Editor’s Note: UPDATED as of October 20, 2016 for relevance and accuracy.
Technology is amazing.
I can order my son new sneakers, read an article about groundhogs, and see what my neighbors did on vacation – all within a few seconds and while still in my pajamas. 20 years ago, in my wildest dreams, I could not have imagined the amount of things I can accomplish just from my cell phone.
Technology has radically transformed the way we live today.
When my eight-year-old son asks me a question like, where’s Costa Rica, I can look it up with him on his iPod and help him find a map with the answer. I can see if my 12-year-old is really where she said she was going by tracking her phone signal. I can work from just about anywhere I want to be instead of going into an office.
Technology allows us to have the world at our fingertips 24/7. So, why would we ever want to give that up?
Well, there are some key reasons why taking a break from technology can be good for our health and well-being. Don’t get me wrong – I am not saying we should cancel our cell plan completely. However, strategic breaks can be beneficial.
Here are seven reasons you may want to disconnect – at least for now.
Why we all need to take a break from technology…
1) Safety Concerns
It goes without saying that texting, emailing or web-surfing while driving is highly dangerous.
Distracted driving is a huge problem that has only increased with the rise in technology. However, it is not just driving that can present dangers. Walking while looking down at a phone can also be hazardous. How many times have you or someone you know fallen down, bumped into something or gotten hurt because they weren’t paying attention while walking?
It happens everyday. Keeping your phone in your hand as you go from one place to another can create too much of a temptation.
Put it away where you can’t see it or feel it when en route somewhere. In your purse or pocket with the vibration or ringer off can help avoid distractions. Whatever it is, it can wait. Or, if you’re out on a walk or somewhere that offers the ability to connect with nature, try getting rid of your phone until you’re done.
2) Sleep Deprivation
A good night’s sleep is so crucial to our physical and mental health. Yet so many of us struggle with falling asleep at night. When we watch television, check emails, or read from a device such as a phone or a tablet, we are making it harder to unwind and settle into a solid sleep at night.
According to the Sleepfoundation.org, the light from our phone or tablet can increase wakefulness and make it more difficult to fall asleep at night. I often recommend turning off all electronic devices an hour or two before going to bed at night to give yourself time to disconnect and unwind from the day.
3) Decreased Productivity
Multitasking is a great way to get more done, right? Wrong. Going back and forth between different tasks actually reduces your productivity. According to the American Psychological Association switching gears can cost as much as 40 percent of our productivity.
So a way to reduce the temptation of multitasking is to set up your day in chunks of time for specific tasks that need to get done. Schedule time for checking emails or returning calls. When you are not in that particular window of time, you can shut down your phone or turn off your email alert on your computer to avoid switching gears.
This is especially true when you are doing things that are not technology-based. Keep your phone off and out of sight in order to increase your productivity. Whatever messages come in, you will get to them later when you have scheduled yourself to do so. When in doubt, take a break.
4) Quality of Relationships
Do you check your phone when you are with others or do you keep technology away? Connecting with people face to face will be a more meaningful experience instead being distracted by the ding or buzz of the phone.
The busier we get, the more we feel the need to stay connected at all times. But the reality is, we are not really connecting with the people we are physically spending time with if we are dividing our attention between them and our devices. During meals and other social situations, take a break from technology and reconnect with the important relationships in your life.
5) Self-Esteem Issues
Technology allows us to take a peek into other people’s lives through social media like Facebook and Instagram at any point in time. We find ourselves comparing our everyday lives to what we see others posting on social media. What we forget to recognize is that, people are posting only a snapshot that they want the world to see. It is often not reflected in the big picture of reality.
Keep that in mind when you find yourself comparing yourself to others based on social media. It may be time to put down your phone and go do something fun for yourself.
6) Emotional Well-Being
Access to information can be a wonderful thing. But sometimes, too much can be problematic. For example, in my book called “Lose that Mommy Guilt, Tales and Tips from an Imperfect Mom”, I wrote about my experience as a parent with a child with severe food allergies.
Being able to use technology to read articles and news feeds related to allergies can arm me with important education – but can also be overwhelming. Reading stories about children who have died as a result of allergies increases my anxiety and can be emotionally draining and even paralyzing. Tragedies related to food allergies are not new; but my ability to get a 24-hour news feed of them is new and adds to my already growing anxiety.
By accessing news information so easily through technology, we run the risk of overwhelming ourselves with negative stories and images. Shut it off when you need to do so. Take a break for a while to put things into perspective. Tragedies are not new, but our ability to know about them all is!
7) Take a Break: Experience Life
Technology makes it easy to get the perfect pictures. My iPhone today takes better pictures than any big, bulky, camera I have ever owned. I love being able to look back at pictures from vacation or from a day with friends to re-live that memory and experience.
On the flipside, sometimes I can be so focused on getting the perfect picture of something that I never really experience the event I am trying to capture in the first place.
For example: I was taking a video of my children dancing the other day and realized I saw the entire thing through the lens of my phone. By putting the phone away and fully experiencing the moment, it created a more lasting and impactful experience than seeing it from behind a screen.
Learn to take a break from tech once in a while. It’s not like you’ll be letting go of your favorite device. By learning to unplug sometimes, you open up a world of opportunities you may not have otherwise noticed.