In today’s fast-paced digital world, many individuals, particularly the younger demographic, seem to be struggling with the adverse effects of increased screen time. Although several individuals strive to regulate and alter their usage, it may be challenging to disconnect from digital devices. Fortunately, there are practical strategies and tips for adopting a conscious approach to using our smartphones, which can help counter this trend. This blog post aims to provide valuable insights on how to reduce screen time, enabling individuals to make time for more productive activities and personal growth. As technology continues to evolve, it is crucial for individuals not to let social media take over and regain control of their usage behavior.
To train your brain to get used to scrolling less from now on, it needs a gradual and systematic process of unlearning. You can think of your brain in the same way as a muscle. You have trained yourself to grab your phone regularly and get a quick hit. This is not your fault. Platforms are designed to make you use their services as often and for as long as possible. But anything you have learned, you can also unlearn or replace with other activities. So, if you want to change a behavior, you need to consider what you can replace it with. This alternative activity should also activate the reward system, to enable you to reduce your screen time sustainably.
You can find some ideas here, but you can also think about what you enjoy doing.
“Forest bathing” or Waldbaden, originated in Japanese and Chinese cultures, and involves consciously immersing oneself in nature, specifically in forests, to promote health and well-being. This practice has been found to have a therapeutic effect on the body and soul, most likely due to the terpenes present in the essential oils of trees and plants. These terpenes are capable of calming the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for activating the body, while increasing the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system to promote physical recovery and energy reserve formation. As a result, the practice of forest bathing has gained popularity among health enthusiasts as a natural and effective way to reduce stress, improve mood, and strengthen the immune system.
Forest bathing is an established part of health promotion in Japan and is gaining popularity in Germany. The goal of forest bathing is to consciously perceive nature with all senses. Focus on smells, sounds, and colors, such as the rustling of leaves or the scent of pine needles. Move at a slow pace, take your time without haste, and take breaks. The aim is to actively engage with all senses and immerse oneself in the stillness. Just 20 to 30 minutes daily (or 2 hours per week, White et al., 2019) can help reduce the stress hormone cortisol in the blood (Hunter et al., 2019).
Forest bathing is a great way to recharge your energy and improve your mood. Here are some benefits of practicing forest bathing regularly:
– Reduction of stress
– Improved mood and positivity
– Strengthened immune system
– Increased relaxation and serenity
– Improved mental clarity and concentration
– Practicing mindfulness
– Positive effects on blood pressure and heart rate
– A break from digital distractions and artificial stimuli
So grab your hiking shoes and head to the forest – your mind and body will thank you
It is well known that regular physical activity provides both physical and mental benefits. Sports and exercise can help us overcome various challenges, including addiction problems. To understand this process, we first need to look at the basics of what sustains addiction. The mind and body crave the substance that releases endorphins in the brain and triggers the feeling of being on drugs (Abrantes et al., 2011). When using social media, reward signals are triggered, stimulating the release of endorphins and creating a pleasurable feeling. This can lead to a craving for repeated use, similar to other addictive behaviors. Therefore, it can be helpful to engage in activities that release endorphins.
By engaging in physical activity regularly and with appropriate intensity, we release endorphins that give us a feeling of well-being and reward. This can help us overcome negative habits such as constantly scrolling on our phones and find a healthy alternative that supports our health and well-being. It’s important to find a type of exercise that you enjoy. On days when I have increased anxiety symptoms or a strong urge to spend a lot of time on my phone or laptop, exercises that stimulate my cardiovascular system usually help me. For example, cardio or HIIT workouts, dancing, and interval running do wonders for me. But it is all about finding out what works for you best.
As a tip, I suggest that you exercise at the same time every day. This will bring routine to your daily life and leave no room for saying “I’ll do it later.” Instead of focusing on how strenuous it is and how you don’t get the same immediate satisfaction as scrolling, try to think about how you will feel after the workout. Unlike scrolling, exercising will make you feel happier and more content in the long term.
The impact of social media on social interaction is a complex issue, and one that does not have a definitive answer. While social media undoubtedly enables people to connect and communicate with others from across the globe, it is important to acknowledge that such interactions do not provide the same type of emotional connection and bond that comes from face-to-face interactions. Direct physical presence offers an added dimension of non-verbal communication that may be lost in digital communication. The absence of these personal experiences can lead to increased subjective loneliness and even cause anxiety and depression. Social media should be used consciously to supplement rather than replace in-person interaction. It can likewise provide new avenues to connect with others and develop online communities, increasing well-being.
Real social interactions contribute to promoting mental health, as they support the release of hormones such as oxytocin (the “bonding hormone”), which promotes positive feelings and mood. They can also reduce stress and improve overall wellbeing. Meeting with your friends also distracts you from the urge to use your smartphone, providing a healthy alternative. For example, you can join clubs, take part in a working group, join a study group, start a new hobby, join an orchestra, etc. Something that gets you out and around people.
Ab in den Wald! Heilsame Waldspaziergänge fürs Gemüt | GESUNDNAH AOK Baden-Württemberg. (2022, 11. April). GESUNDNAH-Community. https://www.aok.de/bw-gesundnah/psyche-und-seele/ab-in-den-wald-heilsame-waldspaziergaenge-fuers-gemuet
Abrantes, A. M., Battle, C. L., Strong, D. R., Ing, E., Dubreuil, M. E., Gordon, A. N. & Brown, R. J. C. (2011). Exercise preferences of patients in substance abuse treatment. Mental Health and Physical Activity, 4(2), 79–87. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mhpa.2011.08.002
Hunter, M. R., Gillespie, B. W. & Chen, S. Y. (2019). Urban Nature Experiences Reduce Stress in the Context of Daily Life Based on Salivary Biomarkers. Frontiers in Psychology, 10. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00722
Terra Xplore. (2023, 6. Juli). Bildschirmzeit: Das macht dein Handy mit deinem Hirn | Terra Xplore mit Psychologe Leon Windscheid [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P7ToH0ExG2o
White, M. P., Alcock, I., Grellier, J., Wheeler, B. W., Hartig, T., Warber, S. L., Bone, A., Depledge, M. H. & Fleming, L. E. (2019). Spending at least 120 minutes a week in nature is associated with good health and wellbeing. Scientific Reports, 9(1). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-44097-3