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  • Writer's pictureHeather Davis

Pandemic Rx: The Power of Unplugging

Updated: Jul 31, 2020

Pain is on our doorstep and in the media 24/7. Especially these days.

One of the most valuable things we can do for ourselves is take time to disconnect.

Research shows that silent, unplugged time is crucial for our emotional and mental health.

Yet, even before a worldwide pandemic, the average American was spending between 5 and 6 hours a day glued to a screen. Added up, that’s almost 8,000 days of the average person’s lifespan – nearly 22 years!

COVID-19 is a clear health crisis but it seems Americans are doing a fine job of exacerbating the effects on our own:

A recent poll shows that since the beginning of stay-at-home orders, the average American is now streaming TV content a full eight hours every day. And that’s just the TV shows and movies. Added to a full unwork-day of TV bingeing is constant simultaneous social media use.

Given that it’s difficult to be both a quality show binge-watcher and home-school teacher, sixty-five (65%) of parents admit to increased TV and movie time for kids now at home. I’m a parent. I recognize the convenience of a screen. But like us adults, kids will return to the world at some point and it’s worth noting the impact of all of this.

Watching TV is almost literally, a no-brainer:

For big and little people alike all that TV, means we’re not reading, building stuff, playing music or creating art – you know…creative thinking and problem-solving - things that build and maintain healthy brains. All the watching also means sitting for long periods of inactivity and increased caloric intake – already exacerbating the separate epidemics of diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

All the time in front of screens – with the exception of school & work-related uses - have been associated, time and again, with general lower psychological well-being especially in adolescents: higher rates of anxiety and depression, less ability to focus, lower emotional stability, lower happiness levels, less empathy and increased apathy.

Social distancing is not distancing from social. If anything, it’s created a greater dependence.

The ubiquitous social media use that for all connection and constant feedback, it’s actually leading to higher levels of loneliness and depression, with the heaviest users feeling most isolated.

Beyond loneliness, research has also causally linked heavy social media use to a decline in well-being and mental health, especially in young people. For all ages, social media has been linked to anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, lack of ability to focus, hyperactivity and poor sleep.

We all see it: Only 5% of Americans in a recent APA poll saw social media as having a positive impact in their lives. Yet the addiction rages.

Today’s constant demands on our time and attention: unending stimuli and constant bombardment are stressing us out and distracting us from our focus. Always-connected, there is less and less time for our minds to power down and recoup.

We have the opportunity to care less about what everyone else is doing and instead chart a course, shut out the noise and focus on what we want to grow in our own lives.

Our devices are constantly on and so are we. Trading in just a fraction those hours wasted swiping and clicking for a little silence, will pay dividends for our mental, emotional and physical well-being.

And all the more necessary.


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