5 benefits of going tech free

Check out this list of 5 reasons why you should try to give up all technology for a week if the idea of being away from your cell phone scares you. 

We live our lives almost entirely immersed in technology. Whether we check our email as the kids get ready for school, return a text in the middle of a grocery store or huddle around the television at night, we are rarely without some gadget competing for our attention.

Research suggests social media is the millennial generation’s drug of choice. While not technically considered an addiction, excessive attachment to the Internet is becoming more commonplace and problematic. A 2010 University of Maryland study found many young people describe their dependence on the Internet as an addiction, even if they’re not officially diagnosable. In the study, 200 students were required to go on a 24-hour media fast and then write. Overall the students complained that they felt bored, disconnected, uncomfortable, and anxious without their phones and computers.

Constantly checking social media sites, work emails, and texts from far-flung friends sounds like its fostering connectivity, but the opposite is often true. Studies show spending tons of time online can actively harm relationships, interpersonal communication skills, and mental health.

Check out our list of 5 reasons you should try to go tech free for at least 24 hours a week:

Get better sleep: A study from the Lighting Research Centre suggests that the light emitted from displays of tablets and similar devices can cause melatonin suppression. Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland at night and under the conditions of darkness. Researchers have found that by using a self-luminous display for two hours before bed, you can suppress melatonin by 22%, making it harder to get to sleep. Also, a Harvard study found that the blue light that devices give off can throw off your sleep by almost three hours.

Fewer headaches: Staring at digital screens, whether it’s your mobile device or laptop, for long periods of time can be attributing to you experiencing headaches. Also, looking down at your phone or slumped at your desk for hours could be straining your neck and causing migraines. Finally, as we all know, it's virtually impossible to get away from work and stressors. According to various neurologists, never taking a mental break from work makes us more stressed, which is thought to be a headache trigger because it causes muscle tension.

Less stress: Much like the flu, stress can be contagious. Studies show that women who use social media frequently can feel more stressed thanks to the “cost of caring,” meaning that when other people express stress, say over a paper, or a particularly hard assignment on social media, you can then feel stressed even if you’re not going through the same thing. If you constantly feel like you’re under a huge amount of pressure, unplugging can be just what the doctor ordered.

Be a nicer person: according to Dr Bernie Hogan, a senior researcher at Oxford University's Internet Institute, despite the huge increase in social media many users don't see themselves as part of a community. "The revolutions in technology make it easy to connect, but it's connecting in a peer-to-peer way. It's not 'I'm connecting to this group or organization'" he says. Also, researchers from the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business found that after a short period of cell phone use, people were less likely to partake in “prosocial” behavior — actions that are intended to help another person or society — compared with a control group.

Get healthier: By now you’ve probably heard of all the camps and programs dedicated to getting people to put down their gadgets and get moving. They sound kind of weird, but studies show that putting down your tablet can make you healthier. People spend so much time sitting down behind a computer or on front of a television screen that going tech free for half an hour a day to do some physical activity can increase your heart health.

Our challenge to you is to find a balance. Let technology help you accomplish your goals, but don’t let it disconnect you from the friends and family right in front of you. There’s value in an occasional digital detox. Give it a try — and then try it again.

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