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The technological advancements of the past 30 years have many undeniable benefits. The internet and smartphones have brought us closer together, made it easier for us to learn and discover new things, and placed knowledge and entertainment at our fingertips.
However, our digital lifestyles have a dark side. As the New York Post notes, people are spending more time than ever in front of screens, and this comes with certain health side effects. Learning about these effects is the first step toward achieving a more balanced use of technology, through which we can reap the benefits of the digital age without sacrificing our well-being.
Effects of Technology on the Body
If you were to look back a decade, perhaps the biggest change you would notice would be how much time people spend on their phones. According to Elite Content Marketer, the average time spent on a mobile device each day went from 2.53 hours in 2014 to 3.9 hours today. This increased use of a small, handheld device has several effects on the body:
● Tech neck - Tech neck is the result of spending hours craning our necks downward to look at a screen every day. This is not a good position for your spine, so it can lead to soreness and pain.
● Strained eyes - The more we use our small smartphone screens, the more strain we place on our eyes.
● Trigger thumb - Smartphone usage can cause trigger finger (and specifically trigger thumb), which is stiffness or pain in the finger that can cause long-term problems.
● Poor sleep - The blue light emitted by digital screens tricks our bodies into thinking it’s still daytime, which disturbs our circadian clock and can lead to poor sleep.
● Bad posture - While tech neck is specific to smartphone usage, any prolonged exposure to technology can cause bad posture. The body isn’t designed to spend hours in one position.
Children and teens have it worse since they are being exposed to technology from infancy and are growing up with these effects. When you add in the fact that technology is linked to a sedentary and indoor lifestyles, other health problems such as obesity come into play.
Effects of Technology on the Mind
Physical and mental health are closely connected, so it’s important to acknowledge the effect that technology has on the mind as well as the body. Smartphones can be dangerous for mental health for a variety of reasons, from social media causing depression in teens to the constant access to work emails increasing work anxiety for adults.
What We Can Do
The answer is not to revert to a pre-smartphone era. Our lives have been changed for the better in many ways, and most of us use our technology to stay in touch with loved ones, meet new people, and enjoy the things we love. However, we do need to start setting healthy boundaries for smartphone users that allow us to enjoy the real world around us and engage in real self-care.
If you’re a busy manager or entrepreneur, Zenbusiness recommends stepping away from the grind by using your vacation days, establishing boundaries, and taking walks during the day. Another idea is to start meditating, which teaches us to focus on the moment and live mindfully. Start by setting up a meditation room in your house, where you can keep away from technological distractions. This space could also be a hobby room, which could be a transformed spare room, an area in your basement or attic, or even a corner of your garage.
When we use technology, we are not aware of our bodies or even of what we are doing. Time goes by, and before you know it, you have spent two hours in a weird position -- your neck hurts, your finger is stiff, and you can’t get to sleep. Learning to use technology in a more mindful and careful way is the first step in counteracting these negative effects.
By Annabelle Harris
Find more of her work here: https://elders.center/blog/
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