I was driving into town on Saturday morning on my way to the hairdressers, listening to my favourite radio station and trying to figure out (calmly) where on earth I was going to park my car. It seems that the last Saturday in August is when EVERYONE decides to go into town to get their last-minute back to school shopping done.
In amongst the fairly inane chit chat on the radio, the DJ mentioned Scroll Free September, which I’d not heard about before. It’s a campaign which aims to get people to take a break from personal social media for 30 days during September. The cynical side of me thinks that it won’t be long before the entire year is filled with “deprivation” months. But if the success of Stoptober and Veganuary is anything to go by, the en masse “stopping” of something for a month is a really good way to raise the profile of certain health campaigns plus it can deliver health benefits to those who participate. (Personally, I think more is to be gained by making small, lasting changes but hey, if it’s a case of all or nothing, then knock yourself out with sparkling water during Stoptober).
Scroll Free September is aimed at improving mental health and wellbeing and primarily targets 18-34 year olds. According to the RSPH website, 7 out of 10 young people have experienced cyber bullying and 1 in 5 young people wake in the night to check messages on social media. Scary stuff!! There’s also lots of research on how self-esteem can be impacted by social media. It doesn’t take a psychology degree to work out that regularly scrolling through loads of “perfect” pictures on Instagram can make even a fairly confident person feel like they are lacking somewhat.
It got me thinking about how too much screen time affects energy levels. Most of us are constantly attempting to reduce our smartphone usage. Mainly because we know we spend too much time on our phones to the detriment of doing other things (like exercise, reading a book or taking up a new hobby). But it’s not easy to do because the reality is that our lives rely so heavily on being connected via our phones. When I’m working in my office, I have to leave my phone at the other end of the house. Otherwise I’m too easily distracted by What’s App, Facebook, Messenger and Instagram. Even without replying, commenting or posting anything myself, 20 minutes can disappear just like that – and the blog post I’ve been writing has not progressed beyond the first paragraph.
There are other reasons, aside from creating more time in the day, why cutting down on screen time is good for you. Here’s how it can help improve your energy levels:
- Better sleep
Some people find it relaxing to mindlessly scroll through social media at night. But the reality is that your brain views this as anything but relaxing. Not only does the blue light from your screen interfere with the production of sleep-inducing melatonin, it can also seriously mess up your circadian rhythm because of the way the cells in your eyes process ambient light. Then there’s all the information your brain is trying to process – that cringey photo your best friend posted of your recent holiday together, the sarcastic comment you made on someone’s post and then worried they’d misinterpret, trying to figure out how that woman went from size 24 to size 10 in 6 weeks. It’s not rocket science to conclude that you’ll sleep better if you are not glued to a screen right before bed. And when you sleep well, your energy levels improve.
- More movement
It’s quite hard to walk and read something on a small screen at the same time. It’s harder still to run, even on a treadmill. And I challenge anyone to do burpees whilst scrolling through their Instagram feed. The truth is that when you are looking at a screen, especially a small one, you are generally stationary. In other words, you are sitting on your butt. And we wonder why we have muffin tops. Hmmm, how about less screen time and more movement? So next time you are bored and tempted to spend 10 minutes scrolling on social media, go for a walk. Do some press ups. Run around the garden with your kids. More strolling, less scrolling.
- Being more present
The link to better energy may seem tenuous but hear me out. We all know that when we are looking at our screens (specifically our phones), we are not fully focused on the people around us. Some people might appear to be able to conduct a conversation while fiddling on their phones. But it only takes a 4 year old to call you out on it and and you realise that you haven’t been paying attention to what they are saying for the past 5 minutes. Prising yourself away from your phone and being more present, or mindful, helps you concentrate and focus better on what you are doing and who you are with. It can help you stay calm in stressful situations. You become more aware of your breathing. Let the energy flow in your new zen like state. Or at least listen to what your kids are trying to tell you.
- Better posture (and less back pain)
Have a think about your posture when you are looking at your phone. Do you sit up nice and straight, with your feet flat on the ground, your abdominals engaged and your neck and shoulders relaxed? Not so much? Unless you are consciously trying to sit with good posture, it’s much more likely you’ll be slouched, with rounded shoulders and your neck in a forward position. And bad posture is not good for your back, or your health. If you’ve ever had back pain, you’ll know how it affects your energy levels – especially if the pain affects your sleep. Put your phone down, stand up nice and tall, stretch. Doesn’t that feel nice?
So, am I going to take a break from social media for the whole of September? I don’t think I’d be able to go tee total. The lines between personal and business social media use are, at least for me, easily blurred. And I do need to engage with social media to build my brand. But I am going to try to look at my phone a lot less, especially in the evening. A few days ago, I was on the verge of getting a new Iphone, as I’m out of contract on my current one. But then I realised that if I get a new phone, I’ll end up using it even more. So sorry O2, you are not getting more money from me.
Have you ever done a proper digital detox? I’d love to hear about it and how you managed to do it. Post your comments below.
Here’s to more strolling and less scrolling – and feeling more energised.