Tech Obsessed: 10 Tips for Unplugging

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Screen Shot 2014-02-25 at 9.51.33 AMIt’s the first thing you look at in the morning—and the last thing you check before bed. Like a critical appendage, you feel on edge if it’s not nearby, and sometimes you even feel phantom vibrations when it hasn’t moved at all. Sound like your relationship to your smartphone (or tablet, or laptop)? It may be time to “unplug” from the tech world a wee bit. (Yes, it’s hard. Technology is everywhere, tempting you and supporting your habit.)

But wait—before you go curl up in the fetal position clutching your smart phone for dear life, consider this: experts say that getting away from technology can boost creativity and contribute to a better night’s sleep. Plus, too much screen time can result in poor posture, back pain and eye strain—and we don’t even need to mention the danger when the phone-obsessed among us text and drive.

Here’s another compelling reason: too much time attached to social media can increase stress. (You know…all that comparing yourself to others and checking to see how many “likes” your recent Facebook post received. It’s enough to make you anxious.) As an antidote to tech overload, here are our 10 tips for unplugging and finding a more Zen YOU.

Get off the grid. The most surefire way to unplug is to simply make it impossible to use your various screens. Go where there’s no Wifi to tempt you, or simply go for a walk or jog and leave your phone/tablet/etc. at home.

Have alternatives on hand. When do most of us engage in our most mindless screen time? When we’re bored, idle or just unengaged. So fight that post-homework urge to putter around on Facebook for an hour, and have some alternative activities ready to go, such as cooking, exercise or even having a cup of coffee with your mom (she’d love that).

Maintain a sleep sanctuary. Sleep experts agree: the bedroom is no place for your gadgets and gizmos. The light emitted by your various screens tells the brain it’s time to stay alert instead of winding down. Protect the Zen-like sanctity of your room, and spend your last few minutes before turning out the lights doing something tech-free, like reading a book or listening to some relaxing music.

Keep a media diary. When people go on a diet to lose weight, they’re often asked to keep a food diary. After all, it becomes way harder to eat six Girl Scout cookies if you know you have to write it down afterwards. Treat your screen time the same way. Do you really want to write down “checked Facebook for an hour?” Or “spent 45 minutes browsing Wikipedia?”

Schedule your screen time. There’s nothing wrong with catching up with friends on Facebook or uploading your latest Instagram photos. It’s all about moderation! So instead of just hopping on your computer when you have a minute (and then letting it become a time-suck), go ahead and schedule chunks of tech-time. And when your time is up? Put the screen down and walk away.

Make a pact. To use the dieting analogy again, sometimes it’s easier to make a change when you’ve got a partner in the process. So if you struggle to be alone without your phone, enlist a friend to engage in some unplugged time with you. You can hold each other accountable when one of you wants to Google something.

Take a class. If you haven’t noticed, cell phones aren’t exactly allowed in a yoga class. Nor would they be allowed in a spin class, pottery-making class or so forth. Sign up for something that interests you, and you’ll have scheduled some time—totally unplugged—to engage in the world screen-free.

Take a bath. Not only is a decadent bubble-bath a relaxing way to kill half an hour, it’s also unlikely you’ll take your phone with you—you’re too scared to drop it in the water!

Find some new reading material. It’s easy to say “read a book”, but you need to have the right material on hand if you’re truly trying to beat a tech addiction. Hit the bookstore or library and pick up a juicy page turner—and try to read the actual book. You know, the kind with real pages.

Create some “no tech zones.” Quite possibly, you have a parent who already enforces this at mealtimes (a great idea, incidentally). Designate some other “unplugged” zones of your life, maybe on the morning bus ride or when you’re eating your lunch. Spend that time people watching or daydreaming.

Congratulations! You’re officially “unplugged.” (See, that wasn’t so hard.)

Need further convincing? Check out this tech-obsessed woman’s account of her efforts to “unplug.”

And here’s more discussion to watch on the topic of unplugging!

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