7 Reasons to Reduce Your Screen Time (& How to Do It!)

Article posted in: Lifestyle
person on smart phone

We are fortunate to live in a time when we have so much information and entertainment at our fingertips. With our phones, tablets, laptops and TVs, we have unlimited access to the latest news, more movies and shows to watch than ever before, and almost instant connection to our friends, family and other people around the world. These technologies enrich our lives by exposing us to fresh ideas and keeping us plugged in to what’s going on around us.

But, as we all know, too much of a good thing can be harmful to us. Researchers are finding out that excessive screen time is leading to physical and mental health problems and can even hinder progress to your weight loss goal. Here’s what you need to know and what to do about it.

Risks of Excess Screen Time:

1. Poor Posture and Spine Disorders

Spending more than four hours a day using a smartphone dramatically increases your risk of neck, back and shoulder pain, according to a study, published in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science. When we concentrate on watching the relatively small screen, we tend to bend our necks to see it. “This may be the reason for the development of more severe problems,” the researchers theorize.

2. Headaches and Migraines

person with a headache

Extended time looking at all kinds of screens can cause common headaches and even trigger migraines. The causes may be eye strain, screen brightness or flickering, sensitivity to the blue light that screens emit, or poor posture.

3. Anxiety and Depression

Social media can bring us a lot of joy as we share in the happy events of our family and friends, but this can also be a source of discouragement about our own lives. What’s more, a steady barrage of negative news from around the world can be upsetting to us. Research shows that increasing time on social media can lead to higher levels of anxiety and depression. This is especially true for children and adolescents, but it affects adults, too.

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4. Distraction from Real Life

Watching tv and using remote control

Watching movies and shows, playing online games, and scrolling through social media can be a helpful diversion from our everyday cares and worries. But when we become so absorbed in the virtual world, we may be shutting out the important people in our lives and failing to fulfill our responsibilities. This can lead to isolation or avoidance, which can have negative effects on our physical and mental health, says a report in the journal Frontiers in Human Dynamics.

5. Disrupted Sleep

Excessive screen time or just scrolling before bedtime have been linked to trouble falling and staying asleep. Research has found that looking at screens that emit blue light (like smart phones and tablets) can suppress the body’s production of melatonin, the hormone that helps us to sleep. Lack of sleep doesn’t just affect our ability function the next day. It also impacts the hormones that regulate our appetite and often causes us to choose foods that are high in calories, fats and sugar.

6. Lack of Activity

man using mobile phone at home

Screen time offers us a relaxing break from our busy lives. But when we binge-watch or fall into an unending cycle of scrolling and refreshing, we are likely to be sitting still for hours. Regular activity is essential for keeping our metabolism burning calories, a key to losing weight. When we don’t move for long periods of time, we increase our risk for obesity, high blood pressure and insulin resistance.

7. Unhealthy Diet

For a variety of reasons, long hours of screen time are associated with food choices that make it more difficult to lose weight. The more time you spend looking at a screen, the more likely you are to eat foods that are high in calories and low in nutrition, according to a report in the scientific journal BMC Public Health. Increased screen time was also associated with a lower intake of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and fish, the foods that are essential to your weight loss diet.

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person on smart phone

How to Reduce Screen Time:

Here are a few ideas that can help you enjoy watching and scrolling without causing any of these health problems.

1. Set Boundaries

Before you unlock your phone or start a movie, show or game, decide on a reasonable time limit that you will stick to. Without a plan, you can be tempted to keep going for hours.

2. Take Breaks

Allow your eyes, your body and your mind to reset by taking breaks about every 30 minutes. Stand up, stretch your body, move around and focus your attention on something else before resuming.

3. Turn off Notifications

One of the most powerful tools that technology companies use to keep us attached to our screens is sending a steady stream of notifications that try to convince us that we’re missing something important. These notifications lure us back to screens repeatedly throughout the day. Every app has a “settings” feature that lets us shut the notifications off.

4. Stop Before Bed

Put down your phone or tablet an hour before sleep, experts recommend. This allows your body to produce the melatonin you need to fall asleep. Instead of scrolling, try reading before bedtime. Find out about the many health benefits of reading at the link below:

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5. Eat Screen-Free

Meals are more satisfying when we focus on good food and conversation. When we’re scrolling or watching, we are not getting enjoyment from the food and may eat more than we realize because we’re not paying attention to how much we’ve eaten. Turn off the screens while you eat.

6. Use NuMi

One very healthy use of your smart phone or tablet is Nutrisystem’s free NuMi app. It makes it easy to record your food and water intake and your daily activities, a proven way to speed progress to your weight loss goal. NuMi offers you daily tips and recipes and makes it so easy to order your favorite Nutrisystem menu items. The app is free-of-charge and it works on all platforms. Download it now and you can start putting your screen time to good use for your health!