Hey! Briana here. This is a guest post from Dr. Valeria Lo Iocano from Symonds Research. Enjoy!
It is inevitable that in a world that is increasingly global and digitally connected, that we are using more time than ever on digital devices. Whether it be checking our cell phone, laptop, or spending time on an iPad, we spend significant amounts of time on such devices.
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Before talking about managing our digital health and wellness further, it is important first to clarify one thing. Technology plays an increasingly vital role in our lives and digital wellness is not about removing digital devices. It is about simply better managing how we interact with these devices and how we use them.
So how can we better manage our digital health on a daily basis? Below are 7 tips to help you find the right digital balance.
Regular Breaks from the Screen
Sitting at a computer for hours on end is easily done as you get into certain tasks and time flies by. It is important though to find time to take a break and 5 minutes every hour can be a great idea.
Get up and walk up and down some stairs to stretch your legs and give your eyes a chance to focus on something other than a computer screen. Even if it is to go and grab a glass of water in the kitchen, it is a break from the screen and a chance for your body to move.
If you are near a window, it can be a good idea to focus on a distant object such as a tree or the clouds to exercise your eyes naturally.
You might be worried about 5 minutes break every hour and the idea of losing productivity. Provided you can learn to take short breaks and keep them short, then you will find that being refreshed can aid your productivity.
During lunch, always try and leave your computer. Avoid eating at your desk!
Start and End Your Day Without Electronic Devices
If you love nothing better than lying in bed checking a digital newspaper than fair enough. If you possibly can though, try and start and end your day by avoiding digital and electronic devices including television.
If you can, read a book, or take 5 minutes simply to do nothing to think about your plans for the day ahead. Think of the positives of what you want to achieve.
Likewise, before sleeping, you can spend 5 minutes thinking about the positive achievements of the day (and there are always some no matter how big or small both in your work and personal life).
Turn off, Reduce or Customize Notifications
It is common these days for many apps or websites to offer ‘Push’ notifications. You may or may not be aware of what these are so let me very briefly explain.
Push notifications are when a website asks if they can send you notifications that will pop up on your computer (normally you’ll see them on the bottom right of your computer).
Some of these notifications might be highly relevant and you want them so keep them. Ask yourself seriously though, when given the option of notifications, if you really need it for the site in question?
Try to reduce notifications and likewise, with emails, if you are receiving any emails you no longer need, unsubscribe immediately.
In other words, try to reduce your digital footprint where it is not needed and save yourself wasted time.
Better Manage Your Social Media Connections and Usage
On Facebook and other social media, also think carefully think about how you use these platforms for positive digital use, as opposed to negative digital use. I use these platforms myself all the time, i.e. I love Facebook, Linkedin, and Twitter.
It is important though to use them in the right way. It is important to remember that we have a choice in how we represent ourselves on social
media and so, when you see everyone appearing to always be on holiday and always drinking cocktails and having the time of their lives, or always looking beautiful, it is not a balanced portrayal of their offline life, you can be sure.
Perspective is vital when using social media and it is understandable that many people can feel intimidated to an extent by what they see, without realizing the negative impact social media has on them.
I would suggest focusing on doing a digital detox and creating positive digital wellness by:
- On Facebook, Twitter and other platforms, unfollowing any friends who post too many negative comments or who, for you personally, are not a positive influence of some kind.
- Make sure that any social media groups and associations you are connected with have a greater positive influence on you than negative. Do not be afraid or hesitate to unfollow any negative associations.
Take a step back and do a digital detox of your social media.
Do you find yourself on social media getting drawn into unnecessarily negative discussions or discussions that drain time that could be better and more positively spent? Unfriend or unjoin those associations.
Spend an hour to go through your social media and do a clean-up and do this once a month.
Schedule Time to Check Emails and for Reading News
Most of us check emails daily and read things such as the news online. Doing these can be positive of course because they are necessary such as for work and they keep us connected to the world around us.
The trick though is to structure this digital time!
Try to get into the habit, for example, of only checking your emails twice a day (except for when you are checking customer service emails if you run a business or because it’s your job).
I myself struggle, to be quite honest, with not checking my emails constantly and I know it is unproductive checking emails so often. I am not saying it is easy but try (as I will) to allocate certain times of the day to checking emails and to reading news or sports online.
I suggest checking these things at the start of your working day and then towards the end of the day or after lunchtime.
Be more Aware of Positive vs Negative Digital Wellness Usage
In terms of digital wellness, try also to think more every time you use any digital device about how you can improve the positive usage of that device. Let me explain!
If you are using a device such as an iPhone to skim the news sites because you are stuck in a doctor’s surgery with nothing to do, could you instead already have a digital eBook on your device? Could you be reading something more useful such as something you need to learn or a book you never seem to have time otherwise to read?
Digital wellness thus reflects not just the things we need to avoid but also the way in which we can take digital usage and simply optimize it.
So why not, for example, improve the available reading materials you have on your devices for when you are looking for a distraction in the doctor’s surgery or on the bus? If you are going to use a digital device, try and improve that time used.
Use Features such as Do Not Disturb Mode or Wind Down for Your Phone
Another simple thing you can do to improve your digital usage time and that can actually help you get off of your computer earlier in the day if you simply need to get certain digital work tasks done, is to set up ‘Do not disturb’ signs. On Skype (if you like to always be signed in), on email, or on your phone (you can use ‘Wind Down’) you can set up do not disturb.
In other words, take control of how you allow others to interact with you and how they impact on your digital time.
What did you think of these digital health and wellness tips? How do YOU take care of your digital wellbeing? Would you consider doing a digital detox? Let me know in the comments!
Dr. Valeria Lo Iacono (Symonds) has taught sociology at the University of Bath, England, and she now runs Symonds Training, which provides help for online teachers and training course materials for freelance trainers. You can also find Valeria on Facebook.