at the University of Michigan, suggested a person was more likely to use their phone after seeing their companion use theirs. Researchers concluded the social cue affected behavior due to the effects of social inclusion and exclusion—when you’re interacting with someone and they use their phone, you feel excluded, thus you check your phone to connect with others and feel included.

While we might not be consciously aware of the digital encroachment occurring in our daily lives, we should probably make a conscious effort to occasionally unplug. Here’s a peek at what life is like off-screen.

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Mindfulness has been shown to improve one’s mood, reduce stress and anxiety, and promote less negative thinking and distraction


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Yoga (and, similarly, meditation) have long been praised for their ability to effectively combat stress and anxiety. If you’ve never quite become the yogi of your dreams, but long for a practice as beneficial and versatile, try mindfulness. The technique encourages the user to focus on her thoughts, be aware of her surroundings, and acknowledge how her actions affect herself and others.

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About 12 million adult coloring books were sold in the USA in 2015


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Adult-targeted coloring books began topping bestseller lists in 2015, as hordes of the stressed and tech-obsessed craved time away from their screens. Trading a tablet stylus for a brightly-hued pencil or marker and shading between the lines has been said to offer therapeutic benefits, including reducing anxiety and bettering one’s mood.

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Research suggests cognitive activity, like reading, from an early age through adulthood leads to slower memory decline.


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While our reading preference leans towards the printed variety, we’d be remiss to not recognize the popularity of e-readers. Unlike tablets that have LCD screens, e-readers—most notably the Kindle—boast reflective displays, or “e-ink” technology, that doesn’t require any backlight. These screens are touted as a paper substitute and research has yet to contradict e-reader claims of causing less eye strain and eye fatigue than tablets.

If art isn’t your strong suit, try reading—its stress-reducing benefits are thought to be similar to coloring. In a 2009 study, participants began to relax within six minutes of picking up a book. Adjust your bedtime routine to include perusing a new hardcover or paperback—or magazine (hint!)—in place of scrolling through Facebook or binging on Netflix. It may even help you sleep better!

Mark your calendars for Screen-Free Week May 1st - 7th.

The annual, international movement encourages participants to take a break from digital entertainment and instead read, play, create, get active, and spend time with family and friends. More info at Screenfree.org

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